• Are Biodegradable Bags The Best Option To Line My Bin With?

    May 15, 2018 • GUIDES, HOME, LIFE, PLASTIC FREE / WASTE FREE

    As consumers, we feel slightly more at ease when we are told that plastic bags are biodegradable. But how can we be sure biodegradable bags are really eco friendly? Are they the same as degradable plastic bags? And when it comes to bin liners, is there a best option?

    Thankfully, there are rules for the claims that can be made about types of plastic, and the ACCC is getting strict about policing them.  Further, there are independent certification schemes you can look out for that give you peace of mind about the claims being made.

    The most eco friendly solution is no doubt to not line your bin with a bag; could you use newspaper or no liner instead? You can achieve this by separating your compostables, recyclables and general waste, composting and recycling as much as you can. By doing this you may notice you’re sending less waste to landfill as a result.  And if you still prefer a bag to line your general waste bin with a plastic bag, the best option is to choose a certified biodegradable or certified compostable bag instead of traditional plastic bags or those labeled degradable.

    Read on as we outline the differences between traditional, degradable and biodegradable bags, and what to look out for when purchasing them.

    Biodegradable Bags: Are They Really Eco Friendly? | Biome Eco Stores

    Traditional Single Use Petrochemical Plastic Bags

    Should I choose this product? No. Whether it’s to line your bin or carry your shopping, it’s best to avoid these plastic bags altogether.

    According to Clean Up, Australians use approximately 5 billion single use plastic bags every year. These bags take a considerable amount of non-renewable resources to produce, including millions of barrels of petroleum, yet they are used on average for just 12 minutes each. These bags will not break down. Instead they disintegrate into smaller and smaller pieces. Marine life, birds and other animals are ingesting this plastic, and many become entangled in it.

    Degradable or Oxo-Degradable Bags

    Should I choose this product? No. Any product making this claim you can simply avoid!

    Degradable or oxo-degradable bags are not truly biodegradable plastics.

    These bags have chemical additives added to help them break down, and they disintegrate more quickly than standard plastic bags, but they don’t disappear completely. Degradable or oxo-degradable bags just degrade into smaller and smaller particles. Perceptually, they kind of trick us into thinking they’re not harming the planet, but the plastic is still there, just in tiny particles, or micro-plastics, which as we know is incredibly harmful to our ecosystem.

    To sum it up, Professor Tony Underwood from the University of Sydney describes degradable plastic bags as:

    Not a solution to anything much, unless we are quite happy to shift it all into particle-sized plastics rather than plastic bag-sized plastic.

    Biodegradable Bags & Compostable Bags

    Should I choose this product? Yes, if you need a bin liner, a biodegradable and compostable bag is the best choice, but be sure to choose the product that has certification to back these claims up. Plus, be mindful of what will happen to the bag if it ends up in landfill or our environment.  If you are using the bag to collect scraps for composting at home, then the bag also needs to be certified home compostable. 

    Something is biodegradable and compostable if living things such as fungi and bacteria can break it down in the environment.

    Biodegradable and compostable bags are made from plant-based materials like cornstarch and wheat as opposed to petroleum. Our BioBags in particular are made from an ingredient called Mater-Bi, which consists of corn starch, biodegradable and compostable polyester and vegetable oil. These bags contain no polyethylene and completely biodegrade in the right conditions after 10-45 days. They are best used for collecting food waste for home composting or your worm farm as they help to contain waste, reduce smells, stop mould growth and keep your bin clean.

    Biodegradable Bags: Are They Really Eco Friendly? | Biome Eco StoresIt is important to take note of the abovementioned ‘right conditions’ biodegradable and compostable bags require in order to break down. The temperature needs to reach 50 degrees celsius, and the bag needs to be exposed to UV light.

    Now this doesn’t happen in wheelie bins and it doesn’t happen in the ocean. If you are using biodegradable and compostable bags to contain general waste or household rubbish, be mindful of the fact that once it is all sent to landfill, the bag will behave like the rubbish it is containing. In landfill biodegradable and compostable bags will break down a lot more slowly than they would in your home composting system, and they will break down without oxygen, producing methane, a greenhouse gas much more dangerous than carbon dioxide.

    Biodegradable bags do not break down in marine environments at all. Plus they still look like a jellyfish to a turtle, so can be just as harmful as traditional plastic bags if they are disposed of thoughtlessly.

    When considering biodegradable and compostable bags, it is important to look for certification. At present, certified compostable is the most reliable certification as it is regulated and internationally agreed upon. Companies make unsubstantiated claims about biodegradable products all the time, and the ACCC recently took action against Woolworths for misleading biodegradability and compostability claims (2). Certification schemes are a way for companies to substantiate their claims with scientific data and demonstrate the environmental responsibility of their products.

    All BioBag bags are biodegradable and certified home compostable according to the European Standard EN 13432, the US Standard ASTM D6400 and the Australian Standard AS 4736.

    BioBag holds biodegradable and compostable certificates issued by several certification institutions including AIB Vincotte (OK Compost), DIN Certco, BPI (USA) as well as other specialized certifications such as the GMO-free certificate.

    BioBag compostable bags are the best option for lining your bin with.

    Biodegradable Bags: Are They Really Eco Friendly? | Biome Eco Stores

    Shop BioBag here >

    So when it comes to lining your bin to contain rubbish that is destined for landfill, using newspaper or no bag at all is the best option. But if you still prefer to use a plastic bin liner, avoid degradable bags and choose a certified compostable plastic bag. If you are using a bag to collect food scraps for your compost at home, choose a bag that is certified home compostable.


    Further Reading

    (1) www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/7-insane-facts-about-plastic-bags/

    (2) www.smh.com.au/national/watchdog-whacks-woolies-for-allegedly-false-biodegradability-claims-20180302-p4z2h5.html

    www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/plastic-bags-whats-difference-between-degradable-compostable-and-biodegradable/

    treadingmyownpath.com/2018/03/22/biodegradable-plastic-is-it-really-eco-friendly/

    http://www.cleanup.org.au/au/campaigns/plastic-bag-facts.html

    7 Responses to Are Biodegradable Bags The Best Option To Line My Bin With?
    1. Naomi
      May 17, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      Thank you for clearing this up. It’s something I’ve often wondered about.

    2. Michelle
      May 18, 2018 at 6:09 am

      Thanks for the article. But having read all that I am still none the wiser on which is the least worst option for a bin liner that will be going to landfill – petrochemical bags and biodegradable/compostable bags both appear to have significant drawbacks. What is the least worst option?

      • Jenny
        May 18, 2018 at 7:16 am

        Yes Michelle I agree. I have recently divided my rubbishy into glass, metal, cardboard and moulded plastic. The later is by far the largest amount in the bins. I am considering the problem and can only imagine not putting in a plastic liner at all and washing the bin up in hot soapy water once a week. This is time consuming though and if you haven’t got the time I’m not sure what else to of next. We are so used to using them and they are the only thing readily available. Some one needs to invent something else. Jenny

      • Tash
        May 18, 2018 at 8:07 am

        Consider wrapping waste in news paper. That what our precious generation did. Get a compost bin. You will be surprised how much you actually don’t put in general waste once you start to recycle & put food in a composter

    3. Jemimah
      May 18, 2018 at 8:58 pm

      Can we get large council bin type garbage bags that are environmentally friendly? Our council asks that we ‘bag waste’ rather than putting it loose into the wheelie bin. At least that way we are only using one large bag per week, especially if sorting household waste into compost/food waste, recyclables, and non-recyclables.

    4. Nikki
      May 19, 2018 at 2:17 pm

      Problems also arise when rubbish in wheelie bins is not contained as the ‘tip and shake’ process of emptying the wheelie bins into the truck results in loose items blowing out and littering the streets, causing more environmental problems. Smaller, lightweight items really do need to be contained in wrapped newspaper or bin liner bags.

    5. Kylie
      May 19, 2018 at 4:17 pm

      I have the same thoughts as Michelle. Does anyone have a answer please?
      As I am currently unable to compost (will be as soon as situation changes) and also our council last time I checked will not accept curbside rubbish not in some kind of bag whether it be plastic or old sack chaff bag ect

      Thanks Kylie

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