3 Biodegradable Garbage Bags: Sturdy & Compostable Brands (2024)

biodegradable garbage bags

Finding quality compostable trash bags is essential for those who want a more sustainable kitchen setup.

It’s also one of the most frustrating products to hunt for, as bioplastics tend to be shrouded in a heavy mist of greenwashing.

Dozens of brands are claiming originality – but which ones are actually compostable and biodegradable?

I’ve tested a variety of brands with the overall goal of finding bags for all my needs that never rip or disintegrate before I’m done using them.

Let’s start with larger, compostable kitchen bags:

Biodegradable Garbage Bag Options

biodegradable garbage bags review

Tested & Reviewed Favorites

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UNNI 13 Gallon Bags (Drawstring)

unni drawstring garbage bags review

Based out of San Francisco, UNNI’s 13 gallon biodegradable trash bags with drawstrings are hands-down the best I’ve used – which is why they’re at the top of this list.

The unfortunate part about bioplastics, at least when it comes to trash bags, is that if they’re left to sit in a puddle of collected trash-juice they’re most likely going to disintegrate and tear when you try to replace them.

Even as someone obsessed with sustainability, the primal rage I’ve experienced from a torn garbage bag bottom is something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. It’s the kind of anger that makes running away and starting an entire new life seem like a better option than scooping up and dealing with the mess you’ve created.

Anyways – not only are UNNI’s large compostable bags the sturdiest around, they also have a bioplastic drawstring; the kind of discovery that makes me giddy with excitement.

Do I need to spend less time obsessing over biodegradable plastic bags? Maybe. Will I stop searching for the crème de la crème of trash bags? Absolutely not, but there’s a good chance I’ve already found them.

If you look around, you can find multiple versions of UNNI bags ranging from 1.2 – 13 gallons, so don’t feel like you have to buy this version if your bin is a different size. According to their certifications, you can compost these bags at home – but I would be wary of doing so unless you have a properly situated backyard composting setup.

The one downside to these bags is that I’ve only really been able to find them on Amazon and their own website, although I’m hoping they expand onto sites like EarthHero at some point in the future!

Extra UNNI Info:

  • BPI Certified
  • OK Compost/TUV Certified

BioBag 3 Gallon Bags

biobag compost bin bags review

Next up we have BioBag’s smaller compost bin bags. I primarily use these to line the inside of a metal compost bin I leave on my kitchen counter and for smaller trash cans like under my desk or in the bathroom.

Like I mentioned before, the biggest downside to biodegradable bags is that they easily rip and tear; BioBags can have this issue, but if you’re gentle when tearing them off the roll or when disposing of the full bag you shouldn’t have any major problems.

If you frantically rip the bag off the roll when you need a new one, there’s a good chance the edges will tear. If you lift an overfilled bag out of your compost bin too quickly, you could end up crying on your kitchen floor in the fetal position covered in decomposing orange peels (not that I’ve experienced that, or anything).

BioBag was one of the original certified backyard compostable bags offered in the USA, and they’ve since expanded into a variety of other products like doggie bags, gloves, and various other bioplastic products.

Extra BioBag Info:

  • BPI Certified
  • OK Compost/TUV Certified
  • Non-GMO Project Verified
  • US FDA Approved

BioBag Pet Waste Bags

biobag pet waste bags review

Yes, even your pet waste should be going into small compostable trash bags when possible. And it’s really not too difficult to find one that works, when brands like BioBag stock them in all shapes and sizes.

Here’s the most important aspect of a sustainable pet waste bag, in my opinion:

I don’t want dog poop on my hands, ever. There’s genuinely not a single circumstance where scooping poop up and having it leak out of a bag into my hands is acceptable.

Luckily, these bags don’t have that issue. They’re thick enough to block pet waste from seeping through, a majority of the scent doesn’t make it through, and they’re black – so you don’t have to swing around a translucent bag showing off deformed brown logs as you hunt for a trashcan.

The other big plus of these sturdy bags is that you can tie them around your dog’s leash or stuff them in your pocket without worrying about small tears of stress points; I don’t carry around a full roll when I’m walking my dog, I simply tie a couple to the leash and forget about it until I need a refill.

Keep reading if you want a bit more info about dog poop sustainability, as I know at least a few of you want more info like I did. The main thing to keep in mind is that dog poop bags need to be thrown away, even if they’re in compostable bags – pet waste belongs in the landfill.

Extra BioBag Info:

  • BPI Certified
  • OK Compost/TUV Certified
  • Non-GMO Project Verified
  • US FDA Approved

Why should you use eco friendly trash bags?

Traditional plastic holds up much better than compostable bioplastics, there’s really no debating that.

In fact, that’s the entire reason why you shouldn’t use plastic bags to store your trash – as plastic bags simply break down into smaller microplastic particles over time, instead of degrading.

By design, garbage bags are single use. While you could argue that reusing a trash bag is possible, in most circumstances they’ll be filled with a mixture of food waste, liquid residues, and even more non-recyclable plastic garbage – so it’s easier in most circumstances to simply buy more bags.

A ranger picking up trash in the wilderness of noatak national preserve.

Single-use trash bags have always seemed like the most ironic way to use such a harmful material; filling a bag made from fossil fuels with even more random plastic bits and bobs has always left me wondering: what the hell am I doing?

With nearly 400 million tonnes of plastic waste produced globally every year, it’s obvious we all need to start cutting back where we can by using more sustainable sponges, garbage bags, and other cleaning essentials!

The other major issue with the kind of plastic usually found in garbage bags – polyethylene – is that it’s largely non-recyclable. It’s just just polyethylene, however, as it’s estimated that only 10% of all plastic ever produced has actually been recycled (PDF).

How do you properly care for sustainable trash bags?

There is, admittedly, a bit of “skill” involved when it comes to using plant-based trash bags. Like most skills, I’ve learned through failure: I’ve had bags rip, tear, disintegrate, and even threaten me with bodily harm in the form of cartoonesque banana peel slips.

I’d like to help you avoid any trash-related trauma, so follow these simple tips:

Be gentle. Treat your compostable trash bags with respect, and they’ll work flawlessly. This means not rushing when tearing them off the roll, shaking them out gently, and slowly situating them on your trash can, compost bin, or whatever you’re using to collect garbage in. Seriously, just take an extra 20 seconds to set them up right and you will rarely have any issues.

Don’t overfill them. Almost as important as the first tip, not stuffing your bags to the brim is another easy way to avoid any tears. Bioplastic isn’t as sturdy as traditional plastic, and by overfilling them you’re risking tears from pointy bits like soup can lids or cardboard edges. I usually fill mine around 80% before checking to see if they need to be taken out.

Avoid excessive liquids. Because these bags are designed to biodegrade, liquids tend to jump start that process. In other words, don’t dump in large quantities of liquids, oils, sauces, etc. There’s not much else to be said about this, but filling the bottom of the bag with liquid is the easiest way to encourage a soul-crushing rip.

Try to reduce your trash output. Easier said than done, of course, but as you continue along your sustainable journey you’ll inevitably start generating less trash overall. Being mindful of what you’re consuming and buying tends to make you consider each purchase more carefully – over time, you’ll most likely begin to notice your trash bags don’t need to be changed out quite as often!

What compostable certifications should you look for?

When it comes to biodegradable trash bags, make sure to look out for these certified compostable logos if you’re quickly glancing over the packaging:

Here’s what the logos look like:

compostable garbage bag certifications

I’ve listed which of these certifications apply to my favorite brands under each product review, but I decided to add this section anyways.

The reason you need to make sure your bags are certified is that compostable, biodegradable, and recyclable plastic is perhaps the worst industry when it comes to confusing greenwashing schemes.

Meaning, if you simply head on over to Amazon and search for “compostable garbage bags”, a majority of the options you’ll see probably aren’t actually compostable at all. This isn’t entirely due to shady business practices, either – one of the main problems is that there are multiple different certifications depending on where the plastic is being produced and sold.

The main idea is to buy and use a certified compostable bag that can either be industrially composted or composted at home.

Why should you pick up dog poop?

I plan on covering this topic more extensively in the future, but I felt like I should include a quick rundown on why you should care about picking up pet waste.

Here’s a corny (intentionally, I hope) rundown on why dog poop is bad for the environment:

Aside from the terrible sights and smells associated with pet waste, there are a number of environmental issues associated with mountains of turds – specifically dog poop.

For example, dogs are now so common that their feces and urine are starting to impact biodiversity in nature reserves due to over-fertilization. Dog poop contains nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen; high concentrations of these nutrients can cause massive blooms of aquatic and land-dwelling plant life like algae or weeds that outcompete other forms of life.

This doesn’t just occur in nature, either. Our cities and urban centers are also being bombarded by large amounts of pet waste everyday, with most urban parks now considered to be hotspots for dangerous levels of fecal contamination.

So please, pick up your dog poop and make sure you aren’t adding it to the compost bin – it belongs in the trash.

Final thoughts

It seems silly to pack away our plastic trash into even more plastic, but it has to go somewhere.

Swapping out traditional plastic bags with compostable, zero waste trash bags has never been easier with a variety of high-quality options available online.

Do you have any trash horror stories you’d like to share?

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