Reusable bin liners: Right for your rubbish?

We trialled 6 reusable bin liners to see if they're a suitable replacement for plastic bags.

reusable bin liners

Wondering what you’ll line your bin with once the plastic bag ban hits? Reusable bin liners are one option (perhaps not for the faint-hearted).

Since the Government announced the single-use plastic bag ban effective July this year, there’s been plenty of chatter about what to line your bins with when the bags are no more.

Many people were loath to buy bin liners, as that seemed contrary to the ban’s aspirations. Newspaper wasn’t an option for everyone (besides, paper may be better off heading to the recycle plant). Nor was a “naked” bin. There had to be another green solution out there.

My curiosity led me to reusable bin liners: a product that will “reduce [your] dependence on oil” and result in “totally less waste in your household”, according to one stockist.

These liners are made from waterproof plastic material, with elastic loops to hold them in place. Once full, you transfer the rubbish into your wheelie bin or council-issued rubbish bag (more on this later), wash the liner, and then re-use it. They’re not a completely new concept – similar products have been marketed as washable nappy pail liners for years.

If you decide to go reusable, prices are a mixed bag. My search found two brands of liner on the AliExpress website for under $11 (AnAnBaby and Sigzagor), which included free delivery. At $62, the US-made Thirsties liner was nearly six times as much – and two to three times as much as those made by Teamoy ($17) or Planet Wise ($25).

Our trial

I assembled a team of seven Consumer NZ staffers – two enthusiastic greenies eager to try the liners (including one keen composter), two sceptics, and the remaining three somewhere in between.

Five triallists with large kitchen bins received two different types of liner, a container of washing-up liquid and a sponge. The Planet Wise product was the only one suitable for smaller kitchen bins, so two staffers each received one (plus the cleaning gear).

While I was at it, I gave two participants a product promising to replace not only the liner, but the bin itself. A Kiwi charity, Common Unity Project, sold bins “upcycled” from waterproof billboard banner material for $25.

My colleagues reported back after using each product for three weeks, and cleaning it at least once.

The verdict

If you already separate out your food waste – whether into a council green waste bin or a compost heap – these bags will probably meet your needs well.

Of the seven Consumer staffers, five were won over by the liners, saying they’d use one or both products in future.

All seven found it unpleasant transferring the rubbish out of the liner: “it’s not nice to have to touch this stuff after it’s been in the bin for several days.” So why were some converted and others not?

Both triallists with wheelie bins – and our two sceptics – said the reusable liners weren’t for them.

One reported: “It gave me two jobs I never had before – washing a dank bag and I think the wheelie bin would need to be cleaned out several times a year”.

If you already separate out your food waste – whether into a council green waste bin or a compost heap – these bags will probably meet your needs well. Our composting family reported “no issues with liquid/rubbish goop because that was dealt with elsewhere”.

One non-composter found rubber gloves made the job of transferring the contents to his council rubbish bag far more palatable.

Price made little difference – the costly Thirsties ($62) liner won the approval of both staffers, but so did the Sigzagor ($11) product. All participants said you’d need at least two liners, as washing and drying takes some time – so remember to factor this in.

The banner bin was the only product that failed to convince either triallist. One user said hers leaked at the seams. The second said the concept was “best suited for a study or bathroom rather than the kitchen”.

It’s a pity, as the bins were locally made from repurposed materials, with the lowest environmental footprint of the six products. All others were brand-new and imported.

Product results

AnAnBaby liner

Price: $8.08 from AliExpress website
Suitable for: Larger bins
Seam: Inside liner, unsealed
Triallist B: “Perfectly good alternative to a plastic liner – but wondered how long it would last. The plastic inner surfacing was already scraping away.”
Triallist D: “An absorbent and waterproof base would be useful so the liner doesn’t leak.”
Would use again: B

Common Unity Project “banner bin”

Price: $25.00 from Common Unity Project website
Suitable for: Functions as whole bin
Seam: Inside container, unsealed
Triallist E: “The seams are a major issue. I imagine it would get really unhygienic if used as a kitchen bin.”
Triallist G: “It’s only really suitable for dry rubbish.”
Would use again: Neither

Planet Wise liner

Price: $24.90 from EcoWarehouse website
Suitable for: Smaller bins
Seam: Outside liner, unsealed
Triallist C: “They’re well designed. I’d consider it depending on the willingness of family members to pitch in with rubbish duties.”
Triallist F: “The seams are on the outside, which initially confused me. It took a lot of washing and a lot of water to rid it of the smell.”
Would use again: C

Sigzagor liner

Price: $10.99 from AliExpress website
Suitable for: Larger bins
Seam: Inside liner, unsealed
Triallist A: “I think the minor grievances might be worth it. I would definitely prefer a smaller bag though.”
Triallist D: “There was no leakage or food waste. The liner is lighter in colour, so it’s easier to see where scrubbing might be needed.”
Would use again: A, D

Teamoy liner

Price: $16.85 from Amazon website
Suitable for: Larger bins
Seam: Inside liner, unsealed
Triallist B: “The elastic was good for securing the liner to the bin, but meant I had to manually pull some rubbish out rather than just tipping. It was easy to use and wash.”
Triallist G: “It was way too big for our household. My partner hated it.”
Would use again: B

Thirsties liner

Price: $61.95 from Fishpond website
Suitable for: Larger bins
Seam: Inside liner, sealed
Triallist A: “There were no issues apart from the sizing. Transferring the rubbish might become a problem when the liner gets close to capacity.”
Triallist E: “The bag was very large, which made it quite a job to clean. But the sealed seams are a good feature.”
Would use again: A, E

GUIDE SEAM describes the side and/or bottom seams on the liner or bin. Triallists A, B, C, D and E use council rubbish bags. Triallists F and G use wheelie bins. WOULD USE AGAIN shows the participants who said they would consider using one in future for their kitchen bin.

Overall comments

“It’s a real commitment. It was a bit of a hard sell in my house, but can see it working somewhere that fills up their bin everyday with dry rubbish.”

“Now that I know reusable bags are an option, I think I’ll start feeling guilty whenever I use plastic liners.”

“The cleaning isn’t so bad. It makes you consider the waste you produce and what you’re putting into the liner. I think people need to be more aware of this in general.”

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