What Are Biodegradable Garbage Bags?

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on October 04, 2022
5 min read

Plastic waste is a huge contributor to pollution. The wide variety of plastics that are not biodegradable or compostable and don’t get recycled spend millions of years sitting in landfills or end up in the ocean. 

New forms of plastic and packaging are available that break down faster to combat the problem of pollution. Biodegradable plastics are starting to hit mainstream channels and can become your new go-to form of plastics for water bottles, plastic bags, and garbage bags. 

"Biodegradable" is a term used for certain plastics that break down quicker than commonly used plastics. But just because something is biodegradable doesn’t mean it’ll break down immediately. The process still takes time and depends on how and where the biodegradable plastic gets discarded. 

Another difference between biodegradable and regular pieces of plastic is how the breakdown occurs. A biodegradable plastic breaks down naturally and doesn’t leak more pollution into the earth or water. There’s also a difference between a biodegradable object and a compostable object. Just because something is biodegradable doesn’t mean you can put it in your compost bin.

Eco-friendly garbage bags are plastics made out of reusable, biodegradable, or compostable materials. However, reusable bags aren’t often an easy option for garbage bags. 

Biodegradable vs. degradable. Degradable plastic bags have a lot of chemicals and heavy metals in them. This can cause problems when the plastic starts to break down because the chemical and metals begin to seep into the ground and can pollute the Earth and waterways.

Other harmful parts of the breakdown process happen when animals start eating smaller, broken-down pieces of plastic. This is particularly problematic in the ocean with microplastics.

Biodegradable and degradable bags break down when sunlight and heat are exposed. The difference between these two is the material inside and how fast that breakdown process happens. 

Biodegradable vs. compostable. Biodegradable plastic bags are similar to degradable bags with added microorganisms that speed up the breakdown process. Compostable bags have natural components. These bags are made with natural plant starch and are free from toxic material. 

Compostable bags, as their name entails, can be put in your compost system and will break down quickly to form compost. You can't put biodegradable bags into your compost system. 

Compostable bags are great for lining containers in which you're collecting food waste or specific compostable materials. If you're using them as a catch-all garbage bag, you would need to separate the contents before putting the bag in your compost system.

Renewable raw materials like crops make biodegradable plastic. In some cases, recyclable material or trash no longer recyclable is used to make biodegradable plastic. This is different from degradable plastics made of crude oil. 

Bioplastics are the materials found in biodegradable garbage bags. Bioplastics are biopolymers that degrade faster than biobased plastics. Biodegradable garbage bags are considered eco-friendly because of their faster breakdown of the plastic. Biodegradable garbage bags are made of materials that break down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass.

The challenge of biodegradable material is the temperature levels needed to break it down. Biodegradable material needs very high temperatures to break down, and these temperatures don't always get that high sitting out in the landfill. That can cause the biodegradable garbage bags to last longer than they say they will unless they go to an industrial facility. 

There are many benefits of biodegradable plastic. Simple, small switches from new plastic to biodegradable plastic can reduce your environmental footprint. 

Pollution from plastic is a global problem. Biodegradable plastics don't solve the waste issue, but they do help. Changes like using biodegradable garbage bags are a great start to helping reduce plastic waste pollution.

Reducing carbon emissions. The manufacturing process for biodegradable plastics produces fewer carbon emissions than that for raw material plastics. Plants are the main component of biodegradable plastics, creating fewer carbon emissions when biodegrading.

Recycling and reuse. Biodegradable plastic has more natural ingredients, making it more recyclable than raw material plastics filled with colors, fillers, and other additives that make it unrecyclable.

Biodegradable plastic bags and garbage bags are available at major retailers. Today, biodegradable materials are easily accessible. You can order your biodegradable bags online or buy them in-store. 

One way to be eco-friendly with garbage bags is to find ones made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastics. These garbage bags get repurposed from the trash that would end up in the landfill to hold more waste.

Switching to biodegradable garbage bags and more sustainable materials will help save money and reduce the amount of waste you're creating. Another way to make garbage bags eco-friendly is by recycling biodegradable bags. It takes more effort, but sorting your trash and recycling can help reduce waste in the landfill.

Another way to be eco-friendly with garbage bags is to reduce food waste. Now that you’re focused on reducing waste and changing to biodegradable materials in your kitchen, you can tackle food waste. Starting a compost and recycling bin can help reduce the trash in the landfill. 

Biodegradable garbage bags are a great gateway into a more sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle. 

Adding biodegradable and compostable material to your daily lifestyle and removing single-use plastic from your kitchen is a great way to live a more sustainable life. One thing to watch out for is "greenwashing," when corporations label their products as eco-friendly, organic, or green without substantial proof. 

If the labels are vague, you should watch out for false claims. The best way to tell if something is sustainable and worth adding to your daily use is to look for accredited third-party certifications. Look for the FSC label on paper products. On appliances, look for the Energy Star label. 

Look for labels that have specific wording with claims to back it up. If biodegradable garbage bags say they're eco-friendly, look for claims that mention bioplastics or a high percentage of post-consumer recycled material.