Do Compostable Trash Bags Work?

More and more people are doing what they can to reduce their individual carbon footprint. Plastic trash bags that clog landfills and take 100 years to decompose are becoming less acceptable globally. There are many types of bags that can be used to dispose of our waste, and using the right one for each task can positively affect the environment. 

Plastic trash bags cannot be added to recycled plastic, and they cannot be processed in backyard compost or industrial composting facility; all they can do is end up in a landfill waste stream. Fortunately, there are other types of trash bags, biodegradable trash bags, and bags that go in your compost pile.

How Do Compostable Trash Bags Breakdown?

Compostable trash bags represent one of the most eco-friendly ways to dispose of food scraps, kitchen trash, and pet waste. Some rubbish can be placed in reusable trash bags, but compostable trash bags are best for tossing our compostable items. Bags that compost aren’t magical, and some common sense steps need to be taken for them to be viable trash bag alternatives. 

How It’s Stored

One of the types of trash bags that can be weakened with improper storage, compostable bags, like biodegradable trash bags, needs to be kept in a cool, dry, dark place. Like other compostable products, moisture, sunlight, and heat cause microbes and bacteria to start working, weakening your bags fast.

Make sure compostable trash bags are not punctured or snagged when pulling them out of the package. Low-density polyethylene bags, our common plastic trash bags, are much more durable than compostable bags. Store the bags inside if you will not use them for a long period of time, and keep them where they won’t be knocked or damaged.

How It’s Filled

There are a few ways compostable waste can be collected in compostable trash bags. Backyard compost usually consists of yard waste and household waste, and any other organic materials around our home. Often yard waste will be collected all at once, but kitchen garbage may be in the bag, slowly accumulating all week. The longer plant-based materials have been in a compost bag, the more they will have begun to decompose.

Some compostable trash bags can only be processed at an industrial compost facility, and all compostable materials need to be put on the curb. A high-heat industrial composting facility isn’t available everywhere, so a bag that can hold our kitchen scraps and break down in a home compost is preferred. 

What It’s Filled With

Dry materials like paper bags and cardboard will not cause compostable bags to begin breaking down. You can store unwaxed paper bags and compostable plastic products in these trash bags for months before you need to worry about degradation. Biodegradable materials can be placed in a compostable trash bag, and the bag will dissolve faster. 

Wet organic compost materials can also be added to compostable trash bags. These plant-based materials will start to dissolve the bags if the moisture is too great and the minimum temperature is high enough. Eco-friendly trash bags can store your materials until you are ready to compost them.

How It Is Disposed 

In the correct conditions, compostable and biodegradable trash bags break down quickly in natural elements. Waste breaking down like this offsets some of the environmental impacts of overflowing landfills. But without proper conditions to break down, these bags can increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Some cities’ curbside pickup takes biodegradable kitchen trash bags to the local landfill. At these industrial facilities, compostable bags get buried and get stuck in an anaerobic environment. Eco-friendly trash bags rely on ideal conditions for composting, and if stuck in landfills, this can take hundreds of years. 

Plant-based trash bags can achieve complete decomposition very quickly if the internal temperature is kept between 90 and 140 ℉. This is easily done at a commercial composting facility and can also be achieved in an active compost pile at home. Usable compost can be made for the lawn and garden from the bags that hold your organic waste.

How It Is Composted

Compost conditions matter when it comes to reducing plastic waste to soil. Bags made of plant starch and other biodegradable materials can be broken down naturally or sped up in a facility. Materials that can be placed in a compost heap need to be added with the right ratio of brown material and green waste. 

Biological material and carbon-based waste break down faster when large populations of microbes and high temperatures are present. Compostable trash bags can make it easier to keep waste together and will break down in your regular home compost pile. 

Types of Trash Bags

There are several different types of trash bags, and each one can be used for a variety of tasks. Some bags need to be strong and hold liquid; no rip or tear allowed. Other bags just need to hold some waste temporarily, and a 100-year decomposition rate isn’t worth the convenience. Figuring out exactly what kind of trash bag you need can help you accomplish tasks more easily and help the environment too. 

Type of Trash BagTime To Break DownWhen To Use 
Polyethylene 100 years Wet or long storage in inclement conditions, heavy-duty
BiodegradableLess than 100 YearsStudy but still readily decomposable 
Compostable180 days Regular use of bags that don’t need to be strong or stored for long
Reusable 1 yearGood for yard waste and materials that are not too dirty and need to be dumped frequently


These are the classic trash bags that go to our landfills and take forever to break down. The organic material partially decomposes inside, and a microplastic-contaminated sludge leaks into landfills. Everything in that environment becomes anaerobic, and the decomposition process takes even longer. 

These bags are also the strongest and are used in many industries across the globe. Construction, manufacturing. agriculture and many other fields all rely on the durability and weather resistance of low-density polyethylene trash bags. Figuring out reusable and recyclable alternative bags that are as strong as they are is a major priority for eco-minded companies. 


These bags represent a fair compromise between usability and speed of decomposition. These bags are strong enough to be used for residential and lighter commercial applications. These bags are made of bioplastics that are derived from plant starches instead of fossil fuels. 

As long as biodegradable bags are full of biodegradable waste and discarded at the appropriate locations, then they can help in reducing landfill overflow. Bags that get stuck under traditional trash bags may take longer to decompose. Setting biodegradable bags where crucial elements like sun and rain can work on them will speed up the decomposition process. 


While not strong enough to be used for commercial applications, these bags can seriously help our individual impact on the environment. Compostable bags filled with organic waste safe for our gardens can turn a landfill nightmare into rich organic soil. Using compostable bags for cleaning up yard waste, garden cuttings, and kitchen scraps can become very convenient. 

Compostable bags are great for collecting waste while you wait for the proper balance to build a compost heap. Placing compostable bags in the elements while you collect the rest of your materials can jump-start the process when you are ready to begin. Place the bags and the materials together in your pit and water them to activate your pile. 


Some things we dispose of may dirty the inside of a trash bin but not necessarily ruin a trash bag. Reusable bags can be used to collect home and yard waste that is not overly wet or slimy. Using these bags repeatedly and cleaning them between uses can cut down on the garbage that leaves your home. 

Yard waste and kitchen scraps that would normally be placed directly in a bin can be placed in a bag that holds together well and is easier to clean. Using a bag over and over again until it wears down creates a lot of recycling opportunities. Once a reusable trash bag has served its purpose, it can either be broken down or composted, depending on its materials. 

How To Use Compostable Trash Bags

Not any waste can be thrown into a compostable trash bag. Similarly to how we have different bins for trash, recyclables, and compost, we need to treat our trash bags the same. Putting dairy bones and animal fats in a compostable bag that is going into your home compost will cause the same problems as putting those scraps directly into the heap. 

Animal waste can be placed in compostable bags that will be going to a commercial composting facility as they can process all types of organic waste. If you do not have access to a commercial facility, you will need to make sure these waste products do not end up in your compost and go to your regular trash instead. Using a compostable trash bag, regardless of the end location, is still better than using one made from petroleum. 

If you are collecting compostable waste in a compostable bag for your home compost pile, then you will want to keep the brown materials and nitrogen-rich materials separate to avoid premature bacterial activity. Once you have collected all the waste, you will compost with, add it to your pile, and balance the carbon, nitrogen, and moisture of the heap. 

Composting Compostable Trash Bags in a Home Compost

There are a few ways to use compostable trash bags to benefit your home compost. When collecting materials to build compost, it can be hard to keep it separated in a location that is safe from pests and messes. Placing your kitchen waste in a plastic bag and sealing it can help reduce odors and keep it safe for composting time.

Compostable bags can heat up in the sun, and the plastic locks in moisture. Bags placed in the sun can start breaking down even while the rest of the materials are being collected. Much like chopping, pretreating compost in sealed plastic bags can encourage extra microbes to work harder. Make sure to open the bags before all of the oxygen runs out, or you could create anaerobic pockets. 

Opening composting trash bags and tossing ripped-up bags into the pit with the rest of the waste can speed up the process even more. The bags can be great for keeping materials together, but in the pit, they won’t serve much of a use. Cut-open plastic compostable bags can also be placed over the rest of the compost material to act as a barrier to pests and increase heat and moisture effects.