7 Strong Eco-Friendly Trash Bags (Biodegradable, Compostable & Reusable)

Are you trying to reduce the amount of trash you produce...but still see mountains of it piling up at home every week?

Hate the thought of wrapping your trash in a plastic bag that will add to the global plastic waste problem and take hundreds of years to degrade?

Don't worry - I think I have the answer...

Reusables And Biodegradables And Compostables, Oh My!

Sorry, not quite as catchy as The Wizard of Oz classic.

Degradable, biodegradable, compostable, recycled, reusable, and more...there are an overwhelming amount of trash bag options on the market!

I’ve carefully picked my way through the best eco-friendly trash bags greenwashing minefield for you and can confirm that it IS possible to bag your trash sustainably...but it’s not quite as straightforward as you might think.

To Bag, Or Not To Bag? That Is The Eco-Friendly Trash Question

Most trash bags are not very eco-friendly.

The most sustainable approach to plastic waste, and trash in generate, is to follow the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ philosophy.

However, when using trash bags is unavoidable, we should all do our very best to ensure that they have as little impact on the environment as possible.

They Say: Plant Based Hippo Sak Tall Kitchen Trash Bags are proudly made from sugar cane instead of fossil fuels, allowing our bags to be renewable, recyclable and reduce your carbon footprint - and are Super Strong as ever! For every 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of plant raw material used to create Hippo Sak Plant-Based Tall Kitchen Bags, they reduce CO2 emissions by 2.15 kg and reduce the consumption of fossil fuel by 2 liters!

We Say: Sooooooooo! I have a feeling this might be a controversial choice.

These trash bags are not classed as compostable or biodegradable.

My remit for this article was to find the best eco-friendly trash bags. The overall winner needs to perform perfectly as a trash bag. While also treading as lightly as possible on the planet.

That’s why I’ve chosen Hippo Sak Plant Based Tall Kitchen Bags. They’re an excellent allrounder.

They’re as heavy-duty as any plastic trash bag I’ve ever used but contain a minimum of 80% plant-based materials (sugar cane).

This massively reduces the amount of oil needed to make these bags. Which in turn reduces the carbon footprint of these trash bags.

Yes…it’s not ideal that it contains 20% plastic.

Yes...it’s not ideal that these trash bags are not compostable or biodegradable.

However, when you consider the size (13 gallons) and durability of these trash bags, I believe that they’re a worthy winner.

They’re thick enough to be reused without the trash bag breaking. Once full, carefully take outside and empty into a large metal trash can ready for collection.

There are more environmentally friendly options, but they’re usually smaller, flimsier, or are for a different purpose (food waste, composting, etc.). I’ll discuss this in more detail later.

Ditch The Trash Bag And Go Zero Waste

If we generated zero waste, then we wouldn’t need trash bags.

In an ideal world, we would all shop at zero waste stores, compost our (minimal) food waste, mend and reuse broken items.

We live in a far from ideal world, however, and the vast majority of us, leading busy lives, will generate at least some waste...no matter how good our zero waste intentions are.

Trash bags are here to stay. How can we make them as eco-friendly as possible?

Recycled Plastic Trash Bags

A recycled plastic bag is currently the best solution when you absolutely have to use a trash bag.

They’re usually thicker and more durable than the biodegradable/compostable options, so they can sometimes be reused.

There are some very eco-friendly options on the market now that use high percentages of post-consumer recycled plastic content. Plastic that would otherwise have ended up in our landfills or waterways.

That has to be a good thing!

Our Favorite Recycled Plastic Trash Bags

They Say: Sustainable white, super tough, heavy-duty trash bag 32"x44", 2mil, 32 bags per box, 2 rolls of 16. Perforated bags on rolls for easy separation. Made with 94% (third-party certified) Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) LLDPE. The exclusive closed-loop recycling process allows our trash bags to be manufactured at the highest quality.

We Say: These trash bags hold a whopping 42-gallons and are suitable for a big trash can or recycling bin.

They’re made using 94% recycled plastic and are incredibly tough. I put mine through some real rough treatment, and they didn’t even come close to splitting on me.

Evolution is part of the 1% For The Planet scheme. This is usually a good sign that the company cares about its place in the world and its impact on the planet.

They Say: You need a reliable trash bag in your kitchen; we've all had that experience when it breaks as you take it out. Yuck. Gencore 3-layer technology sandwiches recycled material between two layers of virgin plastic so these bags are tough and resistant to tearing, giving you confidence when you pull your trash bag out of the can.

We Say: Seventh Generation is a B Corp certified company that has been championing eco-friendly products for many years.

So, when I saw they do recycled plastic bags, I had to give them a test.

I was not disappointed. The bags are robust. The tie strings made it easy to close and seal the bags.

My one gripe with these bags is the level of recycled plastic used. At 65%, it’s at the low end of what I would expect from an eco-friendly brand.

100% Virgin Plastic Trash Bags

Traditional plastic bags that are not recyclable or not made from recycled materials are an environmental disaster.

They take hundreds of years to break down and harm human and animal life.

Our Favorite 100% Virgin Plastic Bags

None.

Steer clear of trash bags made from 100% new plastic.

Compostable & Biodegradable Trash Bags

Biodegradable Trash Bags

Biodegradable bags work in the same way as degradable bags, but with one significant difference.

Natural microorganisms are used to break down the bag rather than relying on chemicals and heavy metals.

Biodegradable bags are a more eco-friendly alternative to degradable trash bags.

However, even the best biodegradable trash bags eventually break down into tiny pieces of polluting plastic, so maybe not an ideal choice for all applications.

To be appropriately certified, both degradable and biodegradable trash bags should be capable of full degradation within one year.

Compostable Trash Bags

Compostable trash bags are made from natural plant starch. They do not release toxins when breaking down.

An eco-friendly compostable trash bag will decompose fully in the right composting conditions.

Always check the label, though, as some compostable trash bags will decompose in your home compost, whereas others will need to go to commercial composting facilities.

Compostable bags are great for food and garden waste.

They’re not necessarily great as trash bags because they’re not very strong and can start to break down if left in the trash can for too long.

Our Top 3 Biodegradable & Compostable Trash Bags

They Say: Ditch the plastic bag! Did you know that normal trash bags take 500 years to break down in landfills? This bulk pack of 13-gallon kitchen bags are compostable and help you reduce your household's dependency on plastic.

We Say: These compostable trash bags are the ideal size for use around the kitchen.

Made from resin derived from GMO-free crops, these bags will fully compost in a commercial facility.

Looking for a different size? Biobag offers a full range of biodegradable bags. From small pet waste bags to 55-gallon compost bin liners.

They Say: FORID compostable trash bags are made of 100% plant starch material (PSM),bioplastics based on natural renewable plant starch extracts, and can be composted in backyard or home composting facilities. In the case of composting, it is released as water, humus and CO2 within six months and returned to the ecosystem to complete the organic cycle.

We Say: These 1.2-gallon compostable bags are an excellent option for food scraps and small trash cans around the home and office.

The material used complies with the standard ASTM D6400 and the European standard EN 13432.

This means you can compost the bag at home without causing damage to the environment.

If 1.2 gallons is too small for your needs, FORID also offers 2.6-gallon, 4-gallon, 8-gallon, and 13-gallon options.

They Say: We offer a wide range of 100% compostable products that meet the most stringent standards for biodegradability and environmental friendliness. Our compostable dog poop bags are made from plant materials and have received European OK Compost Home certification, so they are 100% compostable even in home composting units.

We Say: Over the years, Mrs. M and I must have tried every gadget on the market to make picking up dog poop as easy as possible. Unfortunately, they almost always contain loads of plastic and don’t work properly.

We’re now both firm believers that the best device for picking up dog poop is the one God gave us...our hand.

Saying that, as eco-friendly dog owners, we certainly don’t want to be encasing our pooch’s daily offering in bags made from virgin plastic.

After testing several eco-friendly dog poop bags, these are now the ones we use.

They’re thin enough to compost at home if you wish...but also strong enough to give you the confidence that your finger won’t go through! 🤢

Degradable Trash Bags

Degradable trash bags might sound eco-friendly...but they REALLY aren’t.

To make degradable trash bags degrade, manufacturers use a heady cocktail of toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

These artificial nasties help the trash bag break down when exposed to heat and sunlight.

Unfortunately, this degrading process releases harmful chemicals into landfill, compost pile, waterways, etc., poisoning the land, people, and animals.

Our Favorite Degradable Trash Bags

None.

Steer clear of degradable trash bags.

Paper Trash Bags

Paper trash bags might not sound like a good idea, but they’re a decent eco-friendly alternative to traditional trash bags.

Paper trash bags are strong (if kept dry), reusable, recyclable, and compostable.

Paper is surprisingly power-hungry when it comes to production, though. A report from the BBC highlighted that it could take four times the amount of energy to produce a paper bag compared to its plastic counterpart.

This is why I like to reuse paper grocery bags as much as possible, especially for trash cans that I know will only receive dry trash (no wet food scraps!).

We have dogs and buy their dry kibble feed in big 12kg brown paper bags. These bags are perfect for our medium-sized kitchen trash cans. They can usually be reused five or six times before they start to fall apart. When they get full, I take them outside and empty them into our big metal trash can.

Our Favorite Paper Trash Bags

They Say: Maintaining your home is a year-round ordeal. As long as there is waste around your lawn or patio in the summer, fall, winter, or springtime, you’ll need waste bags. These Lowe’s waste bags do the job right. Compact when not in use, just open these two-ply paper bags up all the way and they can stand by themselves for as long as the job goes on.

We Say: These heavy-duty paper bags are perfect for yard waste.

The thick, two-ply construction ensures that these bags can handle just about any trash...even Mrs. M’s rose bush cuttings.

Paper trash bags are a higher priced option. However, I feel you get what you pay for here.

One bag lasts us ages. It can be reused many times.

Once the eco-friendly trash bag reaches the end of its life, it goes on the compost pile. Usually full of grass cuttings.

DIY Reusable Trash Bags

Repurposing materials destined for landfill into eco-friendly trash bags is a great way to start your journey to a more zero waste life.

Our Favorite DIY Trash Bag Ideas

  • Turn an old cotton tote bag into an eco-friendly trash bag for your office trash can
  • Turn scraps of old material into car trash bags using your long-forgotten needlework skills
  • Once you’ve learned the necessarily needlework skills, you could scale it up and make bigger washable fabric trash bags and cans

like the idea of reusable eco-friendly garbage bags, but don’t feel your DIY skills are up to it? This washable option from Planet Wise might be just what you’re looking for.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Bad To Use Compostable Bags For Trash?

I wouldn’t say it’s bad, but the planet doesn’t really gain anything when you use compostable bags for trash heading to landfill.

According to the Columbia Climate School, “Most landfills don’t get to the temperatures needed for compostable bags to break down, meaning they will essentially mummify along with the other trash in the landfill”.

A compostable bag is not the answer to every eco-friendly trash bag problem. Stick to using compostable bags for compostable waste.

How Long Do Bio Bags Take To Decompose?

10-45 days, according to the Biobag FAQ section.

The Final Word

So. There you have it. I hope I’ve helped shed some light on what makes the best eco-friendly trash bags.

I thought long and hard about whether or not I should be recommending products containing plastic.

In the end, it came down to the main topic of the article...Best Eco-Friendly Trash Bags!

Trash bags need to be strong and durable and be able to contain all types of waste. Biodegradable and compostable bags can struggle with longevity.

If the main topic had been Best Eco-Friendly Biodegradable Trash Bags or Best Eco-Friendly Compostable Trash Bags, this would have been a 100% plastic-free zone.

Maybe that’s an idea for two more articles in the future?! 🤔

Get In Touch

What steps are you currently taking to make your trash bag usage as eco-friendly as possible? Have I missed your favorite brand/option off the list? Drop me a line and let me know.

James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of TheRoundup.org.
James Miller
James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of TheRoundup.org.

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