Now that the infrastructure is in place and more brands are committed to using only recyclable materials, recycling has never been easier. Notice the recycling bins for different types of materials? You’re never too far from a recycling drop-off or center, whether you’ve got aluminum, paper, plastic, or glass.
But what about the bags used to collect your trash – are they recyclable? We’ve got all the details on how to get rid of your trash bags responsibly.
Are Trash Bags Recyclable?
A simple question with a not-so-simple answer. When talking purely about the materials used to make trash bags, yes, they are recyclable. However, there is much more to the story than that – precisely because of how we use trash bags.
If you’ve used a trash bag to collect dry materials such as paper or anything generally recyclable, you’ll be able to recycle the bag. The problem comes when you use it for non-recyclable waste – especially where food is involved!
If you use a separate bag for recycling, general waste, and food, pat yourself on the back – you’re acing the recycling game. In this case, you could probably get away with putting the trash bag for general waste in with the recycling. However, once you mix your general waste with your food waste, that’s where you’ll find trouble.
Due to the likelihood that your trash bag may end up rotten and dirty with an unpleasant smell, waste collectors won’t go out of their way to recycle them.
Are Trash Bags Biodegradable or Compostable?
It’s best to get this out of the way now – most of the questions in this article do not have simple answers. This one is no exception. Here’s the truth: recycling, composting, and how materials break down in the earth is a complicated matter.
That said, let’s forge forward. We’ll try to keep it as simple as possible. The short answer to whether trash bags are biodegradable or compostable is… some of them. It will be clearly stated on the packaging if they are, and we recommend buying packing that’s either biodegradable or compostable, if possible.
But – there’s always a but – just because trash bags are one of those options does not mean it’s good for the environment. Better? Yes. Not good, though. More on that later. If you’re wondering what the difference is between biodegradable and compostable, you’re not the only one. That’s what we’re here for.
All compostable bags are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable bags are compostable. Sound confusing? The main difference is that if something is biodegradable, it will break down, but there is no time limit – it could take millions of years. Unfortunately, it could also leave behind pollutants. No good – see what we mean?
Alternatively, if something is compostable, it will break down in under 12 weeks and enhance the soil into which it is broken. That’s much better!
Are Black Plastic Garbage Bags Biodegradable?
Back to the question at hand. While we’ve established that some trash bags can be biodegradable or compostable, it’s important to remember that many trash bags exist. And one of the more popular ones can probably be found right in your laundry room – the classic black garbage bag.
We’re sure you can guess where this is going… That’s right – the great majority of black trash bags are not biodegradable, unfortunately. The general rule is that your black bag won’t be biodegradable unless it is otherwise specified.
With that in mind, if you can use other types of trash bags (that are biodegradable or compostable), this would be of great help to the environment. After all, humans collect a lot of waste, which means a lot of non-biodegradable plastic litters the earth. It’s never been more accurate to say – every little helps.
Are Trash Bags Bad for the Environment?
Great news – this question does have a simple answer! It’s a resounding ‘yes.’ Trash bags are bad for the environment, especially those that are not biodegradable. The problem is that they are all made from plastic – and soft plastic, at that. Unfortunately, plastic is and always will be a problem for the environment; moving away from it is the only way forward. Time for some innovation!
Here’s the thing: even when plastic is broken down, it’s never completely absorbed by the environment. Parts of the plastic – no matter how small – will always remain. Those remaining plastics are called microplastics, and we now find them in terrifying places – as near to you as your own bloodstream.
How is that possible? Microplastics are being washed away into the seas and rivers by rain, eaten by fish, and subsequently eaten by us. Even scarier? They’ve now been found in placentas, meaning babies are being born with microplastics already in their bodies.
For us as humans – as well as the entire animal kingdom and environment – microplastics are poisonous. Indeed, the prevalence of microplastics could lead to the extinction of whole species, but it will surely disrupt our food chain as we know it.
So, Should I Use a Bag for My Recycling?
It depends. The answer here depends on whether you’re talking domestic use or from a business standpoint. See what we mean by saying there’s often no simple answer?
If we’re talking about sorting your waste in your own home, you should probably avoid using a plastic bag. Putting your recycling – no matter what kind of recycling it is – directly into the trashcan will offer a better chance of your recycling being recycled.
Unfortunately, if you put your recycling into a bag – even if it is a recyclable or biodegradable bag – the waste collectors will think it is general waste. What does this mean? They’ll put it in with all the other waste – and that will end up in the landfill. Instead, forgo using a plastic bag for recycling and drop off your waste as is.
Alternatively, if you’re part of a business, some areas will provide you with recycling bags. These can be a lifesaver in regards to organizing your waste. If you work at a restaurant with many used bottles, you know how quickly they can fill a trashcan. That’s why recycling bags are provided here; you’ll inevitably produce a lot of waste.
How to Responsibly Get Rid of Your Trash Bags
- Ensure there are no tears or holes
While we’re talking about recycling here, this should be the case for any bag you use. When there are tears and holes in the bags, there’s a higher chance of their contents spilling out, attracting pesky rodents, mammals, and insects right to your front door. No good!
And unfortunately, if the contents spill out onto the street – especially if your raccoon neighbors have been enjoying their free lunch from it – waste collectors will be far less likely to take it. Although understandable, this could cause problems for you and your human neighbors.
Back to our previous point, this also means that if any animals come over, they might unknowingly ingest plastic or even get stuck in it. So, ensure there are no holes and this will be less likely to happen.
- Use compostable bags where possible
As discussed previously, while compostable bags are not the perfect solution, they are better than other alternatives, including biodegradable ones. We recommend recycling more so you have less waste – and you’ll sleep better at night.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Bags Can Be Used for Recycling?
Depending on your area, different colored bags are used for different types of waste. Recyclable bags are primarily blue, while biodegradable bags are green. Either of these options will work for your recyclable waste. Sometimes communities use a clear bag for mixed recycling, so check with your local authorities to confirm.
While this is a complicated conversation, it’s an important one to discuss. We hope you now have a better idea of how to serve your home, community, and environment via the effects of non-recyclable bags. The more we learn about the impact of our actions on the environment, the more we can do to help each other out.
If you would like more information on which recycling services to use or need your own full-service solution, check out Nixxit’s junk removal services. Let’s work together to recycle more!
Need Help with Junk Removal in the Bay Area, CA?
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