Zero Waste Alternatives to Trash Bags

Zero Waste Alternatives to Trash Bags

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Zero Waste Alternatives to Trash Bags | Zero waste or not, we are still going to produce trash. That is just the reality of our current throw-away society.

Products are designed to end up in the landfill (cradle-to-grave). That being said, most of us still have garbage cans. They’re likely unavoidable. So then if it’s important to reduce our plastic bag usage, what do we do about trash bags? Is there a zero waste alternative to trash bags?

Trash bags are something we don’t typically think about when it comes to waste reduction. We kind of just ignore it because we all make trash and that trash needs to be contained somehow – that’s inevitable. Thankfully though, there are still ways to kick this disposable and recoup some costs associated with your monthly supplies bill.

Zero Waste Alternatives to Trash Bags

zero waste alternatives to trash bags

Go Without

The simplest and most cost-effective choice would be to just go without a trash bag altogether. If you compost already then the garbage you do have should, for the most part, be dry. Once your bin is full, dump into your curbside bin. Periodically, use some natural cleaning spray to wipe out the bin to keep it nice and clean.

Keep in mind though, that a lot of municipalities require the use of a bag so this option might not be ideal for everyone. Also consider if you do make quite a bit of trash still, that loose trash could potentially find it’s way outside of a trash truck. This option is good for those who make little to no trash.

Use What You Already Have

zero waste trash bags

If you have pets, then you probably buy bags of pet food. Use those empty bags as bin liners. Most of us don’t have the luxury of buying pet food package free so buying the largest bag we can is the next best option.

Those bags will be discarded anyway so ensure they get used to the max by filling them up with the rest of your waste. Also, look for other container or bag type things you have around your house that would inevitably be waste. Items that cannot be recycled.

Related: 7 Ways to Reduce Food Packaging Waste Without Access to Bulk

Use a Reusable Trash Bag

Yep, reusable trash bags exist! You can get them in just about any size. They are available for bathroom trash cans and kitchen trash cans. Put the reusable liner in your bin as you’d normally use a disposable. Once the bin is full, dump the waste into your curbside garbage can and wash the reusable liner. You only need to invest in the ones instead of repurchasing and replenishing disposable garbage bags.

Get Trash Bags Made with Recycled Material

I sincerely feel that biodegradable trash bags are the purest form of greenwashing. What’s the point when that trash bag full of non-biodegradable trash gets put in a closed landfill which doesn’t encourage “degrading” anyhow? I’d recommend getting trash bags made with recycled plastic instead, as it gives existing plastic a newly recycled second life.

If you already have a stash of trash bags in your home, don’t at all feel like you can’t continue to use those up. Once your stash runs out, then research which option above would be best for you.

zero waste trash bags

What zero waste alternatives to trash bags do you use?

37 thoughts on “Zero Waste Alternatives to Trash Bags

      • Do not flush anything down the toilet that is not compostable, they have to remove garbage when processing which adds cost that you have to pay for.

  1. My Large Trash Bag alternative is to use all Product Packaging as “little” trash bags. Cat litter bags become a trash bag. Dry Cleaner Bags become trash bags. Shredded Cheese bags become trash bags. You get the idea. I’m just not comfortable throwing loose garbage into the barrel without it being contained in a bag or box.

    • In my quest to stop using plastic I discovered that you need to take those compostable trash bags to a commercial company to compost. They cannot be recycled and won’t just biodegrade.

  2. I love these suggestions but just wanted to point out that living in apartment means there’s no individual curb side bins so trash really needs a bag. I’ve started doing what another commenter suggested – using tiny bags that I already receive – and that works pretty well.

    • You’re doing fantastic! Yes, all of our situations are different and there is definitely not a “one-size-fits-all” approach to living more sustainably. 🙂

  3. But the trash in them is not compostable, right? If you put them in the regular trash, they will never break down because landfills are sealed. I love the idea of supporting “green” products, but I’ve always felt that the marketing on green trashbags is misleading.

    • Yes, I wholeheartedly agree which is why I never recommend “biodegradable” trash bags. I just don’t feel it makes a whole of sense. I feel that using trash bags made from recycled plastic is a better way to go. 🙂

  4. Has anyone used the reusable liners? I bought a set on amazon live then used them then dun dun dun washed them and they fell apart seal broken terrible post wash quality. Have complained online trying to get my money back but heading into a wormhole would love to hear replies

      • I got the blue avocado ones that are in your post do not recommend at all well I should say loved until I washed. I can’t find a way to get someone to own up to their product but trying still. Left a terrible review on amazon nothing yet.

      • I am so sorry Rachel. I am also reaching out to them as that is completely unacceptable. I’ve respected their other products so linking to these made sense to me. I have removed the link suggesting this brand and will look for a much better alternative.

  5. I’ve been thinking on this one for ages as well! I’m considering making the newspaper liners I’ve seen, but that doesn’t seem great for keeping my trash in and stopping pollution from stray bits of trash… I’d love for our trash to only pile up as quickly as our dog eats his food. The idea of using our old dog food bags as bin liners is my favorite yet! I think we make about 2 tall kitchen bags per month still and our dog only eats 1 large bag of dog food monthly, but that’s a great goal to work towards!

  6. So glad you are bringing this up! My husband and I produce about the equivalent of a small grocery bag of trash per week, so I recently started using pet food bags and things like that as our trashbags. My husband hates it XD and thinks we should buy trash bags like normal people but I tell him they will take weeks to fill!

  7. Hi! I love your suggestions for city living, but we recently moved to a remote area where we have to store and then take our trash to a landfill, and take recyclables into town. I wish I could say we don’t create much trash but with a husband who isn’t quite on board, pets, and guests, trash happens. Husband wants heavy duty trash bags for storing and transporting trash to the dump. Our pet food bags are recyclable so I’d rather not use them. Any ideas? Thanks in advance!

  8. Great post! I have been thinking about this A LOT lately. Only suggestion I have is to check with your local waste collection company to see if they will collect loose garbage from the curb side bin. Mine requires that it is bagged to protect the safety of the garbage truck operator and to prevent the loose bits of garbage in the bin from escaping while it is being transferred to the truck.

  9. Our community does not allow for loose trash to be placed in trash bins for pick-up. We are required to have bags in the bin. If they come across a loose piece of trash they stop the pick-up. What communities/towns/cities allow for loose trash to be placed in the pick-up bin? I am willing to simply not use plastic bags if I can put loose trash in a bin.

  10. I respectfully disagree with your recommendation to go without trash bags altogether. Curbside trash that isn’t contained within a bag has a much higher chance of ending up on the side of the road during the typical garbage truck collection process. If people are going to create trash, it’s better for that trash to make it into the landfill than to end up in our rivers, oceans, etc.

  11. When I was a child there were waxed paper bags used for food storage and waste. What has happened to that alternative??? We need to go backwards a bit. I have tried to find waxed paper bags and all I can find online is waxed paper bags for sanitary napkin disposal and small ones for commercial use like placing cookies in etc.. What a shame!!! I would think that there is a manufacturer out there that would like to step on the band wagon and produce a truly acceptable green alternative to plastic!!

  12. I used to use paper bags as a trash liner when I lived close to a Trader Joe’s. As long as you compost your organic waste, the rest of the garbage is clean. I’d keep an empty coffee can on the counter to collect kitchen waste and throw it in the compost daily. Never generated enough actual garbage to overfill the paper bag, stapled it shut and threw it in the curbside bin without any problems.
    Paper IS a renewable resource (as long as trees are farmed as a crop), biodegradable, and does not contribute to CO2 emissions like petroleum-based plastic. I miss my Trader Joe’s bags—easiest source of reusable bags for shopping, and they ended their life cycle as trash bags once they got too beat up to reuse. You can’t say the same of those felted grocery bags.

  13. Will someone please open an all bulk food and items store (no packaged items)? I want to buy soaps, laundry detergents, dog food, (…anything!) in refillable containers. I also want to buy cottage cheese, sour cream etc at the deli in a reusable container; similar to the model used for milk. I would like to either be able to return/exchange the containers for future use or be able to use my own “approved” container. I realize the public safety concerns but it seems there ought to be an answer. Wouldn’t it be better to not need the garbage bags to begin with? I know of a store in a very distant city that I can get bulk shampoos and beauty items. And I do buy bulk whenever I can. I just want it to be more common.

    • I totally agree with you Barb. I reuse all my glass containers for everything just wish I could find a place that would fill them with the other items I need. I even have one in the car for left overs when we go out to eat. I have been a recycle person for a while. Take my own bags to the grocery store I even have the mesh ones for my produce. But its time to get rid of that PLASTIC trash bag under the sink which are usually from a store when I forget my own. I keep paper, cardboard, bottle recycle in the garage just steps away from the kitchen. I’m thinking a small container easy to wash out for scrapes ( I don’t compost) and another one for miscellaneous that can be emptied into the big trash can for the dump.So only one yucky to wash out ( everyday) if its small enough it can only be so gross.

  14. If I have whole plastic bags such as bread bags I save them and use them for doggy poop bags. If he has pooped in the garden I use toilet paper to pick it up and then dispose of it down the toilet. A friend has determined that every plastic bag has to be used at least three times so they get washed in between. I have a very large recycling rubbish bin in my kitchen and do line it with a plastic bag but that is only so I can carry it easily to the rubbish bin outside, I do use the same bag until it gives up the ghost so to speak. The non recycling rubbish bin is much smaller and I use newspaper to line that. We do have an excellent council scheme here (Christchurch NZ) with three bins, organic, recycling and rubbish. However your site is great and I will use it again

  15. I bought Clean Canz to solve my excessive waste problem. It’s a big liner that we just use once a week. We throw all of our meat drinks and everything in there with out using multiple small bags. and there has never been a leak. They ship their liners straight to our door which is pretty convenient! Highly recommend using their liners. Their website is

  16. I am experimenting ;its not perfect yet.. I put compost garbage in the freezer in a plastic container until the following day. It is easy to dispose in the regular garbage because it has hardened. I can wash and re-use the same hard plastic container.
    Paper bags are used for dry garbage–like we did in the 1950’s. I have been shopping at the supermarket for a year now using my cart’s lining, so I haven’t been getting plastic bags for sometime.
    I am looking for the closest compost center in my area as an alternative to disposing throwing it with other waste

    • The compost centre at our local landfill was closed because they couldnt find a way
      of keeping bears from getting in and spreading everything all over the place!

  17. I live in the middle of acres of bush. I have to take kitchen garbage, trash and recycling to a landfill 15km away. They require black garbage bags for household garbage and I have always used plastic grocery bags in my kitchen and bathroom trash bins. There are bears and raccoons around so I no longer compost and depth of snow makes it impossible in the winter. I re-use all plastic containers and bags. Our milk comes in plastic bags and I reuse them for cheese etc. and in the freezer with a vacuum sealer. I even use the plastic clamshell containers that cookies etc now come in, that I hate, to raise monarch butterflies. I have to use bladder pads and am at a loss as to how to responsibly deal with them on a daily and weekly basis. I’m at a loss as to how I’m going to deal with wet kitchen garbage without plastic grocery bags.

  18. I REALLY APPRECIATE YOUR FACTUAL CONTENT! Biodegradable trash bags are the biggest scam… And even compostable trash bags for those who don’t know the difference or how to do it! The word needs to get out!

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