The next time you’re out of trash bags, choose biodegradable garbage bags whether it’s to line your compost bins to easily take it to a composting facility, or as an alternative to the conventional plastic bags you’re currently using.
As more people strive to reduce their environmental impact and adopt greener lifestyles, demand for biodegradable and compostable trash bags has skyrocketed in recent years.
Over 500 billion plastic bags are used annually around the globe. In a landfill, it takes 1,000 years for a single plastic bag to break down. These bags wind up in landfills, our rivers, and our oceans since they can’t be recycled.
But still, plastic bags represent a concern even after decomposition. Toxins and microplastics are leached from plastic bags in landfills. They may include toxic substances that pollute the water that is consumed by wildlife and humans.
While it is impossible to eliminate all use of plastic, we can switch to biodegradable garbage bags. However, it can be confusing to figure out which you should buy and what to even look for when buying them.
Plus, many different terms such as biodegradable and compostable are interchangeably used, but what do they really mean and what’s the difference? In this article, we answer all of that along with sharing the top 5 biodegradable garbage bags we recommend in 2023.
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What are Biodegradable Garbage Bags?
Biodegradable trash bags are those trash bags that are made using bioplastics or other plant-based starches and materials.
Bioplastics are a blend of organic components that mirror the characteristics of traditional plastics made from petroleum. Certain bioplastics contain additives that accelerate the deterioration process.
Some bioplastics are so hard to break down that they are no longer thought of as biodegradable. Therefore, it is essential to make sure that the products you buy and use are not only made from plant-based materials but are also certified biodegradable.
Why Switch To Biodegradable Garbage Bags?
There are many environmental reasons to switch to biodegradable garbage bags instead of using regular plastic ones. Here are the top three reasons you should consider switching:
1. Less Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Compared to plastic bags, biodegradable bags release fewer greenhouse gases. This is due to the fact that they are derived from plants such as corn and sugarcane.
These plants absorb carbon during their growth, which compensates for the carbon they emit during decomposition.
2. Faster Breakdown Time
With the correct conditions, biodegradable waste bags can decompose 1,000 times faster than conventional plastic bags.
In the presence of moisture, fungi, and bacteria, compostable waste bags begin the decomposition process. A quicker breakdown time results from this.
However, some compostable waste bags must be disposed of at commercial facilities, as their decomposition requires high temperatures.
3. Don’t Turn Into Microplastics
Biodegradable garbage bags decompose entirely. And unlike regular plastic trash bags, they won’t break down into microplastics
Microplastics wind up in our bodies and can create health problems in the long run, therefore biodegradable bags are a far safer option.
Difference Between Compostable and Biodegradable Trash Bags
Biodegradable plastics break down into carbon dioxide, water, methane, and biomass, mostly through the action of enzymes in microorganisms. Most of the time, these can be broken down in weeks or months if the right conditions are met.
Biodegradable bags are petroleum-based products that have heavy metals incorporated into them. The fact that they are petroleum-based makes them look like regular kitchen trash bags.
The heavy metals in the bags can be detected by microorganisms living in landfills. These microbes will convert them into less durable forms of plastic by mistaking them for food.
Another distinction between compostable and biodegradable is that the latter is not subject to government regulation.
So, you should exercise some caution when purchasing biodegradable garbage bags because manufacturers are free to make any claims they choose. That’s why it’s important to look for certifications to know that they are indeed biodegradable.
We have listed all the relevant information in this article to make sure you’re able to make an informed decision.
Biodegradable trash bags also need certain environmental conditions to break down, which include a lot of sunlight, air, and moisture.
Compostable plastics are a subset of biodegradable plastics that break down into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass in a compost system at a rate comparable to other compostable materials like cellulose while leaving no harmful byproducts behind.
Bioplastics derived from plant starch are used to make compostable trash bags. Compostable kitchen bags made of corn starch may be broken down by microorganisms without leaving behind any harmful plastic byproducts.
In other words, you don’t have to be concerned about these bags degrading and releasing harmful byproducts like heavy metals.
Unlike biodegradable waste bags, every compostable trash bag is regulated by the government.
Compostables must decompose in the soil within 180 days under compostable conditions. If they are in compostable conditions, it means that they are in a high-temperature industrial compost facility.
How to Choose a Compostable and Biodegradable Trash Bag
Biodegradable trash bags are available in a variety of sizes. You can find trash bags with capacities ranging from 2 to 33 gallons, for example. The most common size, though, is 13 gallons.
But if you want something bigger than a 13-gallon one, it’s not hard to find.
Many people believe that compostable and biodegradable bags aren’t as durable as typical plastic bags. That is untrue.
If you choose wisely, biodegradables and compostables can last just as long as other materials.
Get trash bags with a 1 mm thickness if possible. A bag should have features like thickness, leak-proof design, and tear resistance.
To choose kitchen garbage bags that are better for the environment, you don’t have to give up on convenience.
There are a lot of options with drawstrings and handles on the market. But, because these options are not common, you may have difficulty finding them at times.
Make sure to verify the product for its recommended usage because certain compostable bags are better suited for commercial composting than for home composting.
If a product bears the TUV Austria emblem, it will be indicated on the emblem for ‘Industrial’ or ‘Home’ use.
To make sure you’re buying biodegradable or compostable bags, look for products that say they were tested using standards from ASTM International. This is an organization that has testing guidelines for all kinds of materials.
Specifically, look for ASTM D5988 and D6691 for biodegradable materials and ASTM D6400 for compostable options. These are the most extensively used standards.
There are other organizations besides ASTM that examine claims of compostability and biodegradability. These are a few organizations you may come across while shopping and what they imply:
In North America, certifications for biodegradable items are given out by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI). This emblem signifies that a product complies with ASTM requirements for packaging (ASTM D6400) or biodegradable bags (ASTM D6868)
OK Compost Home
The product is completely biodegradable under appropriate conditions, even in your garden compost heap, if it has the OK Compost Home emblem by TUV Austria. Many of the standards for household composting that are used today in Australia, France, and Europe have their roots in this initiative.
OK Compost Industrial
TUV Austria’s OK Compost Industrial emblem confirms that all components of the product, including inks and additives, are certified to be biodegradable in an industrial composting plant in accordance with the EN 13432:2000 standard from European Bioplastics.
The Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) gives the Seedling emblem to biodegradable and compostable plastics that meet Australian Standard 4736-2006 in Australia and New Zealand.
5 Best Compostable and Biodegradable Trash Bags
If you’re looking for the best biodegradable trash bags, then these are the top 5 options we recommend at Plant Natural:
1. Best Overall Biodegradable Trash Bags: BioBag The Original Compostable Bags
BioBag is one of the best providers of organic trash collection bags manufactured from plant starches, vegetable oils, and compostable polymers for curbside household recycling.
They are made of Mater-Bi®, a bioplastic resin blend that contains non-genetically modified plant-based ingredients such as corn starch and a variety of biodegradable and compostable polymers.
The bags are produced in the United States using Italian resin, and BioBags has pledged to use as many renewable resources as possible in the creation of its goods. They come in a small box made of cardboard that can be recycled after it has been used.
Their product line encompasses all main categories of food waste, including meats, seafood, fruits, and vegetables, as well as all types of kitchen trash.
Also, their goods are approved by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) and are OK Compost Home-certified by TUV Austria, making them a great option for backyard composting.
These biodegradable plastic bags are the ideal alternative for storing your groceries and come with a warranty. The Bio Bag bottom seal keeps it from leaking.
Plus, you can count on these certified compostable bags because they are non-GMO Project verified by strict criteria that prevents any contact with GMO material, so you don’t have to worry about cross-contamination either way.
2. Best Drawstring Biodegradable Bags: UNNI 100% Compostable Trash Bags
UNNI garbage bags are one of the best biodegradable garbage bags available since they are 100% biodegradable and compostable. Also, the eco-friendly trash bags are BPA-free and approved by the Biodegradable Products Institute and OK Compost Home.
They contain no polyethylene and are manufactured entirely from corn starch and other plant starches.
The bags will break down into organic substances like carbon dioxide and oxygen within 180 days. For home composting and pet waste, the company also produces compact trash bags and drawstring waste bags.
You can easily choose an eco-friendly bag from UNNI whether you need to get rid of dog waste or food scraps because these compostable trash bags are available in different sizes and styles.
3. Best Large Compostable Bags: STOUT by Envision EcoSafe-6400 Compostable Bags
This option from Stout by Envision can store up to 30 gallons, making it a good choice for those in search of a larger bag.
While most biodegradable and compostable bags take six months to a year to decompose in the open, STOUT bags decompose in only ten to forty-five days in commercial composting facilities.
These garbage bags, much like the other brands, come in convenient cardboard packaging that is small and compact for easy recycling. A star seal on the bag’s bottom allows it to hold additional weight without leaking or ripping.
These rapidly biodegradable bags are produced in the United States by blind or visually impaired individuals. They are also ASTM D6400 compliant and have USCC and BPI certifications.
4. Best Biodegradable Kitchen Bags: Hippo Sak Plant-Based Tall Kitchen Bags
Hippo Sak tall kitchen bags are produced in the USA using at least 88% plant-based materials rather than fossil fuels.
These white garbage bags have a slightly thicker bottom layer to avoid breakage and are quite durable. Large handles on the kitchen bags make them easy to grip, lift, and replace without the risk of tearing.
They come in a little cardboard box with a wide tab that allows you to easily pull individual bags out. Hippo Sak trash bags are BPA-free, fully recyclable, and USDA Certified Biobased Products.
5. Best Biodegradable Bags for Yard Waste: BioBag Compostable Lawn & Leaf Yard Waste Bags
If you have the room, composting yard waste at home is simple and does not require bags. But when space is limited, many municipalities offer yard waste composting. If you’re looking for some bags for your compost piles, then these are the ones for you!
BioBag Lawn and Leaf 33-gallon bags are manufactured in California from vegetable oils, compostable polymers, and plant starches derived from renewable crops that are not genetically modified.
These bags are compliant with ASTM D6400 standards for municipal composting, which requires a higher temperature than a home compost pile.
Due to their improved performance in wet conditions, many customers choose these bags over paper alternatives. Since the bags can be composted, BioBag recommends using them within a year of buying them and keeping them in a cool, dry place away from heat.
They are biodegradable enough that wet grass clippings will begin the decomposition process within three or four days, so plan on using them according to your pick-up day. They’re the perfect liners for your compost bins too!
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Melissa Pino is a biologist, master gardener, and regular contributor for Planet Natural. Melissa's work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices, helping people create healthy gardens and finding ways to achieve overall health and wellness.