Quick. Think about how many times your family takes out the trash each week. Two times? Three times? Now, multiply that number by 52 and you'll see why sustainability focused companies are keen to reduce the number of plastic garbage bags we fill with trash — and toss in the landfill — every day.
One such company is the Sydney, Australia-based TOMbag. Co-founded by Sasha Pestano, TOMbag provides an alternative to the single-use plastic and resource-heavy bio-plastic trash bags on the market. Sure, you've already bid farewell to plastic straws and water bottles, but have you considered the 100 or more bags you're literally tossing in the trash each year?
Pestano says Australians alone throw away an estimated 5 billion plastic bags per year, and the estimates in the U.S. are far higher. A November 2020 MRI Simmons/Statistica.com consumer survey estimated that around 53.6 million people in the U.S. used an average of 25 or more garbage bags a month. Reusable bags could make a huge difference.
TOMbags are made from recycled plastic, requiring no new materials. The bags are easy to clean in the laundry, though Pestano recommends replacing the bags every year. This could effectively reduce the per person, per annum usage to a respectable one.
But before you rush out to order a TOMbag (and they do ship outside of Australia), check with your local waste management company to see if it's OK to forgo the plastic bag and throw trash directly into the bin. We posed the question to waste management companies in California, Illinois and Maryland, and were told they all require bags; you could even face a fine if you leave the garbage bin for pickup full of loose trash. It's especially relevant in areas where containers are lifted and dumped by hand into the garbage trucks, rather than being flawlessly flipped by a machine each time.
That said, customers in states like Ohio, Texas and California have bought TOMbags, three states that aren't usually on the same page regarding sustainability regulations. Given that reusable trash bags are new to the U.S., many municipalities may not have a clear stance on the issue, so do your research before purchasing.
However, if your municipality allows it (or you just want to risk it), there are a few tips to know to make going bag-free a little easier. First, consider separating dry and wet waste. Many of the wet items you throw away are probably food waste, which can be composted or put in the garbage disposal instead. If you have to throw away something wet (coffee grounds, for example,) wrap it in something dry, like newspaper, before tossing it in the reusable bag.
When emptying the TOMbag into your primary pickup bin, consider lining the bin with newspaper or cardboard. That'll keep the bin cleaner and make it easier for your pickup crew to empty it.