In you’re a conscientious client, you’re most likely attempting to curb your use of virgin plastic by bringing your individual tote bags to the grocery retailer and utilizing refillable water bottles. But plastic lurks in all places, and appears practically unattainable to keep away from in day by day life. Only one instance? Your trash bags. By some estimates, the common American family makes use of 100 trash bags a yr. That’s upward of 12 billion trash bags used yearly throughout the nation.
Fortuitously, reusable trash bags have arrived. The Australian startup TOMbag has created a sturdy bag constructed from recycled water bottles. Fill it up, then dump out the waste in your curbside trash bin. They value between $28 and $42 every, relying on dimension, and ship internationally. That’s rather a lot pricier than the jumbo containers of disposable trash bags that we’re used to purchasing, however TOMbag’s model is designed to final years, which implies the associated fee evens out over time.
The corporate is responding to a typical environmental downside: Most trash bags find yourself in a landfill and don’t biodegrade. Over the previous few years, manufacturers like BioBag and Inexperienced Paper Merchandise have began creating extra sustainable alternate options to conventional single-use plastic bags, however they too are problematic. Recycled plastic bags nonetheless don’t decompose, and compostable plastic bags don’t biodegrade except they find yourself within the high-pressure, high-heat surroundings of an industrial composting facility. In different phrases, compostable bags are eco-friendly provided that you’re utilizing them for compost; if you’re utilizing them for common trash or recycling, they’re principally simply as problematic as plastic.
Sasha and Johnathan Pestano, the husband-and-wife duo who based TOMbag, began to appreciate the extent of the issue two years in the past. They had been spurred to reside as sustainably as potential after the start of their daughter in an effort to maintain the planet livable for her. And whereas they encountered loads of swaps for on a regular basis plastic gadgets, they realized they didn’t have various to single-use plastic trash bags. In 2019, once they started engaged on the corporate, 3.3 billion trash bags had been used and tossed in Australia alone. “Right here we are bringing reusable metallic straws and tote bags round with us, and but we’re persevering with to use a number of plastic trash bags each week,” Sasha says.
Once they regarded into municipal insurance policies round trash assortment in Australia, they found that almost all counties didn’t require trash to be contained in plastic bags; the trash merely wanted to be correctly contained inside the curbside bins. The identical insurance policies apply to most cities within the U.S. (although the founders suggest wanting up the principles in your neighborhood to ensure). “A small variety of counties nonetheless require plastic trash bags, largely as a result of they’re frightened about small particles of trash—like particles from a vacuum cleaner—getting swept away by the wind,” Johnathan explains. “However in lots of locations, together with Sydney, counties are really encouraging individuals to use reusable trash bags to chop down on the realm’s plastic waste.”
So the Pestanos got down to design a reusable trash bag that would change single-use bags. The important thing, they believed, was to make it straightforward and hygienic to switch waste from an indoor trash can to these massive bins exterior the home. “Plastic rubbish bags had been by no means a fantastic answer,” Johnathan says. “Everybody has had the expertise of the skinny plastic tearing when you take the bag out, so rubbish and soiled water find yourself in all places. We predict a reusable bag might be a fair higher expertise than the standard plastic bags we’re all accustomed to.”
The bags they created are made solely from recycled water bottles, which are was a plastic materials referred to as rPET. The bags are sturdy, thick, and leakproof, and so they are available two sizes, one designed to suit a kitchen trash can and one other to suit a smaller rest room trash can. They’ve handles on the high and the underside to make it straightforward to yank the bag out of the trash can and in addition to tip it over into the curbside bin. And there’s a drawstring on the high of the bag to maintain trash in whereas you carry it.
Importantly, the bag can also be washable. You may both hose it down exterior or you can stick it within the washer, then air-dry it. The bags are assured to final a yr, however the founders imagine that with regular use, they need to final two or three years. When the bag reaches the top of its life, clients can ship it again to TOMbag, the place will probably be recycled. “We needed to create a completely round system, so we’re not including to the plastic waste downside in any means,” Sasha says.
The Pestanos acknowledge that this method to dealing with family trash takes some getting used to. For one factor, it forces individuals to stand up shut and private with their trash, since they should pour all of it out into the bin each few days. This is usually a smelly enterprise. However Sasha factors out that there are some ways to mitigate the odor. For example, households that compost are already separating their meals scraps right into a separate bin, which signifies that many of the remainder of their trash tends to be dry. (Australia is mandating that each family use compost bins by 2030.) Sasha says that a few of TOMbag’s clients really recognize taking inventory of how a lot trash they are producing.
“We’ve had letters from clients saying that they now have a greater sense of how a lot waste they’re producing, which has spurred them to be much more considerate about how a lot they’re throwing away,” she says.
Whereas TOMbag would possibly enchantment to eco-minded shoppers who are keen to just accept some inconvenience for the sake of defending the planet, it’s unclear whether or not different shoppers can be keen to alter their conduct. That stated, many locations all over the world—together with the European Union and Mexico Metropolis—are starting to impose bans on single-use plastic, together with straws and grocery bags. It’s potential that over time, single-use trash bags could also be added to the listing, and shoppers can be pressured to look for a reusable various. The Pestanos’ objective is to create a product that can make it as seamless as potential for shoppers to transition away from their disposable trash bags.
In any case, it’s not simply households that use trash bags; places of work, eating places, and resorts do as effectively. The Accor hospitality group, for occasion, is on a mission to eradicate all single-use plastic in its resorts by 2022, and the TOMbag staff is at present in talks with Accor to produce resorts with reusable bags that may be positioned in visitor rooms and simply washed within the lodge’s cleansing services. In the end, Johnathan believes that bigger partnerships like this one will go a great distance towards growing the adoption of reusable trash bags.
“We’re conscious we’re in an environmental disaster,” he says. “Our objective is to have as a lot affect at scale as potential. If we will work with companies to roll out reusable trash bags throughout their complete group, change will come sooner.”