Compostable vs. Biodegradable Trash Bags

Ever since the advancement of technology, environmental awareness has become a major concern in our society.

People have started to realize the significance of fostering a sustainable environment.

This has increased the popularity of eco-friendly products, including trash bags. 

Compostable and biodegradable trash bags are two of the most common types available in the market.

While these terms are often used interchangeably, they are different. 

This article will discuss the difference between compostable and biodegradable trash bags to understand which is better for the environment.

Understanding Composting and Biodegradation 

Composting breaks down organic matter, such as food scraps and leaves, into a nutrient-rich soil amendment.

Composting is a great way to reduce your waste and give your plants a boost of nutrients.

On the other hand, biodegradation means that bacteria or other organisms can break down the material over time.

Biodegradable materials, such as paper and food scraps, will eventually decompose into compost.

Composting and Biodegradation – Key Benefits

Composting has environmental benefits as it reduces landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

It also enriches the soil, conserves water, and promotes plant growth.

Likewise, opting for biodegradable materials not only reduces waste but they often require less energy and resources to produce than their non-biodegradable counterparts.

Composting and Biodegradation – Drawbacks

One potential drawback of composting is that it can attract pests, such as rats and flies. You may consider using a covered compost bin if you live in an area with many pests.

You should also keep your compost pile away from your home. Some people find the smell of rotting food scraps to be unpleasant.

Conversely, biodegradable materials may break down slower than you would like.

For example, paper products may decompose in your home compost bin for several months. 

If you are looking for a material that will break down quickly, you may want to consider using compostable materials instead.

What Are Compostable Trash Bags?

Compostable trash bags are made from materials that can easily decompose at a specific temperature and in specific environmental conditions.

They are designed to break down into organic matter, which can be used as a nutrient-rich fertilizer for plants. 

These trash bags also follow a different standard than biodegradable bags regarding the material used and the certification process.

Consumer-compostable bags can be put in a compostable bin for further treatment, where they break down into nutrient-rich soil. 

Compostable trash bags are made from natural materials, such as cornstarch, vegetable oils, or plant cellulose.

They require specific composting conditions to biodegrade, such as high temperature and humidity.

Also read: Are Paper Bags Recyclable?

What Are Biodegradable Trash Bags?

Biodegradable trash bags are made from materials that can break down into smaller pieces over time, usually within a year.

The material gets broken down by bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. 

Biodegradable bags break down into smaller plastic particles that remain in the environment. The particles can cause harm to the environment, especially marine life. 

These trash bags can be made from conventional plastic mixed with additives that promote quick breakdown.

However, they dissolve at a slower rate than compostable bags. 

This makes them a better solution for storing trash that won’t decompose immediately, like food products that contain animal fats and oils. 

Note that some biodegradable bags are not certified by a third-party organization, and these bags might not compost in modern landfills.

Difference Between Compostable and Biodegradable Trash Bags

The most significant difference between the two types of bags is the following:

Compostable bags break down into nutrient-rich soil. In comparison, biodegradable bags break down into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass in landfills. 

Biodegradable bags can include plastics with additives that cause them to break down faster, creating microplastic pollution.

Nevertheless, compostable bags also require specific environments that can compost them correctly. 

Their validity depends on the underlying state regulations that determine the minimum standard.

The bags have to meet a particular list of criteria to receive certification, including:

  • A certain breakdown timeline
  • Material composition standard 
  • The material must not harm the environment.

Compostable vs. Biodegradable Trash Bags – Which Is Better?

The answer to this question depends on your needs and preferences. If you are looking for a material that will break down quickly, you may want to use compostable materials. 

However, if you are concerned about pests or odors, you may want to use biodegradable materials instead.

In general, compostable trash bags are better for the environment than biodegradable trash bags.

These bags are made of natural materials and break into organic matter, a nutrient-rich fertilizer for plants. 

On the other hand, biodegradable bags release toxic substances when breaking down that can be harmful to soil, water, and organisms.

Both biodegradable and compostable trash bags are environment-friendly alternatives to regular plastic bags, but it is essential to understand their nature and how each type is decomposed.

  • Biodegradable bags may not compost at modern landfills, leaving them to decompose without adequate testing of the environmental impact.
  • While compostable bags don’t produce any toxic material, they need to be processed correctly, like food waste, to break down without releasing methane gas. 
  • It is essential to check the certification of the bag in question to ensure it meets industry standards. 
  • It’s crucial to note that neither type of bag should go into your regular trash as it undoes any good intentions.
Also read: 6 Simple Ways to Dispose of Pet Waste

Disposing of Compostable and Biodegradable Trash Bags

If you use compostable trash bags, you must dispose of them in a compost pile. Do not throw them in the trash; they will not break down in a landfill. 

Biodegradable trash bags can be disposed of in a regular trash bin, but reducing your use of plastic products is recommended.

Recycling Compostable and Biodegradable Bags

Unlike traditional plastic bags, compostable and biodegradable bags are designed to break down more quickly and have a lesser impact on the environment.

However, not all recycling facilities can process these bags.

To recycle them properly:

  • Check with your local recycling facility to see if they accept compostable or biodegradable bags.
  • If they do, follow their guidelines for preparing the bags for recycling, such as rinsing them out and removing any residue.

If your facility doesn’t accept these bags, look for a nearby composting facility or composting program that does.

Also read: How To Prevent Maggots From Getting In The Trash?

Where Can You Find Compostable and Biodegradable Trash Bags?

Compostable and biodegradable trash bags are available online and also in some supermarkets.

Below is an example of a compostable trash bag.

UNNI 100% Compostable Bags, 2.6 Gallon, 9.84 Liter, 100 Count, Extra Thick 0.71 Mil, Samll Kitchen Food Scrap Waste Bags, ASTM D6400, US BPI and Europe OK Compost Home Certified, San Francisco

And here is an example of biodegradable trash bags:

Small Trash Bags 4-6 Gallon, Inwaysin 200 Count Biodegradable Trash Bags 4 Gallon, Extra Strong Small Garbage Bags Unscented, Size Expanded, Green, for Bathroom Bedroom Office Kitchen Trash Can

When shopping for compostable or biodegradable trash bags, check if they are certified by independent organizations like the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI).

The certifications indicate that the products are eco-friendly.

The Best Compostable and Biodegradable Trash Bags for Your Next Green Initiative

With the ever-increasing concern about the health of our planet, it is important to take simple steps towards a greener tomorrow.

One effective way is to replace traditional plastic bags with compostable and biodegradable trash bags.

However, with so many brands and types of eco-friendly trash bags on the market, it can take time to determine the best option to suit your needs.

Here are a few options you can consider: 


This proudly American-made brand is a leader in compostable and biodegradable bags.

BioBags come in various sizes to fit different waste bins, including pet waste bags and food scrap bags. 

What sets BioBag apart is its use of plant starch blends as raw materials.

Thus, the compostable bags decompose within weeks and are certified by several environmental organizations.


UNNI’s 100% biodegradable and compostable trash bags are a great choice for those looking to minimize their environmental impact.

Made from plant-based materials like corn starch, these bags are BPA-free and have certifications from the Biodegradable Products Institute and OK Compost Home.

Their durability and compostable nature make UNNI bags a popular choice for both home and commercial use.


For pet owners, EarthRated compostable pet waste bags are a great alternative to traditional plastic-based waste bags.

The bags boast a 100% compostable design and flexibility for ease of use.

EarthRated’s compostable bags are available on online marketplaces or at local pet stores.

Glad Compostable Kitchen Bags

Glad Compostable Kitchen Bags are a perfect fit for the environmentally conscious homemaker.

These bags are made from plant-based materials and are durable in heavy waste requirements.

The bags are available in a 13-gallon size, making them perfect for kitchen use.

Stout by Envision EcoSafe-6400

Stout’s EcoSafe-6400 compostable bags are another excellent option for those in search of a green alternative.

They are highly rated for their overall quality and have a BPI-certified compostable label.

Available at various retailers, these bags are a top choice for those aiming to reduce their carbon footprint.


EcoSafe is known for its conscious approach to product design and labeling, making its compostable trash bags a popular choice among eco-friendly consumers.

Their bags are made from compostable plastic, which breaks down into natural substances when exposed to oxygen.

This makes EcoSafe bags ideal for those looking to dispose of food waste in an environmentally responsible manner.


For those on a budget, Reli’s compostable trash bags are an affordable option.

These bags are durable and designed for use in the kitchen, providing a cost-effective solution for environmentally conscious households.

By choosing Reli, you can reduce your plastic waste without breaking the bank.

Also read: How to Dispose Of Dog Poop Properly?

Understanding Biodegradability Standards of Trash Bags

ASTM D6400

The ASTM Standards are a great reference point for those looking to verify the biodegradability of a trash bag.

The ASTM D6400 standard is a designation given to compostable materials by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

Home compostable bags follow the ASTM D6400 International Standards, while commercial compostable bags follow the ASTM D6868 Guidelines. 

Products that meet the ASTM D6400 standard leave no toxic residues behind and generate a nutrient-rich biomass that can be used as a soil amendment.

Using bags that follow these standards ensures that they meet industry standards for decomposing without harming the environment.

Biodegradable Products Institute

The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) is another organization focused on ensuring that products labeled as compostable or biodegradable meet strict environmental standards.

BPI-certified products must undergo rigorous testing to confirm that they break down effectively in composting facilities without leaving behind any harmful substances.

BPI has specific criteria for products to be considered:

  • Made from plant-based materials, not polyethylene
  • Fully break down into water, carbon dioxide, and organic matter
  • Cause minimal harm to the environment
Also read: Are Q Tips Recyclable or Compostable?

DIY Trash Bags – An Even Better Option

Making trash bags at home is a great option for those who want to take a cheaper and more organic route.

To make these bags, an individual can use newspapers or any recyclable material to create a compostable trash bag. 

Such homemade bag alternatives offer an environmentally friendly solution for those who want to craft their way toward a greener tomorrow.

Using compostable and biodegradable trash bags is a small step towards a more sustainable future.

Several brands provide excellent eco-friendly bag options to suit different needs. 

It is also essential to note the biodegradability standards that govern such bags.

Making homemade bags is a fun and cheaper option for those who want to take a green initiative.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions people have about compostable and disposable trash bags.

What Is the Difference Between Compostable and Biodegradable Trash Bags?

Compostable trash bags are designed to break down into natural components such as water, carbon dioxide, and biomass under specific composting conditions.

They are typically made from plant-based materials and meet specific standards for compostability.

On the other hand, biodegradable trash bags can break down over time due to the presence of additives or organic materials in their production, but they may still leave behind microplastic fragments.

How Long Does It Take for Compostable and Biodegradable Bags to Break Down?

The decomposition time for compostable bags largely depends on the composting environment, and they usually break down between three to six months in industrial facilities.

However, in a home compost environment, it can take anywhere from six months to two years.

Biodegradable bags break down faster than traditional plastic bags, but their decomposition time can still range from a few months to several years.

Depending on factors like temperature, light, and other environmental conditions.

Are Biodegradable Bags Suitable for Composting?

Biodegradable bags might not be suitable for composting because they could still leave microplastic fragments behind.

These fragments can harm the environment and affect the quality of the produced compost.

Compostable bags are explicitly designed for composting and meet relevant standards for the process, making them a more suitable option.

Do Compostable Trash Bags Work Well for Food Waste?

Yes, compostable trash bags work well for food waste. They are made from plant-based materials and are designed to break down into harmless components.

They are an ideal choice for collecting and disposing of food waste in a compost bin or a green waste collection service.

What Materials Are Typically Used in Making Compostable and Biodegradable Bags?

Compostable bags are typically made from plant-based materials such as cornstarch, potato starch, or cellulose.

These materials allow the bags to break down into natural components during the composting process.

Biodegradable bags may be made from organic materials like starch, or traditional plastic materials with added additives that help them break down over time.

Can Compostable Bags Be Used in Landfills?

Although compostable bags are designed to break down in composting environments, they can still break down in landfills but at a much slower rate.

However, it’s important to consider that landfill conditions might not support the proper breakdown of compostable bags.

As they often lack the necessary oxygen, moisture, and microorganisms for a more rapid and complete decomposition process.

Whenever possible, compostable bags should be disposed of through appropriate composting or green waste facilities to ensure their proper breakdown.

Final Words

Compostable and biodegradable trash bags may sound similar, but they differ.

Compostable bags are made from natural materials and decompose into organic matter, which benefits the environment. 

On the other hand, biodegradable bags break down into small plastic particles that remain in the environment, causing harm to marine life. 

We recommend choosing compostable trash bags over biodegradable ones to minimize environmental impact.

Additionally, it’s always better to reduce waste by using reusable and fewer plastic products.

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