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plastic bag ban - what do people use for garbage?

Jeanne Boyarsky
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I've been hearing more about plastic bag bans lately - largely due to the federal bill to charge five cents per bag. Which got folks talking about total bans that have been proposed.

I live in apartment building. We throw out garbage daily by putting it in those cheap supermarket "free" bags and into the compactor shoot. (unlike people with houses who throw out garbage by collecting it and then putting it on the curb.) You can't put a giant bag down the compactor shoot so we have to continue using small bags.

Does anyone know what is done in areas where the supermarket no longer gives out (or eventually sells) such bags? I've never seen bags that size sold. All I can think of is the "fruit" bags (which ironically are still given out for free) at the supermarket.


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Jayesh A Lalwani
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Joined: Jan 17, 2008
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  28

Can you use trash bags? Just don't fill it completely

We don't have a plastic bag ban here but we have been trying to reduce our footprint anyways. So, we started composting our trash, and recently I got a worm bin to compost the trash. The worm bin may or may not work in NYC. I would be worried about pests. However, for the trash what we have done is that we use a bathroom trash can for our kitchen trash. You get trash bags for bathroom trash cans, and we use those when we run out of plastic bags. You might want to look for bathroom trash bags. I know you can get them online or at a home store. I haven't seen a grocery store carry them, although its worth trying out for you. If they have banned plastic bags, others will have the same problem, and grocery stores might find it profitable to start carrying them.
Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective
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Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 30762
    
156

Jayesh A Lalwani wrote:Can you use trash bags? Just don't fill it completely

That's a waste of plastic. We'd be using maybe 10% of the bag. Plus it is unwieldy.

Jayesh A Lalwani wrote:However, for the trash what we have done is that we use a bathroom trash can for our kitchen trash.

That's what I do now. I just put a "free supermarket bag" in it. I have one bathroom trash can in the bathroom and one in the "main part" of the apartment. I then combine their contents and toss.

Jayesh A Lalwani wrote: You might want to look for bathroom trash bags. I know you can get them online or at a home store. I haven't seen a grocery store carry them, although its worth trying out for you. If they have banned plastic bags, others will have the same problem, and grocery stores might find it profitable to start carrying them.

Now this is helpful! I didn't know that bathroom trash bags existed. I looked in the supermarket and didn't see them. Which as you noted, is because they aren't there. According to Amazon, they cost 13-30 cents per bag. Which means this only becomes an issue when there is a total bag ban. When supermarkets charge 5 cents per plastic bag, it is still worth "buying" them from checkout. And yes, I imagine the stores will start selling them (at least in areas with a lot of apartment buildings) when there is a total bag ban. Or someone will start making cheaper/thinner trash bags. I don't really need a garbage bag thick bag to bring it from my apartment down the hall to the compactor shoot.
Paul Clapham
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Joined: Oct 14, 2005
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    8

I'm in England at the moment (sitting in the hallway which is the only place for wi-fi in this 319-year-old stone farmhouse) so I don't remember exactly, but I think what we use is called something like "Glad Kitchen Catchers". They fit in a garbage can under the sink.
Jayesh A Lalwani
Bartender

Joined: Jan 17, 2008
Posts: 2402
    
  28

Just thought of something that may or may not work. How about doggie poop bags? I don't have direct experience with them, but I think they are about the size of plastic bags, and you will find them just about anywhere. No idea if they are thinner than plastic bags or not.


IMO this is why plastic bag bans don't work. People who were trying to reduce their own environmental impact end up having to buying thicker bags. I think they should just include the cost of cleanup into the cost of the plastic bags and trash bags. If it costs 25 cents for a plastic bag, people are going to get creative about reusing them
chris webster
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Joined: Mar 01, 2009
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  14

Here in Wales we've had a mandatory charge on plastic bags from shops for a couple of years now (except where you obviously need a bag e.g. for meat or fish). My own impression is that it's definitely reduced litter, perhaps helped to cut down on fossil-fuel use (for plastics) and - hopefully - damage to wildlife from plastic bags. Eventually it might even help to cut the impact on marine life (e.g. turtles eat plastic bags, which they confuse with jellyfish but which then block their guts so they can't feed properly) although there is so much garbage in the seas around Britain these days that I guess that's probably being a little too optimistic.

People bitched and moaned about this charge initially, but they seem to have got used to it now. If you really think you need a bag, you can pay for one, but people seem to have got their heads around the simple idea of re-using a bag and bringing it with you when you go shopping. It's not that hard - everybody used to do it when I was a kid a mere 40+ years ago. Although those weird string shopping bags seem to have gone the way of the old ladies who always used to have them when I was a kid.

As for using plastic bags for putting out rubbish, we also have a fairly comprehensive recycling system in my area these days (about 20 years after many other parts of Europe!), so you get colour-coded bags from the local council for putting out various recyclable stuff - glass in one, paper in another - and we also have a garden/kitchen waste collection which they use for making compost. The various rubbish bags are made of biodegradable cellulose-based plastic and you can buy similar bags in most supermarkets if you need more e.g. as bin-liners.

So don't panic - you can still throw out your rubbish and cut down on extra waste at the same time.


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Bear Bibeault
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  67

When I was growing up, we always used paper bags for the trash bin. Is that an option for you?

There'a bag ban that went into effect here in Austin this year, and it got people all up in arms. (And of course, to the right-leaners it was all the President's fault ) Most people writing to the paper in outrage addressed the "what do I use for garbage?" issue; but many also decried the "loss of freedoms" (really?) and "1st Amendment violation" (yeah, right).

It has not affected me all that much as I've been using canvas bags for groceries for years, and would usually avoid bags when I only had one or two items to carry.

I'm even enough of a goody-2-shoes to spend extra to buy bio-degrdable doggy poop bags to pick after the pooches.

But not to come across as too much of a Pippy, I probably use more water and electricity than I should.

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chris webster
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Joined: Mar 01, 2009
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  14

Bear Bibeault wrote:There'a bag ban that went into effect here in Austin this year, and it got people all up in arms. (And of course, to the right-leaners it was all the President's fault ) Most people writing to the paper in outrage addressed the "what do I use for garbage?" issue; but many also decried the "loss of freedoms" (really?) and "1st Amendment violation" (yeah, right)..

Maybe the President could solve a couple of difficult political issues here: ban plastic bags, but give up trying to stop people carrying guns - so long as they carry them in a nice "Hot Pink" eco-friendly string bag...
Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective
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Joined: May 26, 2003
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156

chris webster wrote:So don't panic - you can still throw out your rubbish and cut down on extra waste at the same time.

I already bring my own bag when I have enough for garbage. (I have a bag of plastic bags. When it starts getting full, I don't get any new bags until it runs down.) I don't think I can cut down on that much waste.

Bear Bibeault wrote:When I was growing up, we always used paper bags for the trash bin. Is that an option for you?

When I was growing up, we used paper bags too. It was a two story co-op (like a condo) development where you took your garbage to the "garbage room" and put it in big cans/bin. Paper worked for that. (Although that doesn't solve the no bag problem - people want to ban all bags.) Now I live in an apartment building where you dump your bag down a shoot X stories and it lands in something. If your bag isn't fully closed, the garbage will fall out on it's trip down. Which will create smells/bugs/trash for people on lower floors Also, sometimes the garbage is damp/wet. So no.

Bear Bibeault wrote:There'a bag ban that went into effect here in Austin this year, and it got people all up in arms. (And of course, to the right-leaners it was all the President's fault ) Most people writing to the paper in outrage addressed the "what do I use for garbage?" issue; but many also decried the "loss of freedoms" (really?) and "1st Amendment violation" (yeah, right).

I was hoping someone would write in from a city that already has a bag ban. That's you! Let's not involve politics though. I'd like to stay focused on the issue at hand - bags and garbage - and not see this thread locked because it turned into politics.

I have a few concerns with a total bag ban:
1) Garbage bags - I think this thread has made me feel better on that one
2) Tourists - When someone visits from another area that gives out bags, he/she doesn't know to bring a bag. Buying yet another reusable bag doesn't seem useful. This is a non issue with the proposed federal bag ban though. If the whole US bans bags, tourists from other countries will know via the guidebooks. Just like they know we refuse to use the metric system. When it is city by city (like now), this is a bigger issue.
3) Take out food. I can't tell you how many times take out food has leaked out of the provided container and into the plastic bag. Yes, I could wash the reusable bag. I don't see myself doing that though. I see myself bringing my own plastic bag. This bag turns into a garbage bag anyway so it is in some ways a variant of #1.
4) Impulse shopping. Both for locals and tourists buy things without setting out planning that. And no, I'm not bringing an empty reusable bag on a walk around the neighborhood. I can carry an item loose or come back later or not buy it at all. I really don't want tourists to stop buying on impulse. This is more of a city problem since the stated solution is to "just leave a reusable bag in your car."

I am in favor of a pay X for each disposable bag you receive. Whole Foods has been doing this for years. They call it X cents off, but it is the same idea. And I know I'll get used to it when there is a total bag ban.
chris webster
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  14

Sorry, Jeanne, but I don't really see the problem here. What's wrong with using biodegradable bags for kitchen waste (or take-outs - heck why not cut out the middle man altogether and just throw the junk food away!) if paper bags won't do the job? As for shopping, plenty of cities around the world seem to cope fine without automatically handing out plastic bags in shops, and many places will sell you a cheap re-usable bag made of recycled materials if you turn up without a bag of your own. That's what I did on holiday in Vancouver, and I'm still using the same bag several years later. It's really not that hard to adjust to life without an apparently infinite supply of plastic bags, and it's a heck of a lot better for the environment.
Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective
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Posts: 30762
    
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chris webster wrote: What's wrong with using biodegradable bags for kitchen waste

Nothing. I learned such a thing exists TODAY.
chris webster
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  14

Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:
chris webster wrote: What's wrong with using biodegradable bags for kitchen waste

Nothing. I learned such a thing exists TODAY.

Isn't JavaRanch wonderful?
Martha Simmons
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Joined: Jun 24, 2008
Posts: 130
Nothing. I learned such a thing exists TODAY.

http://www.naturbag.com/wheretobuy#newyork
Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective
Marshal

Joined: May 26, 2003
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Martha Simmons wrote:Nothing. I learned such a thing exists TODAY.

http://www.naturbag.com/wheretobuy#newyork

Thanks! One day when I get through my (over 100) supermarket bags... and most likely after the bag ban takes effect, if it does.
Bill Clar
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Joined: Sep 21, 2006
Posts: 152

Do you have the option of dumping loose garbage into the compactor? That would eliminate the need for a bag liner, but result in a trashcan that needs to be regularly cleaned.
Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective
Marshal

Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 30762
    
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Bill Clar wrote:Do you have the option of dumping loose garbage into the compactor?

In theory. It makes me cringe though. It depends what the garbage is I guess. I wouldn't feel comfortable dumping food grease down. That invites smells/bugs.
Martha Simmons
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Joined: Jun 24, 2008
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Just found: Now that plastic bags are banned, what should I use to line my bins?
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 30762
    
156

Most people in cities don't compost. (And yes, I know that you CAN.)

For fun, I just took a look at what is in my non-recyclable garbage right now:
  • 2 napkins
  • a plastic food wrapper with some crumbs in it
  • some stray hair
  • a tissue
  • 2 sanitary napkins and the waxy/plastic garbage they come in
  • the dust from the emptying the vacumn cleaner


  • I agree with the article on not needing a liner for recyclables. I don't have one now. The article has the non-apartment building presumption in mind. Your landfill goes in a "black bin" for hauling. Ours goes in giant plastic bags left out on the curb. And we don't see these giant bags. Now that would be an improvement. To have the giant bags in a large garbage can in the basement that we could toss into without needing a plastic bag. Or one per floor like we do for recycling.
    Martha Simmons
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    Joined: Jun 24, 2008
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    Our apartment building got its composting bin not that long ago - and I absolutely love it. Made all other garbage/recycling materials so much cleaner, plus now all the food our apartment wastes can find some use.

    From what I read, your own composting isn't that easy - I wouldn't attempt to try it, so I am very happy about our centralised composting campaign - and I think it's also more effective than assorted home-made solutions.

    In New York I believe you can collect your food scraps too - but then you have to chauffeur them to the "designated compost collection sites". Still, the city is moving in the right direction!: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/opinion/mayor-bloomberg-rethinks-recycling.html

    Hopefully soon NYC-wide composting program will take care of items 1,2 and 4 on your list. Now "a plastic food wrapper with some crumbs in it" can be theoretically brought to recycling to the "designated collection sites" in both our cities - although I haven't tried it yet. My first batch of washed plastic bags is currently drying outside, tied to the window frame.
    Jeanne Boyarsky
    author & internet detective
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    Speaking of "chauffeuring" your compost, I learned today that my local (walking distance) famers market collects compost two hours a day once a week.
    Martha Simmons
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    Problem solved!

    Just found a pretty good and informative video about how recycle facilities work (this one is about Colorado, but the principle is the same, I believe): Single-Stream Recycling -- Leading the Way to Zero Waste
    Jeanne Boyarsky
    author & internet detective
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    Martha Simmons wrote:Problem solved!

    I don't know if solved is the word I'd use. You still have to available just then. And most people aren't going to do this. I have doubts on whether I'm willing to do this.
    Bear Bibeault
    Author and ninkuma
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      67

    We're lucky to have curb-side single-stream recycling here in Austin. They give us a huge bin (about half again the size of the trash bin) and pick up every other week.

    To our credit (not above self-patting ), the trash bin is rarely more than half full, while we just about always fill the recycle bin.
    Jeanne Boyarsky
    author & internet detective
    Marshal

    Joined: May 26, 2003
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    Wow. Bloomberg (NYC mayor) announced plans to make composting more convenient.

    They showed a building doing it already where there was a "food waste" bin along with the other recyclable bins that gets collected by building staff. The compactor chute becomes only for the non-recyclable garbage. I think the compactor is going to become an old fashioned relic like some of the things you see in pre-war buildings. (That'd be World War II for those not in NY where that phrase implies it.)

    It's in pilot right now looking to expand in 2015/2016. So slow, but coming. The food scraps would be used both for compost and bio fuel.

    This also implies I only need to deal with the plastic problem for a short time. From a good while after bags are banned (I probably have 100 bags I've collected over the years) until my building gets food scrap recycling. If it wasn't for the food scraps, most things could go down the cute without a bag. And the few things that shouldn't (hair, vacumn dust, etc) don't need to be thrown out so frequently. Or could be put inside a non-recyclable container.

    Incidentally, my garbage quantity has gone down since we could recycle more plastics this year.
    Jeanne Boyarsky
    author & internet detective
    Marshal

    Joined: May 26, 2003
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    Reading the comments of that NYC post, I'm convinced to try collecting my compostable items in the freezer to take to the farmers market a couple times a month. I also learned that some people bring their compost with them on the subway and drop them off at the greenmarkets my work. Which increases the # hours you can drop off.
    Jayesh A Lalwani
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      28

    Wow they are going to generate electricity from it...awesome
     
    Consider Paul's rocket mass heater.
     
    subject: plastic bag ban - what do people use for garbage?