Greening Up My Act

The Lamentable Tale of Compostable Trash Bags

April 04, 2023 Kat Cox & Tiffany Verbeck Episode 3
Greening Up My Act
The Lamentable Tale of Compostable Trash Bags
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This week on your favorite green living podcast, Tiff and Kat learn about compostable trash bags -- or, more accurately, food scrap bags --  and what they can and can't do. Join as we discuss what the bags mean to cockroaches and sea turtles, and add a few new lines of "green hooey" to your dictionary.

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What We Bought
100% Compostable Trash Bags
EcoGuard compostable 3 gallon food scrap bags

You Asked: What Are The Most Eco-Friendly Garbage Bags?
Are biodegradable bags better than plastic? It's complicated.
Biodegradable Plastic Bags Aren't Better for the Environment

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I'm going to start Are you ready? Totally. So, I'm not gonna tell people what we're talking about until after storytime. So I have a story for you. So my friend Katie, lives in an apartment here in Austin, and she had this huge cockroach problem like they're in the cabinets. She could not figure it out because she's clean. You know, she put. Food is clean. There were exterminators in the apartment building. She could not figure out why she had this giant cockroach problem. And then she found out it was because her compostable trash bags. They were made of corn. Excuse me. Yeah. So corn based trash bags, and the cockroaches just love them. So um, so they were just like, eating the bag. Yeah, basically. So yeah, hold on. So did you just like open finally find? She finally like whatever the second? Yeah. So I'm just going to ruin everything and say that that's probably better for the bags than what most people can do with compostable trash bags. For the cockroaches to be eating them. At least someone is doing something with them right now hello. How are you Tiffany? I'm good. I'm having a bit of a cold. Oh, tis the season. I know. I got it from my child. Story of my life incubators. Yeah, it's going around the children having diseases. Right. Yeah, so good for your immune system. I guess. That's why I keep trying to tell myself good for hers. Anyway, I feel like mine. It should be good. Stable by now. How are you? I'm good. I'm good. Thank you for joining me on our third episode of greening up my act. I'm so excited. Yeah, this is a fun one. I originally got composable dog bags because I thought okay, I hate grossness. But I hate throwing my dog's poop in the trash can in a plastic bag. Just feel so I also have compostable ones for my dog. Yeah. Well, it ends up Don't tell me. Yeah, you can't you can't throw dog poo in in compost. Because it has bacteria in it. That makes it really bad for vegetable gardens like E. coli and oh, well, yeah, yep. Okay. I have heard that dog poop is not great. Yeah. So you still have to throw throw it in the trash. But maybe in a compostable bag. It feels better in the trash. Right? You know, nothing feels good about trash. Let's just be honest. Right? So, yes, I'm going to teach you a bit about compostable trash bags today, which you know, because you did the research, and I'm just I'm just living in your in your world. I just pay rent. But it has also been like a year and a half. So I don't really remember much. I still use them. So yeah. Yeah, yeah. Good. Well, so okay, I'll say I have them leftover from when I tried them. Okay, so you don't use them anymore? Yeah, I mean, I I do but they just have lasted for so long. Because I only use it for like my bathroom. So yeah, I use them for my I use them for food scraps, because we have a co YES Program here in Austin. So I actually take a little compost I keep it on the counter. So yeah, compostable trash bags. You bought a brand on Amazon called Guney Guney ASTM? Okay, I don't remember. Yeah. I mean, they're they come in a green box and it says 100 100% compostable food scrap bags mine mine were eco guard compostable three gallon food scrap eggs. And I got mine from my local grocery store. But they're Yeah. So they're like these green silky bags that say certified compostable on the box. And you're supposed to be able to use them for trash to break down in natural materials when composted or when in a quote unquote compost environment, which we'll get into a little bit later. And again, it's supposed to be a food scrap bag. Right? It says it right on the box. But I do. Yep. Yeah, we all get kind of magically interested in like, oh, compostable trash bag, because plastic is so bad for the environment. Let's just be eco friendly. Okay, it's not for regular trash, but so it's not meant to be used for regular trash. And even though nobody Okay, yeah, I don't think anybody knows this. Yeah, I do now like I know this for a fact, but I do still use them for my regular trash. Yeah. them. Yeah, I mean, better to use what you have than to go out and write new because they also they're smaller, right? They fit little, little cans. So yes, my tiny little bathroom trash. Yeah. So is it actually better than a plastic bag? Okay, first of all, does it work? You know, they're very flimsy. They tear apart they don't hold, you know, they can hold food scraps kind of. They leak though to a you know, they're kind of airy. Like when I we put our coffee grounds in our compost bin or little tiny compost bin and it just is just full of coffee schmutz. You know, just like ounces of like you drip probably drink the coffee out of it, like carrots and celery and eggs. Okay, so they do like disintegrate because I've never tried them with actual food scraps. Well, I mean, not really. They don't disintegrate in your trash. Can they just don't hold anything? Uh huh. Okay, gotcha. Yeah, cuz they like they break really easily. Yes. Interesting bathroom. Yeah. And that's yeah, just it's you're just throwing like, you know, tissues and cotton balls on them. It's probably okay. Because you're not you're not throwing like full bottles of water in your right, right. Right. Your, your, your bathroom trash can, I hope. But yeah, they're so they're as easy to use as regular trash bags, except for that whole flimsy part. They don't have the handles that you can like pull up and, you know, turn into a cinch sack. So I mean, they are something you can use in your regular bathroom. The cost. So yours was 1395 for 100 bags. And mine at Sam's Club where I you know, we can't recommend shopping anywhere. But I think they were similarly priced. So like $14 for 100 bags, which is about 14 cents a bag. And if you get like a hefty hefty cinch sack, it's about $10 or 10 cents for bag. So it's not too much more to get these compostable ones. Okay. But is it actually eco friendly? And this is our big this is the big question. So, the trick is that it says biodegradable on it right? And we've all learned from kindergarten non biodegradable means it breaks down, right turns into back into the earth. Things that are biodegradable, go back to the earth. Well, according to pop sigh, biodegradable gives you the same amount of information as a label, quote unquote natural on a food item. According to Kate Bailey, policy and research director at Eco cycle, a nonprofit recycling organization. All biodegradable means is that at some unspecified time in the future, which could be tomorrow, it could be months from now, it could be decades or it could be 1000 years the product will break down. So most things are biodegradable and hit by a comet the whole earth is biodegradable, right? Theoretically, yeah. So there is a standard that regulates compost. It's the US standard ASTM D 60 499, which sets out a standard for what could be call itself compostable. But again, because we are an underfunded federal government, the definition and amount of oversight is completely changing all the time. So and that's for compostable, not for biodegradable compostable means something else this means you put it in the compost. Gotcha. So anything can be biodegradable, but not be compostable? Yeah, I don't think lead is biodegradable. I might have to research that but I'm saying yeah, it'd be using any which can call itself biodegradable without any issues. But compostable is more regulated. It's specific. Yeah. So biodegradable is a green Hui marketing word. Gotcha. See? That's so interesting, because I see that word. Biodegradable make up. Right. Okay. Yes. Yeah. Packaging. Yes. Plates. Cardboard is biodegradable. Hmm. Which actually cardboard can have some carbon actually does break down really quickly. So he's in my garden before and it's fantastic. But yeah, if it's really good, yeah, you can compost your cardboard too. But right. Okay, so to actually break down compostable products, like these bags have to be sent to a composting facility. Right? I do remember this? Yes. So that's according to Columbia University. So in a normal compost heap, it might take years if they actually ever break down. So if you don't have that, like, if you throw it in your compost pile in their backyard, it might take years, it could take Yeah, it's not going to turn into dirt, which makes sense. So they're not meant to be used for your run of the mill, compost heap, right? It's no, they're not for trash. I mean, basically, they're just another plastic bag, unless your city has a composting facility that you're sending stuff to. Right. Which actually, mine does, which is cool, but I think I remember being rare from the research that I did, but yeah, it's like 5% Yeah. 5% of the entire country, right? Yeah. Yeah, well, a program at all. I mean, right. And that may not it even be a local pickup that maybe you have to take it to the composting facility. I know in AWS that's what mine is. Yeah, you have to actually go to the garbage place and get it. So my awesome we have, we do have a composting program and they have the third truck on trash day comes and picks up your little green bin and see that's really cool. Yeah, is that for all of Austin? Most parts of Austin, not all okay, but I'm okay. Because I'm so nobody knows where I live. But I'm like, an hour outside of DC. And we have a really awesome dump, which sounds crazy, but it's like they have a really good recycling program. And they do have a composting facility. And they do provide that kind of pickup, but we are just outside of the radius of where they pick up. So yeah, we would have to take it, which I've I've considered taking it, you know, as my old French teacher used to say it's worth the pain, right sometimes. I mean, not I say that sitting here in a house where I get my yard clippings picked up for me every week, but you know, it's worth the pain. Tiffany go drive your eggshells to the dump for me. But yeah, so these bags are pretty much useless as compostable. Although you said on on your label says OK, compost home so that those aren't regulated, that kind of marketing is not regulated, it claims that it would compost in your home pile in 180 days, which is still half a year. Right. Okay, yeah. So but like neither of us has put that to the test because I send mine off to the magical compost area and you've never like buried it in your backyard and seen what happens so right now, but I do want to start a compost pile but i Yes, I think we should try that. Killed my my I have the bin thing that Mike. Okay, I need to get that I have a little garden. I my roommate grows food in it. Sometimes I try to grow on it. But that would be I feel like I just feel like I have so much stuff. We'll talk about we should do composting shouldn't episode. Yeah, we totally Well, totally. My sister does it. So it's also like, if you get it picked up, then maybe you don't need to bother. But yeah, but I mean, it'd be good to have if I'm actually growing. Because it is held alive stuff. Yeah, right. I'm intimidated by composting. But yeah, we'll talk about it. Yeah, because it can set on fire. Okay, I didn't. Okay, well. Let's make sure wasn't gonna thrive. But fires another thing fires different story. Yeah. Okay, so these, these little bags also still, you know, they take so long to break down, even when they're in the ocean, which is not what we like to hear. So according to some research, you looked upon vice, they just disintegrated into confetti, like plastic fragments after three months in the ocean, which just contributes to that wonderful plastic soup we have going on. And so they may break down eventually, completely. But in the meantime, they're still choking sea turtles, and wow, okay, I completely forgot that. And yeah, that's so interesting, because it's like, in your, in my mind. Anyway, one reason to use these things is like, well, if something goes wrong, like it goes out of the trash, whatever, yes. If something goes wrong, it's at least going to be better for blah, blah, blah. But you're telling me that's actually not the case? Not immediately. I mean, maybe in the long run, fewer turtles die, but I think it just still ends up in our fish food and you know, just killing animals. So interesting. You said it turns into plastic confetti. Yeah. Which is what? You know, they had to quit making face washes with plastic beads in it, because that ends up in a water you know, so it's just the same thing. I feel like when we were growing up, that was all we used was facewash wood plastic beads. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Like, let's get smooth. Yeah. Get in those pores. Get in there. Tuna fish. Yeah. But the other thing, okay. And I mentioned this at the beginning, which made this may be interesting though. compostable bags are usually made from corn. Mm hmm. So they may be more edible for fish and things, although they're still plastic, I think but you know, you can make plastic from right, inedible things. I mean, you can make inedible plastic from edible things. Like we're talking about making viscose from bamboo. Just yeah, that's right from the Earth doesn't mean it's not plastic, right. Yeah. Yeah. So last week, if you missed it, we talked about bamboo made. Wait, sorry, fiber that made from bamboo that turns into that, like during the process is actually very unsustainable. Yeah. Go back and listen, if you haven't heard episode two, episode one. Yeah. But also, corn grown in the United States especially is not grown in an eco safe environment. There's pesticides and greenhouse gases. So you're actually contributing to non eco friendly practices. By encouraging corn production, so interesting. Yeah, I mean, it's not like the oil. What did they plant while bass plastics are better, but it's not necessarily right. It's still not great worse. Yeah, yeah, it's not it's not making it. I mean, I don't know, we could we could argue the merits of corn production versus oil production, right. But the other thing is that they do attract roaches. So there's that. You don't want roaches under your sink? No. Okay. I haven't had that problem. Luckily, because I had a lot of roaches when I lived in a city I think because I outside of the city like pretty far outside. I don't there aren't that many roaches just in general. I think they're like me people don't there's not enough houses around. We're gonna get another trash. Yeah, I think an apartment complex in Austin, Texas is probably a prime candidate for roaches totally. Especially on the ground floor. So yeah, that's pretty wild. So what did she do? Do you know what she did? Which was throughout the bags? compose this. It's all her travel. Yeah. I mean, there's like one or two once in a while still, but it was much but nothing like that. Wow. Yeah, no. Crazy. Yeah. I would have never thought. So they're really tasty for roaches. But yeah, not really that tasty for sea turtles. Right. That's what we're saying. Yeah. Did they get us in the marketing? That's the question. The the green hui on this. We both overlooked it right. It's not a trash bag. It's not a compostable trash bag. It's a food scrap bag. And it definitely says on the box commercially, compostable only facilities may not exist in your area. So if both of us just read all the way down the bottom line, you know, the fine print on the box. Yeah, it still has the plastic bags can cause suffocation keep the trash bags and all plastic bags away from babies and children. So it's not like magical. If it could still kill your babies, it's probably you know, right? Not ideal solution. We thought were Yes, you can use it if you have a commercially available composting facility in your area. So you can use it to collect food scraps, is that I mean, you can also just not use a bag and just dump your pail out in the little bin. You know, whenever it gets full and not have to worry about having a plastic bag in there too. Because it's so like I was saying, I can't I don't. I have to take the bin outside to dump it. I can't just pick up the bag and carry it because it would trail coffee on the floor. Or like onion juice. So yeah, I knew that I couldn't buy the like a big size of compostable dress bags. For my regular trash. Like regular plastic trash bags are bad enough with regular trash. So I was like, There's no way and I'm so glad I didn't bother. Yeah, I mean, it's still good to use what you have, right? Don't buy something new and throw this away. But yeah, it's not is not like going to break down in the trash pile. And and again, then right? Expose, expose your other trash that's not gonna break down in the trash pile anyway, you know, like, what is this container? Doing? Really? That's the other thing I thought it's like, if you just have regular trash, then even if the bag broke down, then there would just be your trash would just be everywhere. And I don't know if that's better? I don't know. Yeah, it's such a conundrum. Yeah. So out of our rating of one to five granolas. This got a two which is sticky. Because only 5% of the country can use it as prescribed. And if you're using in your backyard, why do you need bags in the first place? Right? The only thing saving it from being soggy. The number one like worst thing is that it might eventually break down. And then the marketing isn't lying to us. Right? So much. Like I remember appreciating that. Yeah. We should explain the granola system. So one to five granolas is how we rate things and the crunchy or the better. And this one got like sticky which is not necessarily crunchy, not not crunchy. Okay, so got a two out of five. Yeah, so if you're like considering running out and buying compost trash bags to do Yeah, I mean, like, Yeah, think about if if your city has a composting, I mean, again, it's gonna leak. So transporting, it's gonna be interesting. It might not be you might just thinking about that. What would I even do? Just put it in a giant plastic giant plastic bin to transport it. No, a glass container is a glass Tupperware bin. Yeah, they don't make those. So that's compostable trash bags. Wow. Okay, so that's that's pretty shocking, because I know I have friends who use them and I don't think they would have any clue about this because we didn't Why would you? Yeah, it's it's green hui to make us feel better even though it's not actually doing Saying anything really better for us? So we'll have all those, all those resources linked in the show notes, including the article from pop SCI and vice and from Climo So awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing this. Yeah, sorry. Oh, yeah. Thank you for summing me out, but it's okay. Yeah. You know, I mean, it's better to, it's better to know. Yeah, ignorance is not bliss when it comes to being eco friendly, I think. Yeah, totally. And I have an exciting uplifter for next week. So as stoked for this one. So homemade laundry detergent, life, science, hashtag science. Hashtag science. So yeah, it's gonna be at least that'll be a positive one. It'll be fun. All right, well, listeners Yes, like and subscribe. Right I think it's called Follow on follow podcasts. Now they always change things. But yeah, follow subscribe. Whatever it is, wherever you listen, find us on Instagram. Also, we are greening up my act. Greeting Kat Cox today bourbon. And we will see you next week. Thanks bye

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