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?