Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Garbage Bag Alternatives

Recently a reader asked....

Hi Gayle,

First of all I should start by saying that I love your blog!! I read it every day and have followed so many of your tips and recipes. Just recently I made my own laundry detergent following your recipe and I love how much money I am saving! One thing that I am sooo sick of pouring money into is garbage bags. Every time I buy them I always think 'Why am I paying for something just to throw it away!' Just recently I paid $6 for 40 garbage bags at my local liquidation store (big lots). So I was wondering if you have came across a garbage bag alternative. Several people have told me to use plastic grocery bags from the store but I have started using canvas bags to get the 10 cent discount per bag. Any suggestions you can think of would be greatly appreciated!

Sincerely,
Dawn

This is such a good question. I'm going to only approach this from a frugal standpoint rather than an environmental one but you'll see lot's of answers that could be applied to both. For most of us the frugal alternative to buying garbage bags would be to re-use our plastic or paper shopping bags. But what happens when we aren't collecting all those bags because of our reusable grocery totes? Here are a few alternatives.

REDUCE - Make less garbage which equals less of a need for garbage bags.

It seems that a frugal lifestyle means simpler foods and products which equals much less in the way of wrappers and boxes to throw away. As you decrease your processed foods and begin buying the basics in much simpler forms you'll see your garbage decrease.

Begin composting. We have a simple 2 gallon bucket that sets under our kitchen sink. Any compostable material (garlic skins, banana peels, carrots peelings, apple cores, moldy bread, tea bags, coffee grounds) get thrown in there and then emptied every few days into the two big bins outside. One is a working bin where we throw new compost (including grass clippings and leaves) and the other is a bin in the process of decomposing. I don't turn, I don't add anything to make it go faster, I just let it set and do it's thing. While one bin is being added to for a year, the other is just rotting away for a year and then gets put in the garden during the fall. (See my right sidebar under "I Recommend" for a simple book on how to compost.)


Burn or compost paper items. Any papers get shredded and thrown on the compost pile to enrich our homegrown veggies. But cardboard boxes or other burnable items get turned to ash in our fireplace or a burn barrel outside. And then the ash goes in the compost as well and finishes it's journey in the garden.

Sort out your recyclables. We have a bin that gets picked up by an automated garbage truck that is just for recyclables. We sort, wash and prepare those items and they get picked up without the need for a garbage bag.

Don't use disposable sanitary products if you can help it. Use the Divacup or reusable menstrual pads (Gladrags) to keep the waste at a minimum. (See my right sidebar under "I Recommend" for a link to these products.)

After all that, you should have very little left for the regular garbage pickup. Our once overflowing garbage cans are now barely half full at pick up time. Now what?

Let your garbage "Go Commando" - Who says your garbage needs a bag?

Use a garbage can or bucket that can be easily rinsed out and just toss it in there without a bag. Make sure you get in the habit of rinsing liquid garbage down the drain to cut down on any goo. (Drain off leftover juice, liquid in glasses or cans..stuff like that.) Check with your local garbage service to make sure there are no bag requirements first. We have automated trucks without anybody having to touch the garbage, but in areas where there are still garbage men tossing the cans they might have restrictions.

If all else fails, Recycle.

Intentionally gather plastic or paper bags from the grocery store. Use emptied dog food bags or kitty litter bags. Use the bags your newspaper or new phone books come in for the gooey garbage. Use bags that your potting soil might come in or from the inside of a box that contained something that was shipped to you. If it holds stuff once, it will hold it again.

I hope that gives you some ideas to cut back on the cost of buying garbage bags. It does seem a shame to purchase something for the intention of just throwing it away again. Save those dollars for something better.

For more WFMW tips go see all the frugal ideas over HERE.

32 comments:

Jean said...

Believe me, these tips WILL work for anybody who want to try 'em! We compost (gardens are filling up our lot). We recycle (recently begun single stream mode, even more stuffs can go there!). I shop in bulk whenever possible (bigger container last longer than tiny container unless tiny is cheaper). Last week Wednesday, for the FIRST time, the 96 gallon curb-side trash can was still EMPTY beside a small piece! Tomorrow it will be bit over half full. THAT is quite a good feeling! There is a good room of improvement for us yet, I know.

Just us Junts said...

Excellent tips,Gayle.
I love the idea of the 2 composters.
We started composting and I HATE turning it. Thanks!!!

Amy said...

If you still need bags after all these fabulous ideas, I have another idea. I used to work as a pharmacy technician and the boxes that the prescription vials come in are lined with plastic bags. You could ask your pharmacy if you could have them. I used to save them and used them at the pharmacy, but if they aren't using them I am sure they will gladly let you take their garbage!

The Ice House said...

You are so smart! I love it :-)

Michelle @ Leaving Excess said...

I agree wholeheartedly! We started composting and recycling faithfully and our family of six was able to go to the smaller trash bin and we have yet to fill it full in a week!

I use the kitchen size bags in our pull out trash can, They are a bit too long, but they fold over the can - that helps keep things neat. Once it is full, I pull up the sides of the bag and fill it up some more. That lets me fill the bag another 1/3 of the way - so by doing this every 3rd bag is free or savings to us. I know it seems small, but that is how it works, right? The small things really add up!

Kirsty said...

It's cool how saving money so often coincides with saving the planet! Great tips, thanks.

Moxie said...

Pack your trash well too! Smoosh smash and tear apart large items it fit more per bag. When I worked food service we had a trash masher...a basic blunt ended object on a stick....you would smash the trash down in the can a couple times a day....you would be surprised how much more bag can hold! If you know that next year you need to remulch your flower beds just save your old pizza boxes in a stack in the garage till spring. Then use these (flatten out) under your new mulch to stop weeds...works great...thicker than traditional newspaper! Will eventually decompose but you'll get al least 2 seasons out of it!!

Denise said...

I need to start doing more of those things. Our garbage was reduced by half when we stopped using disposable diapers & female supplies....I was amazed! It now takes us two wks or more to fill the can that used to be overflowing 2 days before the weekly pick up.

I think I'm going to work on eliminating the need for garbage bags.

LaVonne said...

We recycle quite a lot here, but I want to learn more about composting. Thanks for great tips!

Buffie said...

I love all these tips and will definitely be working on implementing some of them. Our trash cans is overflowing way too often.

Honey said...

These are great tips and gave me ideas on more things to do. As a family of 7-we consume alot! It seems every day I am throwing away an empty jar, milk jug, cereal box, cracker box, etc-and that's just for breakfast (Haha)! We recently started a small scale recycling. I got 4 bins, labeled them, and demonstrated to my children (ages 7,6,6,5,&5) what goes where. We then will take those every couple weeks to the recycling center down the street and let them put the items in. My oldest is excited about it. I don't end up recycling everything, but I hope to move toward doing it more and more. And I'm starting a compost heap for next spring...shoulda done it last year! But I think we're moving in the right direction.

Monkey Momma said...

These ideas WILL work. And if it seems too overwhelming, start with one thing until it becomes habit before starting another. I started using the Diva Cup a couple years ago. We started recycling a few months ago. Now we're composting. We still use disposable diapers and I'm a little iffy about reusables as a FT working mom, but at least I'm considering it for #2. With my first child that would never have happened. LOL!

Baby steps, right? :-)

Anyways, all that to say, our trash bin doesn't need emptying out nearly as much as it used to. Not only is it saving us money, but there is a certain sense of accomplishment in saving the landfills.

Pioneer Mom said...

Great ideas! But don't throw out that broccoli! The hard part makes a great broccoli slaw, instead of cabbage...
Annie
www.pioneermom.com

Julie said...

Does the compost stink? Everytime I throw out something or put it down the disposal I think, "I should compost this" but I don't know anyone who does it.

We "go comando" with the trash we do end up tossing after recycling all we can and then rinse out the can.

Gayle said...

As long as you put the right things in your compost it doesn't stink. No dairy or meat and make sure if it's a hot day you add a little water to keep it moist. It will smell like damp earth.

Julie Bagamary said...

Great tips. We already do most of them except the dog food bags for trash. We may try that.

Mrs. B, a very peculiar person said...

Terrrific ideas ... we practice almost all of them and they really DO reduce the amount of trash one throws away. Because of these stratigies I haven't had a need to buy trash bags for more than a decade.
Mrs.B

Anonymous said...

I am surprised to see that you buy napkins. I make a few dozen each year from leftover fabric and just toss them in the wash with other things. It saves on the expense of napkins and garbage. Just a thought.

Jennifer said...

Great tips, we use some of them, but some I have not heard before, thanks!

Amanda @ Mommy's Idea Book said...

Great ideas! I really like the idea of composting. However, the idea for not using a garbage bag is out where I live. No bag, no pickup.

We live out in the country and the guys have to manually pull the garbage out of the cans and throw it into the truck. I so wish we had the automated trucks here too.

Anonymous said...

We just moved and it is a must on the recycling. Since we have started do that we have gone down to using one kitchen size bag per week. We used to be full to overflowing come trash day. I have also started composting as we don't have a garbage disposal and am going to start a garden get year. I will have to check to see if we can go without a bag in the can. Good ideas!

Farmgirl Cyn said...

We can no longer afford the enormous trash bill, so we have taken to a burn barrel for stuff we can burn. Right now we are burying (composting) our trash, but as soon as we get chickens again, they will get most of the kitchen scraps. We recycle glass and cans.

4ddintx said...

I love your blog!
How big are the cans you're using for compost? Did you buy them or just poke the holes yourself?

I'd like to start composting and love the "no turn" method you're talking about!

Gayle said...

My city dump sells those amazing heavy duty bins for $10 each. They are just a lid and base with a flat piece of holey plastic that you wrap into a circle and bolt together. They are virtually indesctructable.

Betsy said...

We strive to make as less trash as we can, too, and the biggest help for that for us (besides the composting, recycling, making things from scratch, etc. you mentioned) is using cloth where we might have used paper before: cloth diapers, cloth napkins, hand- and dish-towels instead of paper towels, etc. That saves a ton of trash. Usually, after a week, we have one small-ish curb-sized trash can full, even though we have two children in diapers and a third just barely out.

Anonymous said...

When we wre growing up we only had metal 20 gallon trash cans and only 3 per household. We wrapped all food scraps ike meat fats and such by rolling them in newspaper butcher style. Then laying them down in the can with the fold under. Yes we did wash out the cans. We flattened all the metal cans and of course sav ed all the glass ones for making jelly etc later. Back then they did not have recycling but we did use all the cans we could etc. I do have a question. I hear someplaces it is ok to use the colored parts of the newspapers in the compost and other places say no as the colored dyes are not good as they have chemicles. What have you heards? I shred all the black and white papers I get but put the rest in recycling. I am really interested to know as I like to use wisely all I can. You could at least use these colored sections to wrap the food products you should not put in the compost... Jody

Anonymous said...

By law here we are now allowed to have burn barrels. It is too dry here. Some people though, do burn as we smell it 90% of the time after dark. The smoke comes in our house and at times we have had to leave as we are coughing too much. We like to leave the windows open in summer to cool the house at night...or if we do use the cooler it also brings in the smoke. :( I am all for burning but watch were the smoke is flowing and douse the flames good so they do not smoke please. Jody

Chels said...

What book is it you recommend for easy composting? I don't see it. Are egg shells and pieces of hard boiled eggs okay? What happens when there are no more grass clippings and leaves to add during the winter but still lots of food waste? I really want to compost but my husband thinks it's a waste of time and too difficult.

Gayle said...

Chels,

Yes, egg shells can go in but not hard boiled eggs. I put the Mike Mcgrath composting book back in my righthand sidebar.

Chels said...

Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

Even though we have the mechanical trash trucks, we are still required to bag our trash. We compost by digging holes in the ground and filling them up. Cover with dirt when it gets full. No need for a special can and the compost is already in the ground where we want it. Because we live in a very hot climate, it breaks down within a season. As for composting in the winter, you could always add newspaper or the mail you shred for your brown matter. We dump the inside compost outdoors at least every couple days to keep down the smell.

Anonymous said...

Like Many I live in an area where I can not garden you can not compost and you must wrap your trash in bags.
I live in a condo and all of this is in the rules.
However the bucket with a plain plastic grocery bag or two will go around the bucket and even if I have to throw out 6 of them a day I don't have to buy trash bags.