Everyday, we dispose of our trash using plastic bags. This prevents the trash (especially liquids) from leaking out and contaminating our garbage disposal systems. Obviously, things such as paper bags can't be used for liquids, and cloth bags may smell. So is there still a way to dispose trash without using plastic bags?

I live in Singapore and most of the people here live in high rise apartments. Usually, we throw our trash (using plastic bags) into a central refuse chute in the building. The trash is then loaded on to a truck to be sent to an incineration plant.

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    I assume it's not ok to just throw the trash into the chute without the plastic bag? I.e. in the apprtment keep it in a plastci bag which you reuse then empyt the bag in the chute?
    – stijn
    Jan 8, 2020 at 11:05
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    Well then either you need to eliminate the cute and throw the trash right into the big bin (the least waste option), or you need a bag which is not plastic so you'll be looking into compostable 'plastics' which are not actually plastic but usually some kind of polymer made from e.g. corn.
    – stijn
    Jan 8, 2020 at 12:51
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    @stijn The first option is not viable since you can't really access the "big bin", the only way is through the central refuse chute.. but I guess the second option could be viable. Jan 8, 2020 at 13:19
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    @LShaver yes I'm aware, but it's been a while since I looked into the compostable bags etc and I don't have the time now to lookup the facts and don't want to write a partial answer without enough correct information. There's more btw. 4: only the liquid is a problem, rest can be trashed without bags. So, start dividing dry/wet. 5: I assume the liquid is mostly about food, and so if that is from vegetables only, a small home composter will turn it into fairly dry compost which could then be trashed without bag (or put to use).
    – stijn
    Jan 8, 2020 at 15:20
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    Does this answer your question? Alternatives to garbage plastic bags Jan 26, 2020 at 23:13

2 Answers 2


Don't throw out water!

Firstoff, you really need to not throw out liquids. Liquids should go down the sink, (unless they are non-water non-biological). Water based liquids are very heavy and add a lot of mass to the waste stream.

Water based liquids are particularly bad news when incinerating. Most trash will burn exothermically, meaning the incinerator only has to use fossil fuels to start the trash stream burning; once lit, the incinerator is sustained by the burning of the trash itself. Water is a different deal. Water does not burn, and every kilogram (pound) of water requires 349,000 joules (150 BTU) to warm it to boiling, and 2,260,000 joules (970 BTU) to boil it away, so that means they have to use a stupid amount of fossil fuel simply to boil away the water.

(the units in parentheses are the imperial version of that data; I am not saying 1kg=1lb nor 349kj=150 BTU).

It's worse. Water is a thermal moderator, i.e. it tends to absorb huge amounts of thermal energy while cooling things to 100C (212F) or below. So this is also cooling down the incinerator, and a cold-running incinerator runs dirty with incomplete combustion and throws a lot of HCs and particulates into the air. So to stay within EPA limits, the incinerator must crank up the burners, expending even more fossil fuel.

So if you have proper hygiene about your trash (throwing away basically dry stuff, using the sink drain for the wet), that removes the issue with paper bags.

Or have plastic bags just for the wet trash, and paper for all the dry.

Or consider non-fossil-fuel bags

Plastic is made from oil. Most plastics are made from petroleum (The Shah of Iran, very impressed with plastics manufacture, was astonished that we burned such a useful feedstock). Some bags are made out of organic oils, which works too. This "closes the carbon cycle", because you aren't digging up ancient carbon and adding it to the atmosphere, you are taking crop carbon that only came out of the atmosphere this year.

  • Note that once the OP (and fellow citizens) are able to seprate out compostable waste, the amount of water in the incinerated fraction goes down dramatically. (Initially, here in the Netherlands, incinerators plants had trouble with the cladding of the ovens because the combustion temperatures went up once the compostable fraction was taken out).
    – user2451
    Jan 27, 2020 at 8:21
  • Good advice about the liquids, but make sure oils/fats are NOT flushed down the drain. Remember the London fat berg?
    – user2451
    Jan 27, 2020 at 8:24

(I started to write a comment, but it is getting too long).

Sorry to say, but this question is not very relevant. Your trash seems to be an unsorted collection of different materials. That's why it is sent to an incinerator.

What type of bag you use has only a little environmental impact on the production side, and hardly any on the disposal side.

Reduce, reuse, recycle is the order of efficiency.

The best contribution you can make is keeping that mantra in mind:

  • Limit the amount of waste you dispose of.
  • That translates to: limit what you buy (don't forget second hand).
  • If you can separate out some waste streams for recycling* that would be nice as well.
  • If you want to take this broader, start campaigning with your city for separating waste streams.

Once you no longer know how to reduce your footprint in those areas, you can spend time on thinking about bag types.

* In a broad sense, i.e. think about repairing and selling second hand.

  • With a recycle bin (even if you don't "recycle"), +1. The chute empties into a dumpster; I'm pretty sure no one will care that your dry waste is not bagged.
    – Mazura
    Feb 7, 2020 at 11:16
  • @Mazura Useful advice, the OP can just empty a wastebasket into the chute. Why not make that an additional answer?
    – user2451
    Feb 7, 2020 at 14:50

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