Recycled Plastic Vs. Hybrid Corn/Plastic – Which One Makes A Better Trash Bag?


----------- Sponsored Links -----------
----------- Sponsored Links -----------

For the last couple of years, we have been buying trash bags made from recycled plastic by Seventh Generation, thinking it was the best option to use in our trash can. The plastic has already been used more than once before ending up in the landfill, and we only use about one bag a week – meaning we probably dispose of less than 52 of these bags a year. A lot of people use plastic bags they get from the grocery store, but since we rarely get any (we use reusable bags) we have to buy our trash bags. These bags work really well, they don’t break, and they are not that expensive and have served us well.

However, I just bought a box of trash bags from Natural Value made from a hybrid of unrecycled plastic and biodegradable corn plastic – meaning that at least a percentage of these trash bags will completely biodegrade in the landfills. The DCP (degradable compostable plastic) remains dormant in the plastic until triggered by sufficient exposure to UV light, heat, or mechanical stress.The price was less than the other bags and theys seem to be almost as strong as the 100% plastic ones. But, the plastic that is in them is not recycled; it is new plastic according to any information I could find. So…

Plastic takes an estimated 500 years to biodegrade – so is it better to use a bag made from 100% “real” plastic where the entire bag could take that long to biodegrade? Or is it better to use a bag made from only 50% “real” plastic, but at least 50% of the bag goes away much quicker? I realize a lot of trash gets burned before it even has a chance to biodegrade, and in that case I think I would rather have only 50% of the bag be made of plastic, thus releasing less toxins into the environment. So what do you think? What are you doing at your house? I would love to know what everyone’s thoughts are on this so I can work towards making a decision!

----------- Sponsored Links -----------
----------- Sponsored Links -----------


  1. Like Beth, we also use BioBags because they are biodegradable. My experience is that they aren’t quite as strong as traditional plastic trash bags, recycled or not. They cost more, but it seems like a small price to pay to know they won’t be in the landfill for an eternity.

  2. Thanks guys – they dont seem to sell those here in my town. I hate ordering trash bags by mail, due to all the shipping that would need to be done (easily offsetting the compostable plastic use), but maybe I can order them next time I get something from Amazon or the like. Thanks!

  3. encouraging the use of corn for non-food items is less than ideal, I think. I’ve also read anecdotal reports indicating that some of those corn plastic utensils and dishes still take a long time to change form (less than 500 years, certainly, but a lot longer than other compost content).

    I’d rather support markets for recycled plastic as much as possible.

    I don’t use trash bags or grocery bags — my trash can is filled with lots of little bags from bread, chips, cookies, cat litter, etc. I try to use paper bags for this as much as possible to increase the chance of decomposition and reduce plastic in the trash.

  4. The claims of the natural value degradable PE bag are not only misleading but they are illegal in California. If you have to use PE bags look for recycled content. Degradable PE has a chemical that makes the PE fragment in 18-24 months, they are in no way compostable. Even if they did break down in landfill, it really isnt the goal of landfills to let anything break down…think landfill diversion!

    Organic waste is approximately 30% of US landfills. Truly compostable bags like BioBag (yes I work for BioBag)allow for the collection and composting of organic waste. Composting creates nutrient rich top soils used by farmers to grow a variety of crops.

  5. i am a devotee of biobags. i use them in the kitchen and in the compost pot. i can fill the little bags they make especially for “food waste” and throw the whole thing in the compost pile. my family of four makes only one bag of garbage every week and a half. the bags will start to decompose almost immediately so if you have wet or sharp garbage be careful!

  6. Peregrine, yelling does not get your point across any clearer. I live in a very tiny town with very tiny stores, and I am 2.5 hours from a real city. Not everyone lives near stores that will carry these type of things, which is sort of the reason I wrote the post in the first place.

  7. to clarify my previous comment, I reuse bags that came as part of (usually) food packaging as trash bags. this results in several small bags in the can instead of one big one. Obviously this means I fill up the small bags faster than I would a bigger one. but it also doesn’t take up as much space in the kitchen, and it makes one more use of something destined for the trash anyway.

  8. I use 7th’s bags. I am really on the fence with the whole corn issue and don’t feel like I know enough about the overall impact of its growing, manufacturing, and long term use to throw my money behind it. For now…the recycled bags with a combination of reducing the volume of trash as much as possible seem like the best options.

  9. I’ve gotta go with the recycled bags for three reasons. 1. If we are are going to continue to use plastic on any level (almost impossible to stop (check out what Beth is doing on it is our responsibility to support manufacturers producting items from recycled materials. 2. We MUST stop using food (i.e. corn) for things other than eating in order to change the huge corporate agriculture system. Watch the documentary “King Corn” ( for an eye-opening perspective on how gigantic and awful it truly is. 3. Read Mark’s comment above. Landfills aren’t designed to degrade – think about landfill diversion. Lastly, it seems to me that Biobags make sense only if one is going to compost the bag and contents. Our kitchen compost bin is stainless steel, and easy to empty and wash, so no bags are needed. Once again, so much gray area, so little black and white!

  10. I did watch King Corn and “enjoyed” it – it taught me a lot about the industry. I too hate using food for things like cups and trash bags.

  11. I don’t have all that much trash (family of 3, so 1 bag a month doesn’t amount to much. 1. I avoid buying anything in a container I can’t reuse, recycle or compost. My small town has recycling for the usual items and once a month I take a trip to the “big city” where I can recycle things like batteries, styrofoam, appliances etc. 2. I use whatever bags are least expensive a few times to carry recycling until they start looking old, then I use one of them for what little real trash that goes to the landfill. Even if it is ‘new’ plastic, it isn’t new by the time I throw it in the landfill. 3. I don’t buy the corn/biodegradeable products – 1 bag a month doesn’t amount to all that much compared to what people in my area throw away. Even if it takes 500 years to decompose, I doubt future archaeologists will ever find my little bag in with all their trash.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *