Are biodegradable trash bags really better? The thinking behind this product is that because they are made with a renewable resource (typically corn or some other plant-based product) they are better for the environment than traditional trash liners made from plastic. Okay so if you’re burying trash in your backyard and keeping it wet and rotating it so it gets air – oh wait a minute that’s composting. Okay so if your trash goes to the landfill is the biodegradable bag better? Well maybe it is made from a renewable resource, but in the landfill, it won’t get the moisture and air it needs to degrade – no matter what it is made from. Sure, it will decompose eventually, but better? Biodegradable trash liners are typically not worth the 30% to 70% premium you will pay. So, what are the alternatives?
If in your office building you want to reduce your environmental impact, here are three simple tactics that will be more effective than biodegradable trash liners:
- Desk side recycling– most offices don’t effectively do this. You can improve your diversion rate (amount recycled rather than thrown in the landfill) from the typical in most offices of 0% to 20% up to 60% to 80% just with an effective desk side recycling program.
- Remove the desk side trash liners– if you start a deskside recycling program you won’t need liners in the recycle containers and you can get rid of the liners in the desk side trash. This will require your janitorial provider to wipe the inside of the trash can if there is food waste spillage, but it will enable you to have a much better environmental footprint. You may still need some liners in kitchen and break areas where there is heavy food or beverage container use.
- Know What’s in the Trash– You can conduct a simple waste characterization study by looking at what’s in the trash and sorting it to determine how much is being landfilled that could actually be diverted for your recycling – lowering your trash bill and perhaps generating rebates for your company.
So back to those “green” biodegradable trash bags. Are they worth the extra money? I say no. There are better tactics you can use to reduce your impact. Not only will your company be friendly to the environment, but you’ll most likely save some money, too. What do you think? Am I full of Green Baloney on biodegradable trash bags?