The Best Eco-Friendly Bin Bag Alternatives

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So, let’s talk about eco-friendly bin bag alternatives. I know it sounds dry, but if you hang about to the end you might just find a twist in the tale…

Now, I know, I know, I appreciate bin bags are not the most glamorous of topics. It’s no plastic-free makeup. However, it’s important to talk about all the little ways we use plastic in our homes. Particularly to see where plastic can be swapped for better alternatives. So let’s get down to bin bag business!

eco-friendly bin bag alternatives uk

Eco-Friendly Bin Bag Alternatives

If you are looking to green your waste, then here are my top alternatives to bin bags for your waste destined for landfill:

1. Ditch the Bin Bag

By far the single most eco-friendly bin bag alternative is to go bagless. Yup, completely cut out the need for a bin bag. If you can, instead line the bottom of your kitchen bin with old newspaper. You can then simply tip the contents of your bin into your wheelie bin when the bin is full if your Local Authority allows you to put in bagless waste.

Many people worry about wet and slimy waste making a mess of their bins. However, if you are composting food waste, either in your garden or via your local council’s food waste collection, then you won’t have that problem. All the wet waste will be in your compost bin.

Voila! Cheap, cheerful and 100% sustainable!

2. There is No Other Alternative

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there are no other eco-friendly alternatives to bin bags other than the no-bag method. You can go compostable. You can go recycled plastic. There are degradable options. You could even use a paper bag. However, the moment that the bag goes into landfill then its purpose is lost.

You see, as I explained in this post about biodegradable plastics, and if they are good for the environment, in order for biodegradation to occur three basic resources are required – heat, light, and oxygen.

If a biodegradable or compostable material, including paper and food, ends up in a landfill site it can take decades upon decades to decompose. All the while releasing the greenhouse gas methane. This is a really interesting/horrifying article if you’re keen to learn more. Just wait until you get to the bit about the 1967 order of guacamole…!.

In short, this happens because in landfill sites waste is essentially mummified, in the complete absence of light and oxygen. If the food that has ended up in landfills stays pristine for 50 years or more, there really is little hope for biodegradable, compostable, or paper bin bags in landfill.

3. No, Really, There is No Other Alternative

By now, maybe you’re hoping that there is another eco-friendly bin bag alternative answer that some clever bod has come up with. Sadly, this isn’t the case. I think the whole eco-friendly bin bag question highlights the fact that we can’t simply shop our way to sustainability.

What we need aren’t eco-friendly bin bag alternatives but a real change away from producing so much waste.

Food composting facilities need to be available to everyone. We need to buy less stuff, and when we do need to buy products they need to be ones that don’t break so quickly or can be repaired easily and affordably.

We need more repair cafes. And we need to switch from using disposable products to reusable products as and when we can.

This is easier said than done. So this needs to be combined with support from the Government by taxing the hell out of producers who produce goods in unrecyclable packaging.

There needs to be a crackdown on those that produce products that aren’t designed to last. Particularly manufacturers that design using planned obsolescence.

And there needs to be greater governmental support for the circular economy and zero waste.

In short, we don’t need to buy a better bin bag. What we do need is to re-think our attitude to waste and all collectively work together, with greater support from the Government, to keep as many things out of landfill as possible. What do you think?

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  1. We have a tiny bin due to compost and recycling diversion. There is inevitable packaging which isn’t recyclable. One of these items is bags like pet food/litter bags, chip/crisp bags etc. These make excellent trash bags for a small bin, as they are already destined for the landfill.

  2. Are some of these bin bags that are made from things like corn starch and plants not contributing less carbon emissions than the black plastic bags that most people are using?

    The ideal might be to go binless, but for myself for example, who is sharing the place I’m living with other people, that’s not possible.

    Even the ones made from recycled plastic would surely be better than the ones that are used new plastic.

  3. What’s wrong with compostsble bags? We use them and our council composts the food waste. Isn’t that eco-friendly? As for lining bins with newspaper, our council refuses to compost newspaper, as the ink pollutes the compost. You claim to be an expert but don’t state how you qualify for that title. Tell me more!

    1. Hi Roger,

      For food waste compostable bags are perfect. This article is more about using a bin bag for landfill waste. I wrote this article because I was being asked regularly to recommend eco-friendly bin bags. The problem is that compostable bin bags don’t really break down in landfill. You can line your general waste bin with newspaper, and then just tip your household general waste into your landfill bin – no bag required.

      My about page tells you a bit more about my qualifications, but I’m happy to share in more detail. I have a BSc in Environmental Geography and an MSc with distinction in Environmental Sustainability. I also have worked for 16 years in the sustainability sector. Two years working in academia in climate change research, informing Government sustainability policy. A further two years were spent working in sustainability policy at the local government level. And 12 years working in environmental/climate change education/community action programmes. I’ve also written a book, and Forbes has listed me in their top 100 UK environmentalists. I currently work with local communities in the intersection between public health and climate change – I write this blog in my spare time to help educate and inform beyond my local community.

  4. One of the best tips I’ve had for reducing bin bag use was to use the bag from the toilet rolls to line the bathroom bin. Doesn’t work for the bin in the kitchen (we just have the two bins) but it does give another use to plastic that we already have coming into the house :)

  5. Where I live we have to transport our rubbish to a communal dumpster. It has to go in something. I would prefer something that it is at least possible to degrade. At least that isn’t plastic floating about in the ocean somewhere.

  6. Hi, I haven’t ditched the big bin bag yet, but I have been reusing any bag which comes my way to line bathroom and bedroom bins. I’ve just made my own washable and re usable waste and bathroom bin liners from a shower curtain. There is a big liner for the bin to contain non- recyclables and a bag within to separate the recyclables, these get tipped directly into our appropriate wheelie bin. They don’t need washing very often but if they get grimy, I can pop them in the wash! We don’t read a paper so that’s not a solution for the big bin, reading your post has made me wonder if I should make a big bin liner from the old shower curtain? I will have a think.

  7. Our city council has just switched to wheelie bins, but is insisting that all rubbish is bagged! We are already avid recyclers, and re-users, have an allotment, so no green waste, but we still have some throwaway stuff. I think I may write to the council and suggest they encourage bag free bins!

  8. I like this. And I think you’re so right that it’s tempting to think you can just buy your way to a more sustainable life. I will be going bagless in the future, but am not there yet. At the moment I’m saving single-use plastic bags (mostly internetshopping bags, and charity bags) to reuse as a binliner, and it’s not perfect at all but it’s at least turning them into double-use plastic.

  9. Great post! I think it can be big adjustment coming from previously wasting a lot to go completely bin bagless. However I do think making slow changes overtime will at least reduce the amount of bin bags you use in the long term. It is amazing how quickly they fill up if you pay no attention to the waste you are creating.

  10. Unfortunately I live in a tiny rural village and all our bin waste is put in the bin lorry by hand (we live down a tiny road the big lorry can’t fit) Containing the rubbish is a must. Our local council also provide the clear bags which we have to use. Not everyone can just abandon bin liners sadly…as much as we would like to.

  11. This is a great post, since I think it’s easy to see ‘biodegradable’ and think it’s the best thing for us to buy and we’re buying something really environmentally friendly. I feel like going no liner could be an interesting way pay attention to what you’re actually throwing away and perhaps discover there are areas you can reduce waste – if it’s in a bag, you tie it up and don’t really pay much attention.

  12. I ditched the black bags when someone pointed to a stack of black bags and asked if every household used 1 of these a week how many would go to landfill. Millions.
    Another plea is don’t put your recycling in black bags as the operatives can’t tell whats in them so they go to landfill.

  13. By sheer coincidence – I have just ditched my bin bags. The slight downside is that I have plastic or perspex bins as they are easier to clean ( I had metal but they rust and I don’t actually buy newspapers so I choose not to line them). But – these bins will last for years ( I have had one 13 years already); I don’t have the costs of buying bags (both financial and environmental). As a kid growing up many moons ago we never lined bins either! Some of the Old Ways are proving to be the best!