Each year for Plastic Free July, I challenge myself; and my husband, to try kicking one plastic habit. For the Plastic Free July 2019 challenge, we decided to stop using plastic garbage bags. Here I am running a company that focuses on plastic-free products reducing plastic waste yet every day I was dropping my trash into a plastic bag. It seemed ludicrous!
I don’t recall a time in my life when there wasn’t a plastic bag lining the kitchen trash can. Maybe when I was really young, but honestly I don’t recall. For most of my life, I and many people I knew, lined bathroom trash cans with a plastic grocery store bag. I don’t know why I started doing that, but I did. Maybe it was to keep the trash can clean, which in itself seems like a ridiculous thing to do. Like most of my habits, the origin is unknown. So when it was time to decide on a challenge for Plastic Free July 2019, I decided it was time to see if we could stop that old habit. I was successful at finding other plastic-free products in my life, why not this one?
First I needed to find out what we could use instead of the plastic garbage bag and how much that replacement item would cost. Sometimes going plastic-free and using zero waste products can be more costly, but I generally feel it is worth it. I hit the internet and paper can liners were the first option. Big paper bags to fit in our kitchen trash can were pretty expensive compared to the plastic ones. But I knew those plastic garbage bags were costing me dearly in the harm they do to our local ecosystem.
I continued my search and found reusable can liners that are intended to be washed and reused. Some people have gotten so creative with waste-free products and I want to support them. This plastic-free product seemed interesting but then my husband reminded me our city municipality requires trash to be in something, it can not be dumped directly into the bin. The reusable liners were not an option for us.
After he said that, there were not many plastic-free options that I could think of, except for the paper bags. Then I started questioning all the wet stuff we throw in the trash. How would we handle that? I continued to search for a plastic-free solution and still wasn’t happy with the cost of buying new paper bags. Even though we try to limit the amount of trash we put in the trash bin, we still use a couple of plastic bags per week. I felt defeated. There had to be a plastic-free product solution.
A few days later, I remembered the stash we kept of a few paper bags from random places like the grocery store and a couple of gift bags with handles. I have a hard time disposing of stuff which turned out to be a good thing for this problem. I took one of the paper grocery bags out and we decided to use it next. Seemed simple enough.
When the next plastic bag was removed and taken to the outside bin, we placed the paper bag inside the kitchen can, lining the bottom with a few pieces of old newspaper. We figured the newspaper would absorb any wet stuff that got tossed inside the paper bag. We certainly didn’t want to lift up a full bag of trash only to have the bottom give out! That seemed to work but then one day it didn’t. [super sad face]
We used several paper trash bags with success then one day it went bad. My hubby lifted the paper bag from the can and instantly the bottom ripped open, trash falling out everywhere. It was a total mess and he was not happy! I knew we had to find a better way. We could not have that happen again, or straight back to plastic bags we would go. Besides, we don’t get enough newspapers to keep lining the paper bags a couple of times a week.
What we did have plenty of was bread bags, frozen veggie bags, and other frozen food containers that do not get recycled. Most are waterproof and would probably work but I didn’t want to have to store all those bags until we needed them. My hubby had a brilliant idea. We would flatten the empty food packaging and strategically place them inside the paper bag so they would be ready when we needed to throw away wet stuff. That worked really well. We even got smarter and tucked a few extra ones between the bag and the can, having them for future use. This method continues to work really well.
Back to the cost of paper bags. So, now that we solved the ‘wet’ issue with paper bags, I had to figure out a way to keep getting paper bags. We have been taking reusable shopping totes to the grocery store for many years now to reduce our use of plastic bags. Our next visit to the grocery store was the reminder I needed when I saw their stack of paper bags. I figure the store works the cost into the cost we pay for groceries and since we haven’t taken a single-use grocery bag in years, it would be ok to take a paper bag every so often.
On each trip to the grocery store since July 2019, we ask for 1 – 3 paper bags each time or at least when we remember. Even though they fill our reusable totes with groceries, they never say no when we ask for a paper bag or two. This system has worked really well for us and today I am happy to say we still don’t use plastic bags to line our trash cans.
Keep that in mind when July rolls around each year. Join the Plastic Free July movement and challenge yourself to remove one single-use plastic item from your life. By choosing just one, you have the time to fine-tune it so it works well in your house and it will be a successful transition.
What challenge will you take for Plastic Free July 2020? Please let me know on my Instagram account @wastefreeproducts or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you will inspire me, since I haven’t figured out what plastic habit to break next.
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