Biodegradable Trash Bags... Awesome Idea or Flagrant Greenwashing?? aka, I found a controversy in your garbage can.

Ok, so as y'all might have noticed, last week I was all like, wooo-hooo!  Biodegradable trashcans will keep archaeologists from being grossed out by the contents of my trash-can in a thousand years! and was quite gung-ho about a line of biodegradable trash bags called Green Genius.  I still think they sound awesome in theory, and hope I get my free sample just because I like trying new products, but since then I seem to have discovered a bit of a controversy in my trashcan.

Shortly after writing the aforementioned post, I stumbled across something on the Seventh Generation website that made me think twice about my earlier enthusiasm.  According to their environmental column "Ask Science Man," materials that would be biodegradable under normal circumstances (including biodegradable trashbags) still aren't going to be able to bio-degrade in a landfill due to the lack of oxygen.  Basically, until we somehow get more environmentally friendly landfills (ha!), biodegradable trash bags really aren't going to do squat.  Dangit!

However, that doesn't mean you should just shrug and revert back to your old-standard plastic trash bags -- you can still make a positive impact on the environment simply by switching to recycled bags.  This isn't nearly as hard or expensive as you think -- at my house, we use very affordable, and remarkably durable, 60% recycled plastic trash bags from a brand called GoodSense.  And where do we buy these oh-so-noble holders-of-garbage?  At our local Wal Mart.  Like I said, its really a quite simple way to make a positive impact on the environment.

Don't believe me?  Check out Science Man's numbers:  if every household in the US replaced just one package of 20 count tall kitchen trash bags made from virgin plastic with trash bags that have 55% recycled content, 720,000 cubic feet of landfill space (equal to 1,100 full garbage trucks) would be saved.

Wait, did we read that correctly??  Swapping out just ONE SINGLE package of trashbags would save us more than 1000 garbage trucks worth of landfill space???  Just imagine what the numbers become when people start buying recycled bags exclusively.  Pretty compelling, no?

If you want to find out more about the biodegradable vs recycled trash bag controversy, check out the rest of Science Man's column here.  And consider making the swap to recycled in your own home!


  1. There are some folks out there like me who have to bag it or my city will come after me. They threaten to put library fines on your credit report if you don't pay them. I'm too afraid of what would happen if I didn't bag my trash! They own a landfill and probably figured out how to make Soylent Green and all.

    So yeah, a trash bag made with recycled content is better for me than not. Because I read too much I found that the plastic biodegradable trash bags give off methane when they break down. For me it's better to use the biodegradable bags because my landfill captures the methane the landfill gives off and uses it to make electricity and fuel for city vehicles. I signed up for a sample of the bags from your post and can't wait to try them!

  2. Hahaha! That's super cool that your landfill captures methane. I wish ours did. *something* useful with all that garbage, right?

    But anyway, you're the queen of composting, so you probably have less trash then the rest of us anyway. *Sigh* I can't wait until I have a backyard to compost in...


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