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What Are Environmentally-Friendly Plastic Bags?

An environmentally-friendly plastic bag.
Environmentally-friendly plastic bags are often made from corn starch.
Biodegradable bags must be composted.
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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 06 August 2014
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Environmentally-friendly plastic bags are a type of bag that is biodegradable, and will break down generally in a few months in a compost bin, rather than over thousands of years in a landfill. They are often made from materials such as corn starch, which decompose much more easily. Some heavier weighted environmentally-friendly plastic bags may be reused multiple times to bring items home from the grocery store, such as the somewhat more popular cloth bags that are now produced. When used properly, these eco-friendly bags can be beneficial to the environment, but it is important not to simply throw them in the trash after use.

In order for environmentally-friendly plastic bags to break down, they require light and air. Simply throwing them in the trash where they will be taken to a landfill likely means they will be covered with pounds of other trash and might never degrade, much like regular plastic bags. It is also possible for them to find their way into rivers and oceans and potentially harm wildlife, also just like regular plastic bags. People who use environmentally-friendly plastic bags should be prepared to compost them in order for the bags to actually break down and not contribute to the amount of trash already on the planet.

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There are many instructions to be found online for creating a home compost system. It is easy and can even be done on a countertop, and is a great way to use food scraps and yard clippings to create a natural fertilizer for a garden. Bags that are biodegradable can be added to a compost bin, where they will break down and be truly environmentally friendly. One thing to keep in mind is that biodegradable, environmentally-friendly plastic bags are often sold to pick up pet waste.

Again, these pet waste bags should not simply be thrown in the trash, but they also should not be added to a regular compost. It is possible to create a separate compost system just for these bags to allow them to degrade and return to the soil. This compost should not be used in a garden for fertilizer, but it is an eco-friendly way to dispose of pet waste.

Other types of environmentally-friendly plastic bags might not be biodegradable like the ones mentioned above. These bags might just be made of heavier weight plastic, often with sturdy reinforced handles. These may be used repeatedly to bring groceries home without needing to use the many plastic bags given out in stores. When these are thrown away, however, they will still contribute to the amount of landfill waste on the planet.

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Discuss this Article

Fa5t3r
Post 3

@pastanaga - Some smaller communities do have joint compost bins, but it's not as common as it could be and I'm not sure that these kinds of bags would work in that situation, because I think they take much longer to compost than the average food scrap.

I'd rather than everyone just decided to grow up and use reusable bags instead of expecting plastic bags.

Even aside from how much litter they create, they are so harmful to sealife it's not funny. Sea turtles are probably going to go extinct in the end because we like our convenience.

pastanaga
Post 2

@irontoenail - I really think that regions should just commit to either this kind of bag, or not having plastic bags at all. If a whole region had this kind of bag and allowed them to be picked up like any other kind of recycling, I think the problem would basically be solved. Environmentally friendly plastic bags aren't going to do any good unless people are sure what needs to be done with them.

I often wish that we had big processing plants for compost the way we do for waste water. So much food gets wasted otherwise, something like that would be great for a community and as a bonus, they could provide the compost to farmers and stop them from using artificial fertilizers.

irontoenail
Post 1

I didn't actually know that you had to expose those eco-friendly bags to light and air or put them through the compost for them to decompose. I thought they would simply do it automatically, even if they were thrown out into the landfill.

It's kind of tough, because it's difficult to know what kind of bag you have. It wouldn't be a great idea to put ordinary supermarket bags into your compost.

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