Friday, August 31, 2018

Bagging change

New Zealand is about to ban single-use plastic bags, and, in fact, grocery stores are already going plastic bag-free and the one I use for deliveries is switching to paper bags. So, no matter what people think about it, and whether or not we’re ready, change is coming. It’s about time we came up with answers to what we’ll do next, and that’s what I’ve now started.

The photo above is of a roll of compostable rubbish bags I recently bought to try. I’ve considered paper rubbish bags, but what’s available here is intended for a big bin—they’re far too big for a kitchen bin. So, I needed a reasonably environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic.

Compostable bags are made from cornstarch, and break down in compost systems. The bags usually need to be exposed to ultraviolet light to begin to break down (which means they need sunlight, basically), and they need higher temperatures. Generally speaking, they take six months to break down in a commercial composting facility, and about a year in a home composting system.

And that’s the main problem.

There are few commercial rubbish composting operations at the moment, and fewer in New Zealand. This is a problem because they don’t easily break down in a landfill. Even so, they DO break down better than plastic bags do, so they’re a better option than plastic.

Problems aside, they’re definitely better than “biodegradable” bags that are still plastic and eventually break down to smaller bits of plastic that are still a problem. They’re a non-starter. Until I researched all this, I didn’t know that and bought “biodegradable” bags thinking I was helping the environment. I was wrong—I should have done more research.

One problem I’ve had has been that our kitchen rubbish bin is around 35 litres, but a bag that size doesn’t leave any extra to fold over the top of the bin. That means the sides can slide down, which is a problem.

Of course and obvious solution here is to not use a bin liner at all. This will become more viable in a year-ish when our area switches to Auckland Council’s new wheelie bins for rubbish (which is a VERY bad idea, in my opinion, but that’s a topic for another day). When they’re here, I could just dump the kitchen bin into the big bin without any bag.

Even though we recycle everything we can, there’s still rubbish left over, and some of it can be messy. This means I’d need to wash out the bin, maybe even weekly. I know that it wasn’t that long ago that this was common enough, but, well, we’ve moved on, haven’t we? Dumping the bokashi bin saves me time, so I can use that for washing the rubbish bin, right? Yes. But I don’t particularly want to.

The main reason I want a bag solution is actually much smaller: Disposing of cat litter. It has to go to landfill, for a whole lot of reasons, and I don’t want to use plastic bags any more. I originally wanted paper bags, but they’re expensive because they have to be ordered from specialty suppliers—so far, I haven’t even seen paper lunch bags, which kind of shocked me.

So, using compostable rubbish bags is a kind of a temporary measure at the moment because there are no good—and easy—alternatives. It’s better than plastic, though, and that’s the main thing.

This is clearly a story that’s evolving, and I’m sharing it in real time.


Online buying and getting change
– about changes to bags for online ordering
Banning the bags – about NZ’s switch from plastic bags

No comments: