How to…line your rubbish bin without a plastic bag

The City of Fremantle (just down the road from me here in Perth) is becoming the first city in Western Australia to ban plastic bags. The ban comes into force on 21st August when retailers will be banned from providing single-use non-biodegradable plastic bags to shoppers. As an alternative retailers can offer compostable bags, paper bags or sturdy reusable bags, and will need to charge a minimum of 10c per bag to the customer.

The ban is great news. The main reduction will be in the supermarket-style carrier bags. Clean Up Australia estimates Australians use nearly 4 billion of these plastic bags per year, using each for only a few minutes. When you think that plastic is made from non-renewable fossil fuels, it seems pretty crazy to be using such a valuable resource to make something that’s only going to be used for such a short amount of time, and then thrown away.

A common argument – or even justification – for using these plastic bags is, oh but I do recycle my bags, I use them to line my rubbish bin. Thing is, that’s not recycling. It’s barely even re-using. It’s still sending to landfill, just with other rubbish inside.

I have to confess, before I signed up to Plastic Free July I used to take the odd plastic bag from the shops when I needed to line my rubbish bin. I certainly wasn’t going to pay for virgin plastic to line my bin in the form of fancy bin liners. And what is the point in buying compostable corn starch liners when you’re sending them (and their contents) to landfill, where they won’t break down? Landfill sites essentially bury the waste and prevent exposure to air, moisture and light – and also the microbes that can break them down.

And then someone said to me, why don’t you line your rubbish bin with old newspaper? Such a simple and obvious solution! I really don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.

All you need is a few sheets of old newspaper. I use three sets of two sheets, and sometimes I’ll fold some additional ones to put in the base. It takes about a minute.

bin1final bin2final bin3final bin4final bin5final bin6final

When the bin is nearly full you simply roll over the tops to make a parcel and dump in your outdoor rubbish bin. The great thing is that newspaper is usually made from recycled paper so has already had a previous life (or several lives) before you send it off to landfill.

What are you waiting for?!


28 thoughts on “How to…line your rubbish bin without a plastic bag

  1. BigE

    I’m really happy to hear that councils are taking this issue seriously. I guess we can’t rely on either one of our retailers taking the lead. Love the idea of using newspapers – very smart.

    1. Adrian M

      This is not a new idea. I can remember my parents doing just this same thing, prior to the big supermarkets introducing single use plastic bags, some forty-five years ago. Contrary to what the supermarkets say, we did not ask them to provide plastic bags for our convenience. They used to provide brown paper bags for all grocery items.

      1. Deanna Cooper

        My folks lined the waste baskets with paper bags and buried compostable stuff in the garden

  2. plastsicko

    Hi there you champion! What a great idea (thanks) and I’ll be following your blog with great interest. I am very impressed by all your recipes and how-tos. Thanks so much for doing what you’re doing, so that I can sit back and steal. Big love to you xx

  3. withlovefromfx

    SO VERY HAPPY to have stumbled across this blog – thanks to Activist Abby’s share on facebook. Thank you so much for sharing this knowledge you have just made my life better!!! (oh yeah, and helped the planet of course!)

      1. Judy Blyth

        …And I’ll be another! For many years I’ve been using sliced bread bags for household landfill waste, filling about half of one each week, My “excuse” had been that I buy sliced bread anyway so might as well use leftover bag. I’d been punching a few small holes in each bag to allow entry of bacteria to deal with anything biodegradable in there – but looks like landfill waste is buried too deep for that measure to be effective. I’ll try to buy unsliced bread loaves from here on and use newspaper to wrap our weekly unrecyclable rubbish. Thank you! Judy

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    1. treadingmyownpath Post author

      We don’t buy newspapers but get a couple of local free ones delivered which we read and then use. You could ask your neighbours (if you have neighbours)? Or cafes often have free newspapers so you could ask them for their old ones and keep a stash?

  5. Hoarder Comes Clean

    Very interesting — how do you take it out for collection? Though I only have a small amount, still, the waste disposal service requires it to be in a “garbage bag”. Any pointers on that? Thx, Sandy

    1. treadingmyownpath Post author

      We have big plastic wheelie bins outside, so I simply take my small bin down and empty it into that. The wheelie bins hook onto the back of the truck and are emptied mechanically so no-one has to handle the rubbish. But if you’re specifically required to put it into a bag then I’m not sure – I’m assuming it’s because the collectors are loading the truck by hand? What about using old cardboard boxes, if you have any? They’re quite sturdy, but I guess you’d have to ring the collectors to check. There’s not much point using those compostable bags as they won’t compost in landfill anyway. The other option could be becoming a zero-waste home! Now there’s a challenge! : )

  6. Stacey

    Wow, I’m a bit ashamed to say I hadn’t thought of this – but it sounds easy! I shall try it out! Thanks for posting.

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  8. Marie

    What a fantastic idea! I’ve been using the compostable bags for quite a while and I thought all this time I was doing the right thing as I thought they would break down, unlike regular plastic bags. I naively didn’t realise that this is not the case when they’re sent to landfill. So, I’m excited by this idea and willing to give it a go. Will just need to buy the right shape bin!

    1. treadingmyownpath Post author

      Those compostable bags are so tricksy! They seem like they are such a magical solution (I used to think that too), but alas – they are too good to be true. When you think about it, using virgin materials to make a product that it destined for landfill almost immediately is quite ridiculous! Good luck with this!

  9. Chamali

    Hi, thanks for “normalising” not using plastic bags to collect rubbish. For people who want to go that one step further, why line the bin at all? I challenged a friend about using plastic bags in the bin and asked why he did it. He said it was habit. Now he just chucks all his rubbish in the bin and empties it out. If there’re any “ickies” he gives it a quick rinse and the bin is good to go again.

    1. treadingmyownpath Post author

      I live in a flat, and I have nowhere to compost my food waste. I have two worm farms but the worms just don’t eat enough! When I have a garden and can compost my food scraps I won’t be lining my bin. In fact, I hope to have no (landfill waste) bin at all! There’s a challenge : )

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  11. romane

    Great idea indeed!
    But not so easy when you have no paper around – I don’t read them and none at the local coffee shop. We don’t produce much garbage – about one/two small bags a week.
    But still, I wonder how else it might be done? I am really interested in any other alternatives (maybe the no bag, straight into the big bin is best?) because I am writing a page on decreasing our plastic consumption for my website (
    I’ll keep coming here to check!
    Thanks for all the great tips!

    1. treadingmyownpath Post author

      I would say just use the bin liner-free and rinse it as needed. A smaller bin would be better so it didn’t get too gross before it was emptied. If you compost your food waste (which we can’t, but we give a fair amount to the worms) then it shouldn’t make much difference if it’s not lined.

      Good luck with decreasing your plastic consumption!

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