Many people are using less plastic and moving to a zero-waste lifestyle. While I admit, I’m not completely free of plastic and I have not achieved zero waste, I am always looking for way to reduce my plastic footprint. One thing I have always been hung up on is the trash bin. Are there good alternatives to plastic trash bags?

After researching a bit, I’ve actually managed to find multiple options and I want to share what I found to be the best alternatives to plastic trash bags.

Best Alternatives to Plastic Trash Bags - What kind of trash bag should I use
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No liner.

The most eco-friendly option is to go liner free. If you’re thinking to yourself, “eewwwww,” trust me, I’m right there with you. My first thought is that sounds like a mess.

But I think this probably sounds way more intimidating than it is. In fact, after I thought about it for a while. I realized I already have bins without any liner. My recycle bin is liner free, I just walk it out to the curb and dump it into the large bin for pickup.

Yes, it gets sticky, so I simply rinse it out in the bathtub, or with a hose, and let it dry before putting it back to work.

After that realization, I thought, “Could I really go liner free for my trash bin?” And I realized that if I had a compost bin, I would actually be perfectly happy to go liner free in my trash bin. Because the only part that really concerns me is the produce and raw meats, so if I can reduce those things through compost, I feel more comfortable eliminating the liner.

The simple answer is to use a smaller bin and take it to the curb more often. Or, keep a compost bin for the scraps that might rot and cause a mess. If you’re still on the fence about trying this option, just remember, it’s completely free. And if you give it a couple weeks and find it’s not for you, well, at least you tried.

As I said, I don’t have a compost option because I live in an apartment that does not offer one, and I haven’t found a local option yet, after my recent move. (I used to live in a city that had public compost bins and that was amazing!)

So, onto the next best option

Washable, reusable liners.

Yes, this is a real thing. There are fabric alternatives to plastic trash bags that are generally water resistant and machine washable. You’ll want to confirm they are water resistant so that they don’t leak or drip.

Bagito makes water-resistant, reusable trash bin liners in three sizes. Here they are by height, in inches, and by capacity, in gallons:

Small = 17.5″ tall, 9 gallons

Medium = 27.5″ tall, 13 gallons

Large = 41″ tall, 45 gallons

You can purchase them as singles in each size or a set of five with one large, two medium and two small. And that’s just one brand, so if those sizes don’t work for you, I’m confident that you can find many others.

Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, the main selling point on this option is the cost savings. You pay one up-front cost for years of use. Rather than paying for one bag every time you put a new liner in. This goes back to the cost-per-use discussion we had in my How to Go Green and Save Money post.

The same compost idea applies to this option (and all other trash bag options really). If you have a compost bin to put the messier scraps and waste into, then your reusable liner will be less messy and less to clean.

These washable trash liners are also great for use on the road, or even just in your back yard or at the park. So again, try it out and if it ends up not working for your life, you can repurpose these bags to other ends. I might get a small one for the car before my next road trip!

OK, so those are the 2 best alternatives to plastic trash bags when you’re thinking about the environment and your bank account. But there are other options for those of you who aren’t quite ready yet.


Liners made from recycled materials.

You can also get trash bags made from recycled materials. The downside here is that you’re not producing any less waste or reducing your plastic consumption. The upside is that the materials used have been used for at least one other purpose, so it isn’t a complete waste of resources. To be clear, it’s still a big waste of resources.

Best Alternatives to Plastic Trash Bags - Public Goods Recycled Trash Bag
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Now, if you’re hardcore into plastic-free or zero-waste lifestyles, this is where you’ll start to judge me. Because this is the point of my sustainable journey that I am at. I use plastic trash-liners made from recycled materials for my primary kitchen trash bin.

Maybe by the time I’m done with this roll, I’ll be ready to move to the next step … then I’ll just have to convince the rest of my household on it, LOL, but’s a problem for Future Kat.

I firmly believe that everyone can reduce their carbon footprint, or plastic footprint if you will, by changing their shopping habits and their use habits. What I do not believe, is that you must jump from your average American lifestyle of convenience and disposable everything, to a strict, zero-waste lifestyle.

In fact, I think it wise to avoid making huge, unrealistic changes that might discourage you in the long run. So if you’re at a point where going liner free or using washable liners sounds intimidating, then I recommend trash bags made from recycled materials.

Personally, I use the recycled liners from Public Goods — a company that, much like myself, strives to make improvements in their environmental impact year after year.


Best Alternatives to Plastic Trash Bags - Infographic
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Which is right for you?

After reading those three options, it might be clear to you which one is best. Or it might be clear that one is best for the environment but may not work for your lifestyle or family. Or, maybe nothing is clear at all and you still need help deciding.

That’s what I’m here for! Let’s review:

  • Can — and will — you take the trash out to the big bin or curbside bin every day?
  • Are you ok with rinsing out your bins after emptying?
  • Do you have a compost bin where you put most of your food scraps?

If you answered yes to at least two of those three questions, go bagless!

  • Are you hesitant to go bagless but still want to make a big impact?
  • Do you have access to a clothes washer and dryer?
  • Are you willing to put your trash liners in them (if not, are you willing to rinse them off and then put them in your washer)?

If you answered yes to those three questions, you’re ready for reusable trash bags!

If you answered no to all or most of those question, but you still want to take one step greener, get yourself some trash bags made from recycled materials and be proud! Every decision you make to be better is something to be proud of, and don’t let anyone shame you for doing better.

And if you’re not quite ready to go bagless, you can save 10% on Bagitos reusable trash bags on Earth Hero using discount code ONESTEPGREENER. Or head over to Public Goods to check out their trash bags made from recycled materials (sorry no discount code for that one).

Shop Earth Hero and Save 10%

Earth Hero has everything you need to start your journey to a sustainable life.

Save 10% on regular priced items with discount code ONESTEPGREENER

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