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My Best Advice for Ditching Trash Bags

This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on November 9, 2020.

A Drop in the Ocean Sustainable Living Zero Waste Shop

Oh. My. Goodness, friend. Did Saturday morning’s news have you feeling a bit like this, too? It felt like half of the country - and much of the rest of the world - finally let out a breath that had been collectively held for four years. Love wins again 💙

And can we real quick virtually raise a glass to this country’s first Black, South Asian, woman vice president? Put on your shoes, ladies, there’s glass all over the floor 🥂🙌

A Drop in the Ocean Sustainable Living Zero Waste Shop

Of course, the work is just beginning. We’re living in a deeply divided country; a change in presidential leadership won’t change that overnight. We must continue applying pressure on our representatives at all levels to keep our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, our environment safe.

But there is hope now. And that’s something to celebrate. We can do hard things. We did a hard thing.

And our hard work means that we once again have leadership that cares about protecting our earth, so let’s jump in, shall we?

There’s one question I get asked allll the time. “What the heck do I do about garbage bags?!”

And, I get it. They’re always there, staring you in the face, in all their thin, unrecyclable glory. We know they’re plastic, but what alternatives are out there, really?

A Drop in the Ocean Tacoma Sustainable Living Zero Waste Shop Ditch Plastic Garbage Bags

Many times the reaction is to switch to “biodegradable” or “compostable” plastic bags. But, as we’ve discussed, those bags really aren’t all that much better.

So what’s an EcoWarrior to do??

My #1 suggestion when thinking about garbage bags is first to think about what you're putting in your garbage bags. Do a waste audit to see what you're actually throwing away in a day/week/month, and look for ways to reduce those things.

I don't actually own a garbage can - not because I don't produce any trash, but because I don't produce much and because of the kinds of waste I produce.

  • Are you already composting?
  • Do you have composting services available near you?
  • Do you have space for a home or backyard composting system? 

I keep all of my food scraps and composting in my freezer and take them directly to my compost bin when the [paper] bag is full, so I don't have any wet or smelly trash. This way, I have more freedom in how I store my trash until it goes to the curb.

Even if you don’t have access to composting, this is still a great way to cut down on garbage bags. Maybe you won’t need to change your bag as often, or maybe you can switch to a smaller bag.

A Drop in the Ocean Sustainable Living Zero Waste Shop

I also reuse bags such as cat food bags, cat litter bags, Chipotle bags (because I'm addicted...), bread bags, etc. If I end up with a bag like these, rather than throwing it away, I'll keep it and use it as a trash bag.

Here’s the thing that really struck me when I first started thinking about garbage bags. The plastic manufacturers have told us that some bags are intended to be used as trash bags, while others are intended to go in the trash bags we purchase. 🤯

A Drop in the Ocean Sustainable Living Zero Waste Shop

It's a seemingly small but impactful way they make more money off of us. #ManufacturedDemand

So, friend, I guess my only real piece of advice here is...don’t stress about trash bags until you’ve really looked at your current waste. You’ll have so much greater of an impact by reducing what’s going in the bin, rather than what’s lining it.

Yeah, bags suck. And hopefully we’ll all one day move away from them. But we first need to finish the rest of the puzzle.

What does your trash bin look like? Share your favorite tips in the comments 💙

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