Bags are an integral component of our modern society. We see them everywhere and we use them for everything. Whether you’re carrying your groceries, fragile porcelain ware, or a bulky laptop, bags are what allow us to carry our everyday items wherever we go.
As funny as it sounds, there is a major downside to bags - the fact that they damage the environment. Not all bags do this, but when the average person thinks of a bag, they most often than not consider single-use plastic bags.
Those very same bags are one of the factors behind our global climate change crisis. Not only are those plastic bags expensive to produce, but the process of creating them is highly involved and manages to release excessive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Enter biodegradable bags, an eco-friendly solution to plastic bags. They certainly aren’t going to change the fate of the world overnight, but they’re one of the steps we need to take in order to ensure a prosperous future for our planet.
Let’s get straight into it.
What Is a Biodegradable Bag?
The term “biodegradable” refers to an object or an entity’s ability to decompose. Your friends, your parents, your pets, and all of your plants, too - they’re all biodegradable, just as you are - and although that’s a weird way of describing it, it serves its purpose.
Many of the everyday items we use are made from non-biodegradable materials. That means that they don’t decompose as expected. The chemical materials that go into their creation give them an uncanny ability to stand the test of time, though unfortunately, that isn’t exactly a benefit.
To make matters worse, when non-biodegradable objects finally do manage to decay, most likely after dozens or even hundreds of years, then all of the toxic materials within them will seep into the ground.
In the end, single-use plastics harm the environment so much that using them just isn’t worth it.
Biodegradable materials, on the other hand, are typically made from organic plant matter. That means they are supposed to decay at roughly about the same rate as food waste, even though that’s not always the case.
Interestingly enough, biodegradable material is perfect for making compost. Your typical composting process would involve throwing plant matter and food waste into a bin and mashing it together, though gathering the necessary ingredients is tedious and unwieldy.
A solution to that problem, for example, would be compostable bags, which are able to decay in the compost mix. So you can essentially gather a whole lot of dead leaves in the bag and then throw it into the slush without having to take them out, which makes gathering much easier and more convenient.
The Perfect Compost Bags
Your typical garden bag is made from plastic. Most people take a black garbage bag to gather up their leaves and then dump them wherever they need to. Some, unfortunately, might even burn it together with the leaves, if that’s what they’re planning, which is another topic altogether.
Instead of having to take out your leaves, a compostable, organic bag is made from the same material as what it’s supposed to store. Despite looking and feeling like plastic - or even being a form of plastic, which thankfully is perfectly eco-friendly - compostable bags break down at the same rate as Autumn leaves.
That’s only one of the many benefits of compostable, biodegradable bags. Here are a couple more!
1. Making Compost
Unsurprisingly, making compost is the main benefit of biodegradable leaf bags. Although the process might seem complicated, it’s very simple once you understand the basics. Making compost, however, is not the quickest process, so you’ll have to be patient.
Gather Your Mix
Only putting dead leaves in your leaf bag isn’t going to create any compost. That is because composting happens because of a chemical process in which microorganisms from the soil start eating the carbon-containing waste and breaking it down. In short, the process of decay.
Therefore, your leaf bag must contain green grass as well. Without it, your leaves are not going to break down. You can also use a lawnmower to either gather a few grass clippings. Another way of using a mower is to mow the leaves together with the grass and then remove the mix for insertion into the leaf bag.
The rule of thumb that experienced compost makers give regarding the mix is that the ratio should be about two-thirds leaves and one-third grass. Fill the bags to the top, but not too tightly or compactedly, and then pour roughly a gallon of water inside.
If your compost mix is too wet, then you might want to balance it out with more “brown” items such as dead leaves or wood shavings, as they will dry it out. On the other hand, if it looks especially dry, then you’re probably going to want to add more water.
The consistency of the compost mix is frequently described as being supposed to be like a damp sponge.
Mix Your Compost
When it’s growing season, you should oxygenate your compost by turning it over. Since you’re using a leaf bag, you can simply flip it upside-down a couple of times per month and then forget about it. You can touch the pile and see if it’s warm to confirm it’s decomposing instead of rotting, which does not produce compost.
After the compost has become totally dry and crumbly, you can add it to the garden. This process is very close to what is essentially giving feeding a pet or a family member since even your garden has a preference for certain types of food.
2. Reducing Carbon Footprint
Each and every produced plastic bag adds to the chemicals we pump into the atmosphere. In a hundred years from now, the air will become so clogged with contaminants that we’re going to start having serious breathing problems, if not much sooner than that.
Therefore, one of the best ways of ensuring a good future for our species is by doing our best to reduce our carbon footprint. Although we’re still working hard on finding ways to reduce or eliminate pollution, we’re very far away from being to purify the atmosphere in any tangible manner.
Several states across the US have banned the use of single-use plastics, like New York, California, or Connecticut, or Delaware. If you’ve been or lived in a metropolis, you know how prevalent discarded plastic bags can get. They congest the streets for a long time before being picked up since they do not decompose.
Even when wandering plastic bags are picked up by garbage collectors, they are taken to a landfill in which they are forgotten. This is because disposing of plastics or attempting to recycle them isn’t as effective as you might be led to believe.
Take recycling plastic bags, for example. The process of recycling them is very convoluted and complicated because of various factors, one of which is the incompatibility of the materials used in their production. If three different types of plastic bags are thrown into one pile, then none of them can be recycled, as they are contaminated by one another.
The best way to avoid all of the aforementioned problems is to simply avoid buying single-use plastics. You have many organic alternatives at your disposal that are not only better in a lot of ways, but also healthier for the environment.
Landfills Must Be Covered by Law
A very surprising aspect (or not) about cheap and low-quality biodegradable bags is that they are not able to decay in a landfill in the first place. This is because landfills must be covered according to law, meaning that they do not come into contact with air or water, which is necessary for their decay.
There is an upside, however, as some landfills choose to intentionally introduce water and certain microbes and bacteria in order to encourage biodegradation. This is costly, however, which in the end, draws money out of your pocket via taxes.
Maintaining landfills is also very costly. Not only do you have to pay for the land, but you also have to pay for upkeep as well as any additional expenses that show up.
3. Convenience and Money
Besides being great for making compost, biodegradable leaf bags are also a matter of convenience. You no longer have to put in extra work and energy to rake the leaves into one pile, put them in a bag, take it all the way to the composting area, dump it out, bend over and up for the hundredth time, and do it all over again.
Imagine doing that when it’s cold and chilly outside as well. A compostable leaf bag helps cut out so much of the process, especially if you make compost in very large quantities. In that case, then bulk-purchased biodegradable leaf bags would make mass-producing compost a breeze.
You could also save money buying bulk compost bags since they’re always at a better price when purchased in large quantities. Believe it or not, while the difference might seem small at first, it will snowball in the end, allowing you to purchase more and more compostable bags and thus produce more compost.
Even if you don’t have compost making in mind, then biodegradable bags are still convenient due to being much easier to dispose of. While the very thought of gathering dead leaves in a bag and throwing it straight into the middle of a nearby copse of trees sounds like a cardinal sin, the surprising reality is that it doesn’t harm the environment.
You should still not do that, however. There are many composting facilities located across the US that can take your bags and directly turn them into food for nature. That is always the option you should pick if you have any say in the matter.
4. Less Energy Expenditure
A tremendous amount of resources and energy goes into the making of plastic bags. The most powerful and common form of energy production is through fossil fuels, which is a resource that the Earth has managed to create over millions of years.
Sadly, our planetary resources of fossil fuels are going to run out much sooner than we think. This is going to have a catastrophic impact on the world as we know it since our society is not able to function without fossil fuels. As a result, we are going to have a major energy crisis, in which blackouts are going to become more common than at present.
Another method of helping preserve our planet’s future is by eschewing single-use plastic bags, which means that less of them will be produced, and thus fewer resources will be used in the process.
To capitalize on how badly plastics consume our fossil fuels, they are mostly made from petroleum, which is a fossil fuel in itself. That means that we refine fossil fuels into plastics by burning fossil fuels.
Sustain the Earth, Be Environmentally Conscious
Given how much pollution we pump into the atmosphere on a daily basis, it might seem amusing to believe we’re making a difference by switching to organic bag materials. The truth is that we do make a difference, and although it’s not large, it’s visible enough to be felt.
Not now, but within the next dozen years. Until then, let’s hope we’ll all become so environmentally conscious it won’t ever get to a point where Earth will buckle from all the pollution!