plastic bag recycling

A Busy Mom’s Guide to Plastic Bag Recycling versus Biodegradable

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Are you one of the many eco friendly minded households that are looking for simple ways to recycle plastic bags? Running a sustainable household doesn’t have to mean constantly running to the recycling bin. Instead, biodegradable options are popping so you can stop trying to remember that bag of plastic shopping bags to turn in, or rinsing every sandwich bag out to prolong the lifespan.

We all want to do our part when it comes to reducing our environmental impact, but I think there is a stigma that it’s all or nothing. This false thinking is making the time-pressed mom feel guilty for choosing the individually wrapped snack options, creating more plastic waste. But I am here to tell you IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE THE BEST AT GOING GREEN!!!

In this article you’ll find some ways to recycle all the plastic bags that may be in your households array, ranging from grocery bags, all the way down to Ziploc bags. But also take a closer look at why biodegradable bags may be a better solution for going green in a practical way.

Knowing How Long Plastic Takes to Decompose May Shock You Into Changing Habits

In general it takes hundreds of years for plastic to decompose, depending on the type of plastic. Waste Management is the top United States trash disposal service and has a great Recycling 101 guide to see just what plastic can be recycled in your cans.

The lifecycle of plastic and how long decomposition takes is quite startling when you read what a Texas energy company, called Chariot Energy, has to say on how long it takes plastic to decompose. But the energy company is making strides to being more green not just with energy, but also by educating customers to be mindful consumers.

Need some energy saving tips?

Here’s a related article you may enjoy that will help you cut that energy bill down without having to freeze or be hot! Read this article here: 10 Energy Saving Tips Anyone Can Do

How to recycle plastic bags overview:

  • Different kinds of bags to recycle
  • Tips to make it to the recycling bin
  • Hacks to remember reusable bags during grocery shopping

Plastic Grocery Bag Recycling and Repurposing

The first thing that comes to mind for plastic bags is of course, grocery bags. These single use, thin plastic bags that always seem to split when carrying inside just as you are about to place them on the floor. While many major grocery retailers are making efforts to offer in store plastic bag recycling bins to off-set consumption, there are a few others repurposing ideas. Grocery store bags are often used as bathroom/office small can liners.

Long before recycling became a popular trend, our parents and grandparents instilled more habits in us than we realize to help recycle, reduce and reuse. The best example of this is stuffing all those grocery bags into one, and storing under the sink. When it came time to clean the bathroom, the small trash can was given a replacement liner from grocery bags. The most simple, cheap and efficient way to recycle a plastic bag will always be to reuse as small can liners. But there are so many other options beyond that like:

  • car trash bag
  • greenhouse cover for starting seedling – no the plastic doesn’t touch the plants, just the pots to capture heat and keep moisture from escaping
  • dirty diaper disposal bags
  • doggie bags
  • porch pillow filling – its waterproof, cheap and a great repurpose idea!
Plastic bags can be upcycled for cold protection while sprouting your seedlings. Since heat is at it’s minimum chemicals leaching into the soil is not a factor.

Retailers like Lowes and Kroger offer plastic bag collection bins at the store entrance for realistic, and convenient bag recycling. The recycling process gives things like park benches, composite decking and more. In fact, Kroger has a program called “Be a Zero Hero” by offering more than just shopping bag recycling in store. They encourage shoppers to bring in bubble wrap, cereal boxes and all those water bottles to be repurposed!

I gotta say Kroger is a great retailer that continues to surprise!

Plastic Bag Alternatives

The most popular solution to the plastic bag over abundance is reusable. These can be anywhere from canvas, repurposed t-shirts or even those cute beach style big bags.

Just so long as the material is eco-friendly or at least durable enough to use for heavy items without having those tin cans rip the bag.

Hacks to make recycling grocery bags easier to remember

Always forgetting your reusable bags? Seem to struggle with remembering to take those plastic bags in-store to the recycling bin? Don’t feel bad!!! Since making a special trip to do all the donating and recycling isn’t always realistic, you can still make an environmental impact by simplifying the approach. First, give your self some slack. Second, set a reminder on your phone to go off approximately when you arrive at the store. Third, consider biodegradable so you don’t have to remember to recycle!

Recycling Plastic Ziploc Bags

The next plastic bag most commonly used in households is sandwich or snack bags. These are great storage options because they are easy, disposable and great for packing lunches. The downside – they are not great on the landfills decomposition process. In fact, because of their close relationship and composition, Ziploc bags can be recycled in the same bin your plastic grocery bags!

Part of the Ziploc Sustainability habits include products that are not just in eco-friendly cardboard boxes, but also that products can be turned in to recycling bins at local stores.

But What If You Don’t Want to Collect Used Plastic Bags to Take in Store for Recycling?

It’s very encouraging to see sustainable minded companies like Kroger, Ziploc and even Chariot Energy, trying to offer their support for going green in practical ways.

But sometimes taking used plastic grocery bags for in-store drop-off isn’t realistic.

I mean, I don’t plan on storing my snack/sandwich bags that are gooey from the PB&J sandwich until I can justify (or remember) to recycle them in store. Also, who wants to rinse out every bag, dry and then collect for proper recycling? Not this busy mom. Sorry Ziploc, but this buys mom doesn’t always have time to rinse, dry and store single use bags.

So what are my options?

There are Two Realistic Options: Reusable Bags or Biodegradable Bags.

Do alternatives for plastic bags exist that actually work? Can you be more eco-friendly without being that person who rinses their plastic bags out and refuses to throw them away? Believe me, there is nothing wrong with being that person, in fact many people who lived through lean times like the Depression are actually the best at using their resources responsibly. What I mean is that simple swaps for sustainable living like reusable or biodegrade are the best options when your brain cells are on overload running your household. So here we go, a realistic look at how to make the exchange for green!

Pssst… my Etsy shop’s name is “The Exchange for Green” to give you access to sustainable living swaps with a personal twist. Be sure to check it out!

Reusable Bags

As a busy mom, one popular eco-friendly plastic swap is to invest in reusable plastic bags. In fact, if you are going to rinse and dry a plastic bag reusable is the way to go since they are stronger and more durable. You can grab a set like this multi pack reusable bag set for under $20.00.

Here is an alternative for produce clear bags! Reusable and good for earth!

Biodegradable bags

Biodegradable trash bags are not something you would initially consider when making sustainable swaps. But think about it, you fill a trash bag (or more) every day and unless you are doing biodegradable, that is alot of plastic in the landfill. Here is a way to reduce without sacrificing quality for collecting trash.

Price comparison is actually pretty close when you compare name brand versus biodegradable!

Compostable sandwich bags can come in paper or plastic, depending on your needs!

Have pets or babies? Here are some biodegradable bags for dirty diapers or doggy piles so you can stay eco-friendly do matter what your family needs look like.

The bottom line for simple recycling

Recently I have discovered how much easier biodegradable is compared to plastic since there is no extra step! You simply use, and throw away BUT there is no guilt or recycling. Biodegradable plastic bags make this busy mom’s life so much easier!

  • biodegradable trash bags are such a simple way to be more sustainable without much effort.
  • compostable doggie bags cut down plastic waste while so you can take care of your fur baby AND be eco-friendly
  • biodegradable food bags can be found at retailers next to those yucky plastic options.
  • compostable Ziploc bags so you can pack snacks and show your kids how easy it is to be green mindful even away from home.

If recycling plastic bags isn’t something you have the time or patience for try making the swap to biodegradable. You will feel better about your household’s habits, while being a low key green consumer.

Small changes are still changes. So don’t ever feel like remembering your refillable water bottle only one time is insignificant. Instead give yourself a pat for being mindful!

Make sure you check out my Etsy Shop – The Exchange for Green so you can find zero waste, eco-friendly items for everyday living.

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