According to National Geographic, the average American produces almost 4.5 pounds of garbage per day, or about 1500 pounds each year. Additionally, in a recent poll, almost half of Americans reported using at least 25 garbage bags per month.
Plastic does not decompose in a healthy way. Instead, it releases high energy gasses back into the atmosphere, causing pollution. When plastics do physically break down, they send microplastics into the ocean – which destroy delicate aquatic ecosystems and get swallowed by sea animals.
All of this is to say that reducing plastic use a little at a time can only be helpful. Swapping out your garbage bags is a great place to start!
One thing I always try to emphasize is that the world doesn’t need everyone to be absolutely perfect at “being green”. We just need everyone to do the best they can with making small choices. Using compostable garbage bags in your Chicago home is an easy, affordable switch!
The Difference Between Compostable & Biodegradable
It’s important to understand the difference between compostable and biodegradable. Both are better for the environment than regular plastic garbage bags, but one can be slightly better, depending on your current waste collection system.
Both biodegradable and compostable trash bags are made from chemicals that break down more quickly than polymer plastics. However, biodegradable bags can still take almost 100 years to break down! They are also not clearly regulated, so companies can use many different types of biodegradable materials, which can take varying amounts of time to break down.
On the other hand, compostable garbage bags are typically made of corn or wheat byproducts, and their total lifecycle is generally carbon neutral. Also, compostable bags are tightly regulated to ensure they are made from materials that will actually break down safely.
If you know your garbage goes into a landfill, buying compostable garbage bags is the way to go. While biodegradable garbage bags do break down over time, the harsh truth is that the temperatures needed to break down biodegradable bags aren’t reached in a typical landfill. However, a compostable bag doesn’t need such high heat to break down, making it the more environmentally friendly choice.
Our advice: Always read the labels on your garbage bags before you buy them, and make smart decisions based on your local waste collection services.
If you have any questions about how the city of Chicago handles waste, check out these resources from the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation. Or, just give Sweeping Dimensions a call! I am always here and happy to talk about any green waste disposal methods that you may be considering.
What Are the Most Eco-Friendly Garbage Bags?
In the past, eco-friendly garbage bags tended to be quite expensive, and were often not as sturdy as their plastic counterparts. But with modern technology and pressure from consumers, I’m happy to say that has changed completely! Now there are plenty of options for sturdy, compostable garbage bags.
When you are shopping, you might see “eco-friendly” on the box. I encourage you to dig a little deeper and look at the materials the garbage bags are made out of. Some bags that are labeled as “eco-friendly” have been made with post-consumer plastics, which means no new plastic was made to create the bags. While this is a good step forward, those bags are not actually going to be fully biodegradable or compostable, since they are still made of plastic.
As I mentioned earlier, biodegradable bags are a step above, but they can still sometimes be made of plastics rather than natural materials, which means that they can send microplastics into nearby water supplies as they break down.
Compostable bags on the other hand will help reduce the amount of plastic in our oceans and waterways because they are made from all-natural materials. These bags can take less than a year to break down, making them the most eco-friendly option!
One brand that I love is Unni, which makes 100% compostable bags. Available in a variety of sizes and made from corn and plant starches, these bags are perfect for lining your compost bin, picking up after your pet, or collecting your household waste.
How To Reduce the Amount of Garbage You Produce
There are a few simple ways to reduce the amount of garbage you produce that we love here at Sweeping Dimensions.
The first and easiest way is to start recycling actively and conscientiously. Fortunately, there are some great single-stream recycling programs set-up in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, which make recycling easier. Check local resources to make sure you are recycling things properly, and not adding to the trash; we have a handy guide to recycling in Chicago available right here on our blog.
Most plastic containers must be cleaned completely before recycling. A good rinse under warm water with dish soap will usually do the trick.
A few other smart and simple tips for creating less plastic waste are to use reusable bags for shopping; buy your produce from grocery stores that don’t package things in plastic; and purchase in bulk or use concentrated products whenever possible. I also suggest looking for products in glass containers that can be reused or recycled.
Another way to reduce your personal garbage “footprint” is to start composting! I am a huge advocate for composting, and I am always happy to talk about what you can do to get started with this fun, easy, and environmentally friendly pastime!
Ready to Make the Eco-Friendly Changes That Make an Impact?
Ready to make a difference for the environment in 2021? We’d love to have you on team Sweeping Dimensions!
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Ready to set up a green cleaning for your Chicago home? Don’t hesitate to reach out for your free service estimate!
Here’s to a healthy, happy, and productive year ahead! Let’s make the most of it – and let’s make a real difference for the generations still to come.