From this question on Twitter.
@ecoideasnet @ecotraveler Any chance you’ve some #ecoideas on how 2 line wastebaskets w/o plastic bags? < Yes! Will post L8R and ping u back
My slight disclaimer is that I don’t actually have a lot of ideas on lining wastebaskets without plastic bags, aside from using something else like a paper bag or a biodegradable bag. What I can offer instead is what we’ve tried, and how we have reduced our need for as many plastic bags, although we still use some for actual trash. I won’t cover all of our recycling stuff here, but just some major items that have made a significant difference.
The first question is why you need a liner at all? Is the waste creating an odor? Is it making a mess in the can? Here’s what we did.
Try a doolie for pet waste
A nasty topic to start with but let’s get it out of the way. As owners of two large dogs we really didn’t like throwing our pet waste into our trash can and then into the landfill. For a while we were consolidating in the dog run, just using a single plastic shopping bag until it was full, but pardoning the pun this seemed like a waste.
Aside from that, it really stank up the garage where we keep our bins.
We’ve since switched to a doolie system that uses bacteria to break the waste down into sludge and then the harmless byproduct is absorbed into the ground. One problem is that it takes more water that we thought it would take. We’re looking for ways to improve this but it’s a good start.
Precycle and reuse like crazy
If you don’t bring the junk in, you don’t have to bag the junk out. All things being equal, we’re trying to buy products in containers that we can reuse.
I’ve listed some of these ideas in other articles, but we use jars for drinking glasses, sprouts, kefir, seeds and leftovers. Also to shakeup vitamin and protein drinks. Resealable beer bottles can be used for Kombucha, salad dressing, and hey, beer. Clean sets of extras can be Freecycled to other people who want to start home brewing, fermenting, or what have you. When we cook with friends we send leftovers home in plastic containers and use them to carry lunch to work, or for storing DIY parts in the garage, car and camper.
Get Industrial Strength containers that can be cleaned
We don’t really have anything I would describe as a waste “basket” except maybe for the bathroom. These we just dump when full but leave the bag in until it’s totally gross.
If you have some really gross stuff, walk it over to your kitchen trash bag instead of gunking up all the other bags that can be used many times as liners before they need to go.
In the kitchen we have larger rugged kitchen trash containers and fairly rugged outdoor bins. We bought a proper stainless steel scrap bucket to use for compost items before they go outside. Ours has a filter with charcoal insert that really keeps down the smell, and we empty it often. We tried buying biodegradable bags and it wasn’t worth it. One brand tore easily and neither brand seems to actually decompose easily in our compost pile. The bags we had seeped liquid, so we had to rinse the bucket out anyway – no point in having a bag.
If your containers do get gunk on them they can be cleaned outside with white vinegar and a hose. If you keep them in an enclosed area use a box of baking soda to absorb the odor, and open some windows!
A place for everything and everything in its place
Recyclables are usually the “cleanest” trash in our house and if you rinse things like tuna cans they won’t drip and smell. We don’t generally use a liner for those bins. My wife cautions me here that some areas require recyclables to be bagged so they don’t blow away when the robotic trash arm dumps your trashcan into the truck. Please check with your local municipality on this one.
Compost goes right into the stainless compost container or I walk it outside and put in into the Worm Towers – no point in using a bag.
Almost all yard waste can be composted. The state of Georgia determined that since 1996 almost 13% of solid waste diverted from landfills was yard waste, which could be reused in your yard or community garden. Most of the time we do not capture the grass clippings since a “healthy yard” will break down the grass. When we do capture, it’s usually because we need more green stuff to add to the composter.
We have a box in the closet for items we’re taking to Goodwill, and another area in the garage for garage sale stuff. Clothes that aren’t Goodwill quality go to the garage for rags. I take some Freecycle stuff to work, like extra books. We have a table in the breakroom that my co-workers and I will set books on and they disappear the same day.
Most of the disposable batteries I use are for work items, like a laser pointer. We have a battery disposal container at the office so that’s where I take mine. If you don’t have this at work many electronics stores will now take batteries for recycling and disposal.
Focus your energy on eliminating the need for the bags
If you have to use bags try the biodegradable type, which we hear have gotten much better. We’re not using them yet so I can’t speak from experience. Either way try to use them as sparingly as possible. When you do end up with plastic retail bags for some reason, use those for liners.
We have dramatically cut down on our trash overall – it didn’t take as much work as it seemed like it would. When you look at your trash this way it makes you think differently about what you buy and bring home. Between precycling, recycling, composting and freecycling there’s not as much that needs to get bagged, and hey that also saves you money on buying the bags themselves.