Saturday, 3 September 2011

What to use as bin liners - Plastic Bag Ban

by Eilleen

Hello everyone!

As some of you may know, here at Australia's capital, we are soon going to have a plastic shopping bag ban. From 1 November 2011, shops will no longer be able to give you a plastic shopping bag for the goods you buy from them.

This has raised quite a discussion in my little community - specifically what are we to use as bin liners? While many people I know use re-usable shopping bags, we all (me included) do the occasional shop without them so that we can take home the plastic bags and use them as bin liners.

Many other people are also poo-poohing the plastic bag ban in the first place, with many suggesting that this is yet another political headline-grabbing act rather than real action for the environment. Some have even pointed out that in places like Adelaide where they have banned the plastic bag, bin liner sales have gone up. A quick search of the internet reveals a news article citing that bin liner sales in Adelaide are double the national average.

Regardless of our political leaders' motives for banning the plastic bag, I have to say I support this ban. Plastic bags ARE bad for the environment. Many of our plastic bags are not disposed of properly and they end up clogging our waterways and killing a lot of our wildlife. Most plastic shopping bags take up to a thousand years to properly decompose.

For those who want to continue using plastic shopping bags as bin liners, then I think it is right that they should pay for that. (I think it would also be good if a % of profits made on bin liners can go towards environmental causes and research). When you make people pay for polluting then it makes them more conscious of it...and hopefully there will be flow-on effects in terms of reducing polluting habits.

But I am getting off topic. I guess I wanted to share what I have done and will be doing when the plastic bag ban comes in.

Firstly, the big one is to reduce the amount of waste that is going into landfill. Since embracing simple living, I no longer have a lot of waste to begin with. Currently, my waste consists of one plastic shopping bag a fortnight. This is how I reduced my waste:
  • Compost - all my vegetable scraps are placed in my compost bin (note you may want to check out my indoor newspaper compost bin post).
  • I recycle all hard plastics, tins and glass bottles.
  • I try to buy in bulk and not to buy goods with lots of packaging.
  • I serve smaller portions at meal times so that there is no meal waste that contain lots of meat (and therefore can't go in the compost bin). My children and I can always come back for seconds and thirds if we are still hungry
All of the above has meant, that pretty much the only thing that goes in my one plastic shopping bag bin liner are small amounts of meat scraps and bones as well as other soft plastic packaging (eg. packaging that my cheese comes in).

Now as I said, I do admit to going shopping once every few months or so so that I can get the plastic shopping bag for use as the bin liner. I am now down to only 5 plastic shopping bags...this means that I can continue to use those bags for the next 10 weeks (given my current waste output). After that I will no longer use plastic shopping bags for my bin. And I am hoping to completely avoid having to buy plastic bin liners. So here's my plan:

1. Soft packaging (eg. bag for the frozen peas etc) will be used for wet meat scraps and other wet items that can not be composted.
2. Dry meat scraps (eg bones) will be wrapped in newspaper and placed directly in the bin.

It doesn't look like a comprehensive plan....but then again, I tend to like simple, easy to remember plans. :)

I hope you are having a good day.

The bevy of black swans living in my local lake


Sarah R said...

The idea of bin liners is a pretty recent one. My grandmother never used them, thinking them a complete waste of money. Instead she put folded newspaper in the bottom of the bin, wrapped things like meat in more newspaper as you describe, and scrubbed the bin out when she emptied it. I guess there's an issue around using water to clean the bin, but I find that I do that anyway, and it doesn't take much. I support the ban too, and even if people buy more bin liners, I still doubt it's going to account for anything like the number of plastic bags that have been used once and thrown away.

dixiebelle said...

We haven't used bin liners (bought or plastic shopping bags) for years. The rubbish/ landfill bin & the recycling bin have no lining at all, and get a wipe out or wash using minimal water once in a while. The kitchen scraps/ compost bin has a couple of sheets of newspaper as a liner, which breaks down once it goes into the tumble composter.

For shopping, we use handmade shopping bags, and we were given some Envirosax bags, which have been so good. They roll up small, but fit alot in them. Onya bags are another good idea, to always remember to keep them with you.

I wonder if Canberra Woolworths Home Delivery will finally get their act together now and use 'green' reusable bags (ie. they could pick up the bags from the last delivery when they are doing the current delivery) as I asked them & asked them to do (and stopped getting home deliveries because of ALL the plastic bags they used... one item per bag, what the????)

Juggler said...

I love this idea of no plastic bags. I have been reducing our household waste since the beginning of 2011. I still have a ways to go, currently we throw maybe 3-4 small grocery bags per week, which isn;t bad condisering we are a family of 4, however I know there is still so much more I can do, like setting up a compost which is the next thing on my list.

Kristy Newton said...

If you do a search for "origami bin liners" you'll find a lot of cool links for making origami open topped boxes which you can make out of broadsheet newspapers. We use these for our bin liners and it's easy once you get the swing of folding the design.

I agree, hopefully if people need to pay extra for plastic it will make them reconsider it's use!

Ilene said...

I remember the days when there were no plastic bags. We got along fine without plastic and we can easily do so again.

Even plastic leaks and there is still the mess to clean when it has been removed. At least when newspaper is used, it degrades quickly and becomes one with the earth again. Plastic bags full of rotted garbage is pretty disgusting.

Anonymous said...

I know a family who live near me in the UK who offer good advice on their blog myzerowaste. They managed to keep it down to one bin full of rubbish to be taken away to landfill in a whole year. Best wishes, Jules UK

sawn48 said...

I am on board when it comes to getting rid of all plastics.At the moment, I am recycling,but using no plastic at all, would be a much better idea for us all.

amanda brooke said...

Great post! We wash our recycyling bin out and use bin liners for general waste. I'll be using paper to wrap now, thanks for the idea...logical and simple!

DramaMama said...

I was so interested to read this!! One issue we have here in the US, or at least in my town, is that if you put a trash can w/no liner on the curb for pickup, they will throw the whole can in the truck! They require us to use bags. =( I don't want to, but on the other hand, I don't want to keep buying new trash bins. I wish things would be different...until then I do what I can to use the least # of bags!

Frugal Down Under said...

Fantastic and Timely Post. Here in the NT the ban commenced last week September 1.

Since I have changed my lifestyle we have gone from 1 bag a day lining our bin to roughly 2 a week. I don't want to buy more plastic and was trying to think of solutions. I reduce my consumption, I compost, I reuse as much as I can (but this create clutter), I wash and recycle but I still have items for the bin.

I think I will try to use newspapers too and look into what I can do with meat bones.

Kristy said...

We just don't use anything in the bin. Whenever it needs a clean, in winter it goes outside and fills with water and gets a scrub and upside down to dry.
In summer we use reclaimed (sometimes second or third-hand water) to rinse it out.

Now and then the worm farm one or the compost one gets lined with reclaimed paper. The chook one gets rinsed out as above.

We have compost bin, worm farm and chooks. The Council does single bin recycle.

Our bin is in a cupboard under the sink so it's not visible anyway - in terms of 'looks'.

Anonymous said...

How I wish we would ban plastics in the States. Some cities have a ban but not a widespread ban. As you have done, we used the bags as liners until it dawned on me that I had grown up with only newspapers to line the indoor trash and garbage cans were just that--garbage cans. We compost, recycle, and give our big can and small ones a wash when they need it. Isn't it interesting how we so easily have bought into thinking that we can't live without plastic bags for trash!

Gordon said...

Regarding meat scraps in the waste bin: if you live in a climate where there are Black Soldier Flies (BSF) and install a BSF composting bin then meat scraps will be composted by the BSF larvae before they can start to smell.

Tania @ Out Back said...

I live in South Australia where the plastic bags are banned already...trouble is if you forget to take your bags from home to the supermarket, you can buy a plastic one for 15cents and make the stores richer! We dont however, we just unload, then refill the trolley then place the items in the car. Most times we have just left our bags in the car so once we get there we put the groceries in our bags.

Our council unfortunately requires our rubbish to be in plastic garbage bags, so the newspaper idea wont work here. They do make good bin liners though as I have tried them before.

Maya said...

It's really easy to avoid or cut down on liners. A year ago I realized that most of the garbage cans in the house had no need for a liner at all. The only can where a liner was used was in the kitchen. If you separate your kitchen garbage into two containers one of them can be liner-free for things that are not messy or smelly and the other can be used for smelly garbage like meat wrappers and trimmings or sticky stuff. Our smelly garbage container is actually a beautiful vase, and the liners aren't grocery bags but smaller bags that proliferate around us like the bag from sliced bread, or retired bulk grain bags, or other small bags that are not otherwise reusable.

Eilleen said...

Thank you all so much for sharing your experiences and thoughts on this!

@Tania @ Outback - how weird that they ban plastic bags but actually REQUIRE you to use plastic rubbish bags! Wonder if your local council has received complaints about that?

@Kristy Newton - thank you so much for that! I looked at the vids and I thought that was fantastic!

@Gordon - thank you too for your comment on the BSF! I've never heard of those flies.

JenMeister said...

If anyone's interested in making cloth shopping bags, there's a free pattern at (all straight lines)! I've made quite a few over the years & will have a stall at Canberra's Living Green Festival (Albert Hall, 16th October, 10am-4pm) and I'll have bags to give out for free, and a couple of sewing machines set up if anyone wants to have a go. :) Hope to see you there! xxx Jen

Sasha said...

Eileen - we have a "bone bag" that lives in our freezer - it is a bag from a loaf of bread or other grocery item which keeps all non-compostable meat scraps till it is time for garbage day (we only have garbage pick up once a month, so especially in hot months the freezer component is important. This means very little of our trash can waste is putrescible and we don't need a liner!