Unpacking the bin liner issue: Four top alternatives to the single use plastic bag

Posted on 24 July 2018

It’s official, folks! Single use plastic bags are on the way out from your local supermarket. Coles and Woolworths, amongst others - in a progressive move to prevent these bags making their way into landfill, or worse, into our environment - have voluntarily removed those grey plastic bags from their shelves all across Australia.

Understandably with this change comes a whole bunch of questions. The most common one we hear? “How am I meant to line my bin now?” Even before the ‘bag ban’, it’s been an issue grappled with by many who are trying to make plastic-free living second nature. 

Don’t fret!  You have plenty of go-to options available. The Second Nature team weighs up the pros and cons of four alternatives for your kitchen rubbish.

Your options (in no particular order):

1. Go naked:

You could decide to ditch a single–use bin liner all together. Just place your items directly in your small bin, and walk it out to the household garbage bin once full.

Pros: No need to spend hard-earned cash on liners, or worry about where you’ll get your next bag/liner from.

Cons: May need to rinse your bin more often as food waste can make the bin a bit messy.

Side note: Ordering a worm farm or a compost bin from Compost Revolution is a great way to recycle your food scraps, minimising your landfill waste bin and makes the ‘naked bin’ a much cleaner, less fussy option.

2. Reuse packaging

Have a left-over chip packet?  Maybe a take-away food paper bag, old bread bag, or a mushroom bag? These items can easily be re-purposed as a bin liner.

Pros: Again – no need to spend your hard earned cash on purchasing liners; really easy to use and these alternatives can fit in your small bin.

Cons: Inconsistent sizes of packaging means these items could fill up more quickly than other bin liner options; this option also sends any recyclable packaging used as a bin liner to landfill instead of recycling.

3. Paper bin lining

Try lining your bin with old newspaper as a great plastic free way of taking your rubbish out. Find out how to make this happen here:  How to line your rubbish bin without a plastic bag.

Pros: Plastic free; can be a fun crafting exercise to do with children; really great to use if you are composting or have a worm farm already as most of your waste will be dry. Easy to carry outside and tip in your red lidded garbage bin.

Cons: Catered for smaller (~5 Litre) bins; if not recycling your food waste, the paper liner can get wet & messy, meaning you will likely need to rinse the bin often.

4. The ‘biodegradable/compostable/plastic” bag

These bags are the most common replacement to the single-use plastic bag, and you can buy them from major supermarkets, from some hardware stores, or online.

Using biodegradable/compostable bags:

Pros: Compostable and biodegradable bags are broken down as they are designed to, with Council’s red bin waste contractor. Red bin waste is taken to the Veolia MBT (Mechanical Biological Treatment facility), an industrial composting facility that turns our waste into a compost material that is used to rehabilitate an old mine site. Biodegradable liners recognised by Australian standards AS4736 are also not full of microplastics and can be easily purchased online.

Cons: Tend to be a bit more of an expensive option; need to take out once every ~3 days otherwise bag can start to disintegrate/leak and get holes in it.

Side note: The messaging around compostable bags, biodegradable plastic bags, and just plain biodegradable bags can be very confusing. This 1 Million Women article helps to clear things up about the differences - “Plastic Bags: What’s the difference…?”


While there is no silver bullet solution, you could try each option for a week or two, and see what works best in your home.

Tell us what you think

Have you tried an alternative yet? Have you found a solution that works for you and your household? Join the conversation - send through your tips and suggestions to: [email protected]

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