Using, Recycling, & Disposing Bags Responsibly

Using, Recycling, & Disposing Bags Responsibly

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Even for those who’re diligently working to cut back waste, disposable luggage in all probability ease into your routine.

Produce luggage. Paper luggage. Pretzel luggage. Pet-waste luggage. Garbage luggage. Gift luggage. Biodegradable luggage. And so on. Even reusable luggage ultimately put on out.

What is the easiest way to responsibly discard totally different sorts of disposable luggage in an earth-friendly method? We talked to some waste administration professionals to get their views.

Disposable Bags & Recycling

Most blended recycling providers don’t need any kind of plastic bag included with papers, plastics, and glass. It’s a simple rule to observe. Yet even well-meaning of us usually ignore it, usually “wish-cycling” — together with the luggage of their recycling bin within the hopes that they’ll get recycled.

This could cause costly issues on the recycling facility. Plastic luggage and different versatile filmy plastics wrap around recycling equipment. This interferes with environment friendly sorting and infrequently requires employees to close down gear to dislodge the luggage.

If you employ a plastic bag for storing family or workplace recyclables, open it and dump contents into your recycling bin so all objects are free. Save your plastic bag for reuse, or recycle it at a separate drop-off level the place plastic luggage are accepted. If neither possibility is viable, discard it in your rubbish so doesn’t trigger expensive shutdowns on the recycling plant. Littered plastic luggage aren’t simply ugly, in addition they create a hazard for wildlife and infrequently find yourself polluting our precious waterways.

disposable plastic bag pulled from pond with stick
Plastic bag plucked from a neighborhood pond. Image: Patti Roth

If you bundle blended recyclables inside a plastic bag, employees at recycling amenities probably will pull it out and discard it as rubbish, explains Robert Pickens, treasurer of Oklahoma Recycling Association and vp of recycling for American Waste Control.

Janette Micelli of Waste Management says, “Bagged recyclables in plastic luggage are pulled off the road. Closed plastic luggage with objects inside are thought-about contamination.”

Common Bag Recycling Requirements

While necessities range with particular person recycling providers, another guidelines for baggage apply extensively. Always examine together with your recycling supplier for native guidelines.

  • For many mixed-recycling providers, most — if not all — luggage are unacceptable. No reusable purchasing luggage, shiny or glittery reward luggage, chip luggage, or biodegradable or compostable luggage. “If the phrases ‘bag’ and ‘plastic’ are used collectively to explain the merchandise, don’t place it within the recycle cart or bin,” Pickens advises.
  • Plain brown or white paper luggage could also be an exception. “If this system accepts a wide range of paper [magazines, newspapers, mail, cereal boxes, etc.], they need to have the ability to take paper luggage too. If this system is proscribed to a particular kind of fiber, equivalent to simply corrugated cardboard, then they might not be accepted,” says Anne Germain of National Waste & Recycling Association. Pickens says that in case your recycling program accepts plain paper, make sure you take away handles fabricated from string or different non-paper materials. And if the paper is greasy or soiled with meals residue, put it within the trash. Food-contaminated paper can smash a whole recycling batch.
  • “Biodegradable plastic luggage are often not acceptable [as recycling] wherever and must be thrown away,” Germain says.
  • While commonplace plastic luggage often should not permitted in blended recycling, some supermarkets and different companies gather single-use plastic bags for recycling. Use Earth911 Recycling Search and enter your ZIP code to discover a location close to you.
woman shopping with reusable cloth and string bags
Plastic-free purchasing in Mangwon Market, Seoul. Photo: Jung Park/Greenpeace

Disposable Bags & Shopping

When buying only some objects, Pickens tells the cashier, “No bag please.” It’s a easy waste-reducing follow that ideally turns into a behavior, just like telling your restaurant server, “No straw please.”

For heftier purchasing hauls, reusable totes are preferable to single-use disposable luggage. You could wish to refine that choice additional. Instead of plastic materials, use cotton shopping bags and cloth produce bags. Consider making a “zero-waste bin” in your automobile the place you retain your reusable luggage and containers. After unloading your purchases, restock your zero-waste bin with empties so that you don’t get caught with no reusable bag.

Some shops are ditching single-use plastic luggage voluntarily. Other shops providing plastic luggage could hear objections from customers. Customers Who Care, for instance, is a corporation encouraging Target to eliminate single-use plastic bags.

orange plastic garbage bag made with recycled materials
Garbage bag made with recycled supplies. Photo: WasteZero

Disposable Bags & Garbage

Regular non-biodegradable rubbish luggage often are finest for family rubbish going right into a landfill.

Biodegradable rubbish luggage could sound extra eco-friendly. However, at the least for family trash, they don’t essentially provide worthwhile environmental worth. And there could also be causes to keep away from them.

Some biodegradable luggage could disintegrate earlier than arriving at a landfill. “This leads to the contents of the bag spilling out and inflicting a much bigger mess and environmental challenge,” says Alice Koehler, senior vp of selling for WasteZero, a agency that gives waste-reduction services.

Koehler presents a number of solutions for an eco-responsible strategy to family trash:

  • Use as few luggage as attainable. Fill luggage utterly and observe the tenets of decreasing, reusing, and recycling as a lot as attainable.
  • Use robust luggage that received’t break. Loose waste within the type of litter and blowing trash is a much bigger drawback. It will get into our waterways and harms wildlife.
  • Buy luggage made out of recycled content material every time attainable.

If you’ve been shopping for biodegradable luggage on your rubbish, take into account these extra views on rubbish luggage and landfills.

  • “Waste disposed in trash will be positioned in both a biodegradable or non-biodegradable bag. Neither will considerably break down in a landfill, so it actually doesn’t matter which is used,” in response to a spokesperson from Waste Management.
  • A spokesperson from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agrees, “If the belief is that you’re disposing of an merchandise in a landfill, the selection of bag doesn’t matter. A non-biodegradable merchandise won’t biodegrade no matter the kind of bag.”
  • Pickens says the model of bag doesn’t matter even when biodegrading happens in a landfill. Regular non-biodegradable plastic luggage usually rip en route or inside a landfill, so rubbish probably is free anyway, he says.
woman putting disposable plastic trash bag in garbage can
Regular non-biodegradable rubbish luggage often are finest for family rubbish going right into a landfill. Image: Adobe Stock

Compostable & Biodegradable Bags

While common disposable plastic luggage are a first-rate supply of plastic air pollution, biodegradable luggage are not necessarily planet-friendlier — whether or not discarded responsibly or littering the panorama.

“It is a misperception that biodegradable luggage are safer for the atmosphere if they’re littered or escape into the atmosphere,” says Ivy Schlegel, a analysis specialist with Greenpeace United States’ plastic crew. “Many biodegradable luggage will solely break down totally in industrial composting methods, not if littered or in a landfill.”

Biodegradable pick-up luggage for pet waste are common, however not essentially environmentally preferable, particularly if dropped in with common family rubbish. But for those who simply depart the poop-filled bag open air, it’s litter. These luggage could require very excessive temperatures or different necessities to biodegrade. Or they might biodegrade rapidly, leaving pet waste uncovered and bits of bag flying freely.

Other notes about biodegradable and compostable luggage:

  • Some biodegradable luggage could disintegrate if not saved correctly — equivalent to within the trunk of a car in a sizzling local weather — turning into waste earlier than they’re ever used.
  • Don’t put luggage containing animal feces in your municipal compost bins except your metropolis particularly states they’ll course of this sort of waste. Most amenities can not.
  • For composting packages, ask officers if compostable luggage are acceptable earlier than you place them in your bin with yard and meals particles. Not all amenities are geared up to course of them. “Only luggage labeled as BPI licensed compostable must be included with compostable supplies if the gathering facility accepts luggage,” an EPA spokesperson says. “Biodegradable and compostable should not interchangeable phrases.”

It’s onerous to utterly keep away from disposable luggage. But you can also make a distinction for those who use a reusable bag every time attainable, recycle or discard disposable luggage responsibly, and even skip the bag altogether if it’s not mandatory.

This article was initially revealed on October 21, 2019.