For those wanting to switch to bioplastics such as compostable and biodegradable plastic and reduce their environmental footprint, quality and strength can play a key role in the decision. Compostable trash bags are made from natural components, meaning sometimes they will break a little easier than traditional plastic, but many of the causes can be avoided.
Compostable trash bags can leak easier than traditional plastic due to rips or tears caused by sharp fingernails, being in a trash bin with rubbish inside for too long (weakening the bag), sitting on a shelf or in storage too long, tearing above the perforation or just simply because they are too thin for the usage.
What Is Compostable Plastic?
Compostable plastic is also known as a next-generation plastic or bioplastic as a traditional plastic alternative made from renewable sources and organic materials made to break down to a completely natural state when disposed of correctly.
Two examples of a bioplastic are compostable plastic and biodegradable plastic. These plastics are more sustainable and environmentally friendly than traditional plastics which cause several issues for the environment.
Compostable plastic is manufactured from 100 per cent natural ingredients, making it renewable and reducing environmental impact during manufacturing. The process uses less electricity and water, while releasing less greenhouse gas emissions.
The materials used to create compostable plastic will vary but they are typically renewable foods such as potato, corn, soy protein, cellulose and tapioca starches. These natural ingredients also mean that compostable plastics are non-toxic and will decompose in a worm farm or composter (home or industrial).
Understand how you will dispose of bioplastics before committing, as compostable plastic needs to be disposed of correctly or else will not break down properly. Many companies are now offering compostable plastic alternatives at good prices. These can be found online and in many stores.
Why Should I Switch From Traditional Trash Bags?
Traditional plastic is everywhere around us, from the office to your home. Plastic is used for everything from medical packaging and food packaging to toys, engineering and building products. For bags such as shopping carry bags, garbage or trash bags and dog poop bags, plastic has been the traditional choice for many years.
Plastic is made from natural resources including coal, natural gas and crude oil which is quite bad for the environment from the depletion of natural resources to the manufacturing process and through to a final product that can be toxic and oftentimes will contribute to landfill and waste.
Traditional plastic is also bad for the environment on many levels, including:
- Landfill contributions.
- Toxic leaching into the environment (soil, water).
- Can be toxic for wildlife, animals and humans (at some levels, depending on the plastic).
- Uses raw materials such as crude oil which are not good for the environment.
- Use higher levels of energy and water for manufacturing.
- Releases greenhouse emissions into the environment during manufacturing.
WIth many plastics not being recyclable, they will contribute to not only landfill but are toxic for wildlife and soil. Plastic can take decades, centuries or even thousands of years to break down.
What Are The Benefits And Limitations Of Compostable Trash Bags?
Enter bioplastics – a great alternative to traditional plastics that help you to reduce your negative impact on the environment by being able to break down in certain environments much quicker than traditional plastics. While a typical plastic bag may take thousands of years to break down, compostable plastic can be broken down in an industrial composter, home composter or worm farm.
Unlike compostable plastic, biodegradable plastic is made to break down faster with specially designed microbes that speed up the decomposing process. Biodegradable plastic is also often known as ‘bio-based’ plastic as it still contains some toxic chemicals, unlike compostable plastic.
Some benefits of switching to compostable trash bags include:
- Reduces contributions to landfill.
- Does not leach or leave behind toxic chemicals.
- Less greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing.
- Lower water and energy consumption during manufacturing.
- Safe for humans, animals, wildlife and the environment.
- Provide great fertilizer when composted correctly.
Why Do Compostable Bags Leak?
Compostable plastic bags are great for the environment, but the natural materials that make up these items such as trash bags can make them less resilient than traditional plastics. This is ok, presuming you know how to take care of these plastics.
Compostable plastic bags can leak for several reasons:
- Sharp fingernails
- Too thin
- Tear at the perforation
- 100% Compostable
- Too long in the trash bin
- Has been on the shelf for too long.
It’s important that you take care of your compostable plastic bags and avoid the above where possible to maximise the usefulness of the products. Use them quickly, beware of sharp objects or nails, be mindful when tearing a new bag and ensure you compost them correctly.
How Do I Stop My Compost Bag From Leaking?
There are many ways that you can stop your compostable plastic trash bag from leaking, just by being extra mindful and remembering that saving the environment is not always simple! Sometimes it takes more consideration in how you use the plastic alternative products.
You can protect and extend the longevity of your compostable plastic trash bag by:
- Avoiding putting sharp objects in the bag
- Be careful with sharp fingernails
- Use as soon as you can
- Don’t leave sitting with trash – especially food scraps or anything moist/wet for too long before disposing of
- Be careful when tearing off the new bag
- Ensure you don’t overfill
- Make sure to dispose of it in a composter (industrial or home) or a worm farm.
How Do Compostable Plastics Break Down?
Traditional plastic breaks down due to the microbes or fungi in the surrounding environment. However, it can take decades or centuries to break down in landfill. Compostable plastic is best broken down in an industrial composter as that’s what it is designed for rather than landfill. These composters are set up perfectly with the right temperature, moisture levels, air and other important factors for decomposition. They also take bulk amounts of compostable materials that can be used for large landscaping projects.
You can also use a worm farm or home composter to generate your own fertiliser. Be sure to do your research though as these can only take certain other materials and need certain controls in place to work effectively.
When using a home composter, the water and oxygen joins together with the other bacteria from the soil and waste to break down the material into useful compost. The bacteria decomposes the materials, generating heat which contributes to this process.
The good thing about compostable plastic is that it breaks down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass, meaning it completely disintegrates and becomes indistinguishable in the compost. Compostable plastic trash bags also don’t leave any toxic material behind whatsoever.
However, if you don’t dispose of them correctly, compostable plastic trash bags will contribute to the waste issue and create more pollution. They are unable to break down in a landfill environment at all and require composting or a worm farm.
How Quickly Do Compostable Bags Break Down?
Traditional plastic can stay in landfill for decades and even centuries which contributes to the waste issue and clogs up our landfill. It also leaves behind toxic chemicals which can impact wildlife and the environment.
However, compostable bags when disposed of completely can take around 90 days to decompose. This is when they are placed in an industrial or home composter, or worm farm environment.
The typical rule of thumb is three-to-six months to decompose, however I also did my own home experiment when it only took 90 days to break down a compostable plastic bag in a home worm farm. You can view the results here!
It’s important to note that compostable bags won’t decompose well in landfill and will then contribute to the plastics problem. If you’re interested in replacing traditional plastics in your everyday life, do consider how you will use them and how you will dispose of them.
If you want to try composting at home, ensure you do your own research and understand the process and materials required before you start the journey toward reducing your environmental impact.
What Does It Mean When Compostable Bags Do Not Leak?
If you have a certified compostable plastic trash bag (usually with a logo either on the packaging or the bag itself) and it’s not leaking, then that is excellent news! This means you are using your bags well and taking care.
It’s important to note that some compostable plastic trash bags are stronger than others – you should do your research before purchasing as most will note whether they are stronger or leak proof in their descriptions online or on their packaging.
If your bag IS leaking, consider how long you have been using it, what materials are in there and check for leaks. A handy tip is to place some paper towel in the base of the bag to soak up excess liquid. This will also be decomposable with the bag and the inside materials.
Be cautious also of overfilling your trash bags as excess weight could cause thinning or rips. This also isn’t ideal when placing it into a composter as it may not fit. Non-leaking bags are a great start and show you that you are on the right track!
Proof That ETSUS Compostable Bags Are Compostable
Here at ETSUS, we love a home experiment to show our customers that our bags are biodegradable and/or compostable! I’ve done two recently – compostable plastic trash bag in my home worm farm and our ETSUS compostable trash bags in my garden.
Noting that our ETSUS compostable trash bags are 100 per cent compostable when disposed of correctly, i.e. in an industrial composting facility, I tested them in my home worm farm to put them to the test!
It’s important to note that a home worm farm is completely uncontrolled and has several rules around what can go into them to ensure worms are able to do their job efficiently. So, for 43 days, I watched a single trash bag break down in the worm farm with the other natural materials.
Excitingly, day 27 I saw the bag starting to break down in the natural environment which included soil, food scraps, worms and other microorganisms right in my own backyard! BY day 43, the pieces were so small that I could hold small parts of the bag in my hand.
The bag had broken down into pieces smaller than my thumb! This just goes to show that you can just leave your bag in the worm farm and then let nature do its work!
Proof That ETSUS Compostable Bags Can Go Into Your Garden
As discussed, ideally, compostable bags are placed into either an industrial composter or a home composter or worm farm. However, I wanted to test whether or not our six-gallon compostable trash bags here at ETSUS could go directly into the garden.
Our trash bags are completely compostable which means that you can dispose of them in a worm farm, composter, garden bin or even garden! Of course, this is much less controlled but it really does work!
Enter the 90-day challenge once again, but this time in the garden! I wanted to show you – our customers – what compostable trash bags could do for your plants in 90 days! So, I placed a compostable trash bag into my fertiliser with my compost and placed it directly into my garden bed.
Once again, I sat back and watched nature work its magic. My plants were thriving by the end of 90 days!
Check it out in the pictures and video below to see the results!
Once again, 90 days saw the bag completely break down into very small pieces and hadn’t negatively impacted the plants’ soil quality. With compostable plastic being able to break down completely into natural matter, it just became part of the soil.
These home experiments have given me the confidence to promote these bags as an alternative to traditional plastic bags!
With bioplastics becoming so popular, people are comparing the different types of plastics from traditional to biodegradable and compostable. Some of these plastic alternatives can leak or tear due to the way they are handled.
Of course, when you’re looking at natural materials, there are some things to be aware of such as avoiding overfilling, too much liquid, sharp objects, ripping or not using for a long time. All of these things can impact the strength and longevity of your plastic bags.
Compostable plastic trash bags are excellent alternatives to traditional plastic bags and can also contribute to your fertiliser at home! Our home experiments have also proven that these bags – particularly ours here at ETSUS – really do break down completely.
You can check out more of the ETSUS range here Eco Shop.