Maersk Supply Service has signed on to support The Ocean Cleanup, the Dutch non-profit that is developing technology to clean the ocean of plastic waste. For their role in the project, Maersk Supply Service will provide its AHTS, Maersk Launcher, to deploy and support the first cleanup system, known as Cleanup System 001, in the […]
Straws made from sugar, wheat, bamboo and pasta are vying to replace the now-reviled plastic ones. But are any up to the task?
What is the purpose of a “tall kitchen garbage/waste bag?” In my household, it is to keep all the non-recyclable trash together until it reaches the landfill. An amazing amount of that waste is plastic packaging used on food. So the plastic garbage bag keeps all this plastic and some paper together both in the home and on the truck. When driving behind a garbage truck, I see a lot of those plastic “grocery bags” flying out the top or back of the truck to litter the environment or work it’s way into a waterway. A garbage bag minimizes that.
To me, it does not matter if the garbage bag itself will break down because it is going to be sealed in an air tight landfill and will probably still be there for centuries.
Compostable Plastic Trash Bags
These are made mostly of corn (maize). They actually do compost into organic material. Back in 2015 I tried some of these bags. I wish I could say I was impressed but I can’t. The bags are expensive and not strong enough. I had to use two bags, one inside of the other which doubles the cost and even then they were barely strong enough. The corners of trash would slit them too easily and they were leak prone.
I do see some uses for this technology from BioBag. They might work as lawn and leaf bags, grocery store produce bags (if strong enough) and dog waste pickup bags, but not for general kitchen trash that is going to end up in a landfill anyway.
Responsibly Sourced Trash Bags
So the trash bag will end up in a landfill anyway, so how do we make trash bags more environmentaly responsible? Either make them from recycled plastics or plastics derived from renewable sources.
Seventh Generation Drawstring Kitchen Trash Bags: I bought these in 2017. They are 65% recycled plastic (somebody has to use up the plastic sent to recycling). To my surprise, these are pretty darn good. Strong, reasonably priced and I like the drawstring. They are also sized right. They help the environment by creating a use for some of that plastic we recycle and they take less energy to produce. I would buy these again.
Hippo Sak Tall Kitchen Bags: So far I like these the best. The material is 85% plant based from sugar cane. They are not any more environmentally friendly after you use them than any other plastic bag, but they use less petroleum products so that’s a win. They are very strong and resist leaking. I didn’t think I would like the handles but I found it just as easy to tie then off to secure the top as any draw string bag. I will buy these again.
Your routine and circumstances may vary from mine.
China has cracked down on what waste they import for recycling. They want better quality waste, less contamination. American waste companies are howling. But if it leads us to recycle our own waste here in the US, China will have done us a favor in the long term.
A lot of our paper and plastic waste is shipped to China for recycling. I can’t help but feel that this is wrong. We should be recycling our own trash. If we have to recycle our own plastic and paper waste, we will develop new techniques and new products. If we let China do it we will never innovate. This is part of selfdogfooding.
It seems to me there are several categories of plastics that we use so I thought I would list them.
- Single use “fast food” plastics: Styrofoam clam shells, cups, wrappers, utensils, straws, bags. This would also include plastic grocery bags.
- Processed grocery packaging. Frozen foods in plastic bags and containers. Plastic film, meat trays, Bottles. Includes garbage bags.
- Plastics in clothing. Particularly “microfiber”.
- Plastic durable goods: multi use products like toys, furniture, electronics casings, garbage cans made of plastic.
- Plastics in construction materials: carpets, siding, insulation, etc.
Single use Plastics/Fast food plastics: This is the low hanging fruit. This is also the stuff that often is turned to litter and makes it’s way into waterways and eventually lakes and oceans. We can force change on this rather quickly. There are alternatives: waxed paper instead of plastic film, paper bags instead of plastic, reusable grocery bags instead of the thin plastic kind. Plastic utensils might be the hardest to replace but the rest can go fairly quickly if we give clear guidance now so the paper industry can gear up. We should encourage use of produce other than wood pulp in our paper making: bamboo, sugar cane fiber, industrial hemp if they work.
Processed grocery packaging: I recommend leaving this for last. A lot of this packaging has greatly helped with food safety and food sanitation as well as storage. Some of this gets recycled, bottles in particular. A lot goes into landfills where, deprived of light and oxygen, at least it is theoretically stable and not entering streams. Plastic garbage bags hold all this stuff together until it gets to the landfill so they serve a purpose here. Companies talk about plastic garbage bags that photo-degrade, but that just means they eventually break down to fine plastic particles which gets into the water system – including our drinking water.
Plastics in clothing and cloth: Microfiber is the worse culprit here. You might use microfiber cleaning rags and wash them for reuse thinking this is saving trees because you are not using paper towels, but every time you wash those microfiber rags, small plastic particles break off and go into the sewer system. They are too small to get filtered out and they don’t break down. So wildlife ingests them and so do we in our drinking water and all those chemicals work their way into us. It would be great if we started phasing out some of the plastic fibers in clothing and stuck to natural materials as much as possible for as long as possible. Wool, cotton, linen, hemp, silk and other natural fibers have been used for thousands of years by humans and we should go back to them.
Plastics in durable goods: I’m not a fan. All these are out-gassing a chemical soup that we breath in. But they do have the advantage of lasting years and getting many uses. Some gets recycled, a lot goes into landfills. Eliminating this stuff will be hard although many of these products were made of steel back in the 1950’s – 1960’s and we could go back to that. Eliminating these plastics is a much lower priority that the three categories above.
Plastic building materials: Again, a lot of this stuff, carpets, padding, upholstery, even boats gives off chemical gasses just by sitting there. Same with exterior products. But the trade off of exterior products is less painting which saves lots of money, energy and most important air pollution. These would be the last plastics I would try to eliminate.