Why I Never Buy Trash Bags

A friend of mine recently asked me what to do when she had something stinky in her trash, like meat packaging. She often has to empty her smelly trash and waste a whole plastic trash bag because her bag is only half full.

I responded, a bit sheepishly, telling her to just skip using bin liners/trash bags altogether. We haven’t used or bought trash bags in years. What’s the point of using them if your trash is headed to a landfill anyway? Why send it all wrapped up in yet another piece of plastic that won’t ever disappear from the planet?


Here’s what’s in our trash bin, just outside the kitchen. 1 family’s solid waste for a week. The Magic Markers are about 10 years old, but they’ve finally bit the dust. 

We generate very little trash and since we compost all of our organics, our solid waste is truly solid and clean dry waste. It’s mostly made up of plastic packaging for a few things our kids just love, tortilla chips, the occasional clamshell strawberry holder, pens, plastic bottle caps. It all goes into our trash bin that’s in our laundry room, away from our everyday lives because when we throw things away, very occasionally, we truly want the children to work hard to throw it “away,” whereas the compost and recycling is all in the kitchen.


Where we throw things “away.” It’s around the corner, trash bag-free! We can remove the black plastic circular bin and wash it. Looks like it needs a good wash, ahem. 

We fill a large trash can about once every 3-6 months. Neither does our kitchen bin need a tall trash bag, but we also don’t line our trash can with a plastic bag either. The clean dry waste just gets packed into the can and it’s taken to our transfer station when it gets full. Why pay for weekly pickup when you only generate a handful of plastic each week? I’m amazed, always, to see that it’s 100% plastic in there, as our textiles, shoes, organics, metal, wine corks, and batteries, which make up the rest of our trash, are all recycled.


My friend, Lissa, could throw her old styrofoam meat trays and attendant plastic packaging in her freezer until she accumulates enough trash to fill her trash can. Then, she can dispose of her trays, stink-free. She could also take a container to her favorite store where she buys meat and ask the butcher to put the meat right in there for her. No need for the store’s packaging. I’ve done it a few times here on Bainbridge Island at our local store, with no problem. But we don’t eat meat very often any more, if at all.


I talked to a local garbage worker once about whether they cared if the trash was all in plastic trash bags or not. He said it didn’t make a bit of a difference to them, because they throw the trash into the maws of the truck and a crusher then smashes it down inside the truck. The filled plastic bags often break open anyway, with the help of the crusher.

So, think about going plastic-trash-bag-free. It’s yet another form of plastic you can easily eliminate from your shopping list and garbage can. Wash your trash can out every so often. In Europe, most people I know don’t use a bin liner. It’s time we took heed and followed suit, to reduce our plastic footprint.

Are you willing to give it a try and let your waste get all naked and go trash-bag-free?



15 thoughts on “Why I Never Buy Trash Bags

  1. We don’t use plastic bin liners and we don’t have a kitchen bin except for a small sealed compost bin on the counter, but we do use very small compostible bags for the rubbish we can’t recycle or compost. We have a real problem with ants and can’t have bins or containers in cupboards or on the floor, they always find them. Well done on your tiny footprint!


  2. Sadly we have to use horrible black plastic bin bags, otherwise our refuse bins won’t get emptied by the council. I agree that it is stupid and pointless as it all gets mashed up and goes to landfill, but the council say its a “health and safety measure” for us to use the bags. hrmph.


      • I suppose I could use large brown bags….but even though I have made enquiries into various Green issues over the years, we don’t have an Eco person to deal with it specifically. I get read their policy and that’s really about it. Also most people are apathetic (around here) regarding Green issues. Not their fault mind you, its just a low priority compared to employment and housing issues.


      • The ones we used early on broke down in our compost bin, when we used the compost after about 18 months or so there were small bits left but mostly they were broken down. There are different types. We’re using different ones now, very small, which say 2 years, haven’t tested that yet. But 2 years is better than never for the normal plastic bags. Our council thankfully don’t demand plastic-wrapped rubbish, I don’t understand why they should. After all, long gone are the days when bin men had to manhandle the bins, it’s all mechanical now.


  3. Love your blog! There are programs that recycle old dried out markers. We do it at my children’s elementary school. I think it’s through Crayola.


    • Thanks for reading, Brigmills! You’re absolutely right. Yes, I know about that program, just have to find a classroom that recycles them nearby. Thanks for the reminder. At first their recycling of markers was done through another company that simply made them into other things that would end up in the landfill, so it wasn’t a perfect recycling option and would require more fossil fuels to make them into that other plastic thing. But their current program, I believe, turns the Crayola markers into fuel, which makes excellent sense. But, it’s only for Crayola markers! Why not accept all markers, rather than pushing people to only buy Crayola. That sort of marketing ploy seems selective and unproductive. Opting to use colored pencils, rather than those plastic markers, in the first place, would also make sense. We pull these markers out of school trash and refurbish them and use them for years. Finding that classroom that recycles them, now, would definitely be the best end-of-life option for these markers.


  4. I took a closer look at the strawberry clamshell that I have to recycle, and though it took both reading glasses and a magnifying glass, I finally saw the little symbol with a 1 in the middle (let’s not make it easy for anyone to do the right thing with their plastic waste) … currently our curbside recycle pickup is taking 1-5 (inclusive) so that is good news The bad news is I probably need new glasses 😉

    Liked by 1 person

      • I’m often tempted to put the produce that comes in clamshells in my own (or paper) bags, however, then what do they (the store) do with the plastic? I’m not confident they’d sort their rubbish, so I think I’ll ask next time I’m there (and will report back here). I stay far away from those plastic punnets too, much happier to see and buy the berries/fruit/veg that comes in cardboard ones, and do without if there isn’t a non-plastic option.


  5. I have a competition with myself to never throw out actual garbage. Only recycled materials go to the curb in my house. Every five or six months I have an actual small bit of garbage and I’m trying to reduce that as well.

    My neighbors are every week.

    It becomes a fun challenge to find new uses for things and stretch that biannual chore.

    I never considered taking the bag out of the equation before! New challenge accepted!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re on, James. And, I’m with you, every little bit that is heading for the trash has to be evaluated and reconsidered whether there is a reuse for it or a way to refuse buying or acquiring it in the first place. That’s the onus behind this blog. I’ll be curious to learn from you, too, what you’re discovering throughout your personal challenge.

      Liked by 1 person

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