We know that plastic bags are bad for the environment.
The thing is, they make convenient and free bin liners.
So after going to the effort of using more environmentally friendly shopping bag alternatives, what do you do in place of the plastic shopping bag as bin liners?
Plastic bag alternatives
We stopped having a bin in our kitchen.
Part of the reason was to keep the ants out. But the other part was to keep our waste down too.
We still have a long way to go, but not having a bin helps you to be conscious of what you’re throwing away and exactly how much.
When you think about what most rubbish consists of (once you take out everything recyclable and compostable) it’s packaging. Specifically, we use plastic bags in order to throw out empty plastic bags. Crazy stuff.
So the real question isn’t ‘what can I use instead of plastic shopping bags for bin liners?‘, it should be ‘what can I do to minimise my waste?‘
When you minimise your waste, instead of using shopping bags to throw out empty plastic bags, you can use those bags to hold your rubbish.
For instance, you can use an empty bread bag as a rubbish bin. Or an empty frozen pea bag. Or an empty milk carton. When you have minimum rubbish, an empty milk carton for a day or two is sufficient.
Alternatively, you can go bagless altogether.
Rubbish doesn’t need to be encased in plastic. You can line your bin with a bit of newspaper or scrap paper to keep it clean and just transfer it to your otto bin for pick up day.
And you can recycle any soft plastics like bread bags through services like Redcycle.
8 Ways to reduce plastic
The best alternative would be not to buy anything in non-recyclable or non-biodegradable plastic bags, but that’s not always practical and I certainly am not at that point yet (I haven’t found a block of cheese wrapped in anything but plastic).
However, the less garbage you buy, the less you need to throw out. It does make a difference!
It’s not easy and the responsibility shouldn’t just be on the consumer; the manufacturing and retail industries need to lift their game and reduce plastic packaging. But this will only happen when you and I, as consumers, demand it.
Here are some tips on reducing your plastic consumption:
- Store your green bags in the car. That way you never forget them.
- Always carry a small carry bag (like these ones that fold up) in your purse for just in case.
- Skip the produce bags or use reusable produce bags. Make your own from old curtains or use ones like these.
- Buy your pantry staples from the bulk bin section of your supermarket or a bulk food store. (Pro tip: If you live in pantry moth territory, freeze dry goods like nuts and flour when you get home for 24 hours to kill pantry moths. I battled with pantry moth for years. Now I freeze everything first and haven’t had a problem since.)
- Take your own containers to the deli, butcher and takeaway store.
- Take your own coffee cup (I love my Keep Cup. I’ve never had a problem using it).
- If you can recycle the soft plastic you do get through Redcycle.
- Think about the things you buy and look for alternatives that cause less waste. For example, instead of getting individually wrapped or packaged multi-buys, buy in bulk and portion food yourself.
10 Ways to reduce what goes in the bin
The problem with rubbish isn’t just about plastic shopping bags. To eliminate the need to use them as bin liners (or to use less of them), you need to reduce your household rubbish as a whole.
- Start a compost bin or worm farm and compost kitchen scraps and scrap paper. Some councils have a compost bin they collect along with the regular Otto, why not petition your local council for the same service.
- Use your scraps to make practically free stock in the slow cooker.
- Reduce the amount of meat you eat (reduces the need to throw out the bones and it’s better for the environment anyway).
- Recycle everything that’s recyclable.
- Reuse the plastic you do use over and over (for example, I still use zip-lock bags in our freezer because they fit well. But I keep them in the freezer and use them again and again).
- Recycle soft plastics.
- Opt for reusables rather than disposables.
- Try a menstrual cup.
- Use cloth nappies.
- Make your own cleaners.
Using less plastic a small thing that we can all do that makes a big difference. And there are always practical alternatives when we think outside the box.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.