We all have probably seen the biodegradable dog waste bags and cat pan liners at stores and parks, but one thing that is becoming more common is applying the same principle to our own trash bags. After all, part of living green is to reduce our waste. These bags decompose over time, which means less waste in the landfill.
Traditional plastic bags are made from a polymer called polyethylene. Polyethylene is made from petroleum. It takes about 1,000 years for polyethylene to break down. In the United States alone about 100 billion of these bags are thrown away every year. There are numerous environmental and biological hazards from plastic bags. With these facts in mind, it’s no wonder many are switching to the alternative of biodegradable plastic trash bags. It reduces the waste from traditional plastic bags. One popular company that makes these is Biobag. (biobagusa.com) Biobag is a Norwegian company, with whom the city of San Francisco has promoted to execute their residential food waste program. There are enterprising American brands that are making their own as well, such as American Plastic Manufacturing.
Biodegradable garbage bags are becoming more common but not all are 100% biodegradable. Bags that are made from corn, sugar and other natural materials are best. Also, certification from the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) meets the ASTM D6400 specification. The BPI logo assures that the bags truly 100% biodegradable. The biodegradable plastic bags are not very expensive at all and feel like regular soft plastic to the touch. These bags can be bought at environmental retailers such as Whole Foods, but are showing up in hardware stores and general supermarkets as well as online. The bags are usually shelf-stable, like paper towels. Usually there are no chemical additives to enhance decomposition, only the natural breaking down that takes place with exposure to the elements. In a controlled composting environment, most will decompose in about one month, but be sure to research the manufacturer’s information first. Biodegradable bags also have a “breathing” system, allowing some air to permeate through the bag, thus reducing odor.
When disposing of biodegradable bags, it is usually best to put them in their own separate composting area or give them to a bio waste facility. Biodegradable bags do not recycle very well, so the aforementioned disposal method is the best practice to follow.
The market is responding to requests all over the world to phase out bags that are not biodegradable. Governments are also making motions to use them more like San Francisco has done. The switch to sustainability can be done.