Are Eco-Friendly Plastic Bags Alternatives Any Good?

Choosing plastic bags alternatives isn’t an easy task. Too many brands, materials, sizes, and badges make it hard to decide. Hopefully, this article will help make sense of the issue.

Read next: What are the best trash bags for the environment?

plastic bags alternatives

The complete list of plastic bags alternatives

Full list of all types of plastic bags alternatives on the market today:

  • Cassava bags
    Cassava is an edible (and pretty tasty) plant root very common in African and Asian countries. It looks and feels similar to sweet potato. Bags made of cassava have gathered quite a hype lately mainly because of a viral video showing them dissolving in a glass of water and turning into edible fish food.

    Searching online I couldn’t find cassava bags on any of the big retailers’ websites. There’s probably a good reason for that. For starters, production lines might not yet be suitable to produce mass quantities of cassava products.

    Moreover, the bags dissolve in water, which sounds great, but o isn’t practical. One of the reasons people use plastic bags in the first place is because of their ability to hold fluids or keep the contents inside dry.

    So is a bag that dissolves in water really that good a solution?
  • Corn stretch bags
    These bags use polylactic acid (PLA) made from the sugars in corn stretch. Currently, corn stretch is considered the most eco-friendly of all the plastic bags alternatives, although it’s not perfect.

    These bags can biodegrade easily but only when given the right conditions (light and oxygen) for bacteria to develop and dissolve them. This can be a problem because in landfills trash is often buried underground. So corn stretch bags must be collected into special landfills that aren’t as common.

Difference between degradable and compostable in plastic bags alternatives

I feel these two terms are one of the biggest reasons for confusion around plastic bags alternatives. Let’s start by defining them in simple words.

Biodegradable bag;

A bag that will degrade at some point due to biological factors like fungi and bacteria. It could happen in a few months, a few days or a few years. This term is a little vague and doesn’t necessarily mean the bag is eco-friendly in the first place.

Compostable bag;

A material that will degrade within a few months once given the right amount of sun, oxygen, and bacteria. This term is a little more upfront and compostable bags are easier to define as eco-friendly.

The difference

Every compostable bag is biodegradable but not every biodegradable bag is compostable. Therefore, we recommend our readers to use compostable bags, and to dispose of them in the appropriate manner (home compost or industrial (council) composting facilities).

Eco-friendly bags badges types

plastic bags alternatives

The bag can degrade in normal home conditions and you don’t have to send it to a special landfill.

plastic bags alternatives

The bag must be sent to a composting facility in order to decompose properly.

plastic bags alternatives

This badge means the product was made from biological materials. See numbers at the bottom to see the amount.