The Cheap Garbage Bag Dilemma

garbage day in toronto.  Photo by striatic.The things that stick in your head after reading a book are often interesting. For example, just yesterday I posted a detailed review of Miserly Moms that outlined a ton of useful tips for cutting domestic spending.

Yet, the thing that stuck in my head for days after reading the book was an offhand comment she made about buying garbage bags. She pointed out that these were an item that one could easily switch to generic, since the low-cost garbage bags are a great way to save money.

My response to that? Not in my world, it isn’t.

We bought low-end garbage bags once. Of the first nine bags we used, two of them ripped and dumped their contents all over our kitchen floor on the way to the trash can. Each mess took at least ten minutes to clean up – one mess was almost entirely dry stuff, so it was fairly easy, but the other mess involved some sticky items, including a glass bottle that cracked and leaked some maple syrup on the floor.

The time lost cleaning up these messes almost immediately ate up the “value” we got in buying the low-end brand versus the price we would pay buying better bags in bulk.

Since then, we’ve stuck to the brand we trust – Glad Forceflex tall kitchen bags – which have won garbage bag comparisons in both Real Simple and Consumer Reports. We can get these bags in bulk for about eighteen cents a bag, compared to roughly fifteen cents a bag for generic. Given that we have, in three years, only had one breakage of our preferred kind of bag, we’ll stick to our preferred brand, thank you.

Whenever I make a comment along these lines, people almost always suggest not filling the bags as much. “If you only filled the generics 80% full, then you wouldn’t have the breakage!” Well, let’s look at that scenario. If I have five 13 gallon bags and I fill each of them 80% full, I’ve got 52 gallons of trash. On the other hand, if I have four 13 gallon bags and I fill each of them to the brim, I have the same amount of trash – 52 gallons.

So, I can either use five generic bags (which cost fifteen cents a pop), empty the trash 25% more often, put more plastic into the environment, and spend a total of 75 cents, or I can use four of our preferred bags (which cost eighteen cents a pop), put less plastic into the environment, and only spend 72 cents.

In the end, though, the take-home message has nothing to do with grocery bags. Instead, it has to do with finding your own maximum value. For us, the best value in garbage bags doesn’t come from buying the generic bags – in fact, with most of our household supplies, we’ve found that simply sticking with the Consumer Reports Best Buy provides us with an item that’s not much more expensive than the low end option (and sometimes cheaper if we can find a coupon) and doesn’t have usability problems like not getting the dishes in the dishwasher clean or dumping garbage all over our kitchen floor.

For us, a product that does its job well without such crises has a greater tangible value than one that tends to fail on occasion. We’re willing to pay a little more for easier use and fewer failures because of the time factor – cleaning garbage off the floor because we bought the cheap bags is time that we don’t get to spend with our kids.

Even better, when we start evaluating the situation as a whole, incorporating some of the costs incurred by poorly-working products (like the bad dishwashing detergent, which causes us to run another load of the same dishes, eating up water and another batch of detergent), we often find that the “cheap” item actually ends up being the expensive one.

Our perspective? Find the best price you can on quality items that actually do their job well. Over the long haul, the convenience of items that actually work all the time will add up to enough to make the difference between the prices, even if you don’t see that factor directly in play.

If you think I’m giving the generics a bad rap, let me make it clear: by all means, try the low-end items. Find out for yourself if they really add up to the total value that you want.

For us, it’s rarely worth it.

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  1. melissa says:

    We get the cheap bags at Costco, and then if the garbage gets full enough that we worry (we _are_ pretty good at stacking garbage higher than the can walls), we take the whole garbage can outside, tie off the drawstring, and dump it into the curbside can. The garbage goes in, and teh bag stays intact as long as it’s on our property. The bag may break when the garbage truck picks it up, but since they dump the whole can over the top of the truck, it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

  2. david says:

    I find that store-brand ones work well, at least in the “tall kitchen” size. Stop N Shop brand. Obvs if you buy way-off-brand ones from Ecuador at the dollar store your mileage may vary.

  3. Michelle says:

    Trent, I’m surprised you haven’t followed your own advice with this one. Start with the cheapest and work your way up. Maybe the cheapest ones don’t work well, but the next step up may work well and be cheaper than the forceflex bags.

  4. Amy says:

    And adding another wrinkle…. we don’t buy based on cost, we buy based on environmental factors. But the principle is still the same: we buy environmentally friendlier alternatives IF we can get the same results from them as the usual commercial brands.

    As it happens, we do great with 365 (Whole Foods brand) kitchen garbage bags — no significant breakage. There was another “environmental” brand we tried once with not-so-great results.

    Since we don’t have kids, I think people are often surprised that we’re trying to make purchasing decisions we hope will benefit the world quite a few years down the line. But we all work out our own priorities.

  5. tambo says:

    I like Glad or Hefty drawstring bags. I’m currently not willing to pay the extra for force-flex, but when our daughter was little and our lifestyle was different, I would have LOVED them. Plain but name brand bags work great for us empty nesters, but you’re right, the ‘cheap’ bags don’t hold up in the kitchen. They’d work all right in the bathroom, but we re-use plastic grocery bags for that.

  6. Anna says:

    I “recycle” grocery bags for trashcans in everything except the 1 large trash can we have. This means there is a trash can in 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms & under the kitchen sink that I have never bought bags for! It keeps the trash from getting “stinky” because it is taken out often and I’m saving money! Otherwise we have 1 large (18 gallon trash can) that I’ve just used generic target brand trashbags for and never had a problem. I bought the largest package they sold and cannot even recall what the cost per bag because I’ve had the same 300 trash bag container for at least 2 years.

  7. Rae says:

    I’m constantly amazed by families in my area that buy garbage bags to start with. Our residential pickup requires all trash to be in specially purchased bags from the city, yet I see and know of many families that continue to first use normal bags, and then put the already bagged trash into the city “blue bags.”

    Not only are they doubling their bad environmental impact, but they are wasting money as well.

    Personally, we just keep our blue bag in the back room with a few trash bins around the house lined with grocery store bags. When one fills up, we toss it in the blue bag. It may not be the most environmentally-friendly process, but it’s cheap and cuts down on the grocery bag buildup while saving us from having a 30-gal bag in our kitchen (although you can buy 15-gal ones as well…)

  8. carmen says:

    If you use a food compost and recycle paper, cardboard, plastic, tins & glass then garbage bag usage is so light (1/week?) that it doesn’t make much financial difference which brand you use. Trent, I’m sure I’ve read that you do all/most of these things, although I did notice your comment about a broken glass syrup bottle so maybe I’m wrong.

    Thus you could “afford” to splash out on high end bags. Alternatively the trash will be so light that the lowest price brand will suffice and not split.

  9. Steve says:

    There’s got to be something in between the absolute cheapest option and the brand name product, which is “just enough” quality. I also smell some fuzzy math/data – the brand name is only 20% more than the cheapest?

    Another idea: use grocery bags you probably get for free. Ever since our city started accepting household garbage in the compost bin, we’ve cut down our trash by more than 50%. With two of us that means we produce little enough trash that we can fit it in a standard plastic grocery bag. We do use reusable bags when we shop, but we stockpiled quite a few disposable bags beforehand. Of course, it also helps that there’s only two of us.

  10. Jesse says:

    “but the other mess involved some sticky items, including a glass bottle that cracked and leaked some maple syrup on the floor.”

    It is funny what sticks in your head after reading something… Why wasn’t ths glass in the recycling?

    As Carmen said, if you compost food scraps and recycle plastic/glass/tin — you shouldn’t have much to toss out. Further, if you only purchase items that come in recyclable packing, you can significantly decrease the amount of garbage you need to dispose of.

  11. sarah p. says:

    I love the point of this post – we all have something that we are willing to pay a little bit more for because of the quality and value it provides to us.

    This varies between families, but I’m pretty sure we all have at least one thing we’re willing to spend a little more one.

    PS – We use Costco brand trash bags, but I’ll only buy Kraft brand mac n cheese.

  12. Molly says:

    Oh man – we recently tried the cheapo dishwasher detergent. After multiple runs in which our dishes didn’t get clean, it finally dawned on us that it’s the detergent, and we need to go up a bit to try and find a happy medium. As far as garbage bags go, though, we reuse plastic grocery bags – it forces us to empty the trash every day, and it fits better down our apartment building chute.

  13. torrilin says:

    Hrm. I find that it isn’t so much that “all cheap bags are bad”… it’s that cheap bags have an exceedingly high variance. As a teenager, my parents largely bought trash bags at Sam’s Club, and we’d select based on bag thickness and number of bags per package. A middling thickness in a giant package would work out to be very cost effective. No breakage unless the items inside were ones where tearing is entirely reasonable (broken sticks of wood, plastic scrap and the like).

    The current package of trash bags is cheapies from Glad. They’re the least fancy ones, but they work fine, and were cheapest per unit and the largest package available when I picked them up. The box before that was a slightly smaller package (60 vs 80 iirc) but it was a generic. Bad plan. It didn’t work well and was an annoyance for most of a year. The previous box of generics (different manufacturer) was fine… and much larger.

    Since even a 150 or 300 bag package of trash bags is quite small, I prefer to buy as large a package as I can manage. We don’t have a whole lot of trash (around 1 13 gallon trash bag per week), so I find it’s really annoying to have to buy trash bags often. Using plastic grocery store bags is ineffective since if I’m on the ball, we end up with perhaps one a month.

    I’m quite pleased with the 7th Generation dish detergent. It works about as well as Dawn, does not cost more, and is less likely to result in a visit to poison control… I don’t have kids, but it seems sensible to cut down on the odds of a child or pet having a chance to kill themselves with cleaning products. I have a few too many vivid memories of time spent in the ER waiting to find out whether or not my brother was getting his stomach pumped. Between us, he and I managed to hold our sister to one attempt at poisoning herself!

  14. deb says:

    I absolutely love the Costco Kirkland kitchen garbage bags. I don’t even know how much they are, and I only need to buy them once or twice a year. They just work perfectly for us. We recycle/compost a lot too and usually have only 1 or maybe 2 bags to throw out.

    Dish soap – again, Kirkland environmentally friendly liquid dish soap. It smells great and works very well. For the dishwasher I go name brand (I think it’s our hard water) with either Electrasol Tabs (got a bunch really cheap) or Cascade Powder.

  15. Bryce says:

    Forget the brand name stuff like Hefty, or Glad, or their catchier names like force-flex. Find an Industrial Supply Outlet. I get 100 40 gallon contractor’s bags for $25. I also use a 33 gallon can as my primary trash can. If you are using a grocery store bag at .18 each and they are 13 gallons, you’re getting less than 1/3 of the volume for .07 less. You can get an even heavier bag that will hold more at a better price than this brand name crap. If I wanted to go under 40 gallons, the price goes down. You can choose clear or black. My rule of thumb is to find companies that don’t advertise. And that rules out Hefty and Glad.

  16. Maria says:

    Lately, I have been surprised at the need for garbage bags. If you recycle your bottles, paper and cardboard and you compost, your trash tends to be very little. In my opinion, plastic garbage bags are wasteful and environmentaly unfriendly. Think of all that plastic you are purchasing and throwing out. To everyone their own, but I would suggest (for the greater good of our planet and maybe your wallet) recycle the bags you get at the grocery store, from shopping, Christmas gifts, etc. There’s plenty to be re-used.

  17. Dave says:

    How much trash do you guys make, we, 2-adults, 1-17 yearold, go through 1 13 gallon bag a week, some times less. We are not hard core recyclers.
    I agree with Trent on this one, I take things 1 step more, I have to take the trash from the house to the transfer station in the back of my car, I go once a month, I do not!!! want a broken bag in my car.

  18. George says:

    Say you use 2 kitchen garbage bags a week… 3 cents saving per bag ends up being 3.12. Gosh, that’s less than a half hour of minimum wage work here in Oregon!

  19. Nick says:

    Why buy plastic bags at all? My wife and I recycle and compost, which leaves very little left for the garbage. We use the paper bags we get from grocery stores as trash bags. Each bag lasts about two/three weeks before we toss it. Seems like an unnecessary expense.

  20. Kristi says:

    As others have mentioned, I’m a huge fan of costco’s Kirkland brand kitchen bags. I live in a household of two adults + a cat, so our trash generation is small. We’re avid recyclers, and make an effort to purchase products w/ less packaging, further reducing trash needs. The 2-roll pack of costco bags usually lasts us 2-3 years. (kitchen trash goes out when stinky, and is almost never full – usually every 2 weeks or so).
    It’s interesting hearing about everyone’s approaches to trash/recycling/waste.
    Reminds me of that book, Rubbish!: The Archaeology of Garbage (Rathje).

  21. Alex says:

    My girlfriend likes to use this logic when discussing jewelry, but I haven’t fallen for it. Seems much more applicable with plastic bags.

  22. Deb says:

    We use clear plastic bags that our dry cleaning comes back in and have never had a problem. I tie a knot in the bottom to create more strength. One could argue that we should not send things to the dry cleaners if we don’t have to. Working in professional jobs has unfortunately, required us to have some things cleaned. So, we might as well benefit from the plastic bags!

  23. Anianna says:

    We’ve tried all sorts of different store and name brand trash bags and we ended up with the Glad Forceflex bags, too. We buy a lot of store brand items, but trash bags is one thing I will no longer compromise on.

    When we were using other bags, I often found we had to double-bag because the first bag was tearing or leaking. If the bags weren’t at least half the price of the better bags, the need to double-bag automatically made the off-brand more expensive per trash load than the Glad bags.

    I love this article, Trent. I think a lot of people think living frugally means giving up value, but it doesn’t. Go cheap where it makes sense, but if the cheap version isn’t going to work for you, there is no value in it. I had a step-mother who would buy off-branded items that nobody in the house liked. She thought she was saving money, but in reality, she was wasting it because we were always throwing stuff away unused or uneaten.

    Being frugal is all about finding the best value for you and your family. The cheapest isn’t always the best value. But, hey, you just said that!

  24. Jen says:

    I feel this way about freezer bags and dental floss. I find that most generic food items tend to be a good value, though.

  25. Katie says:

    Ha ha ha ha ha I love that the picture you used is of TO garbage bags, as they are on a garbage strike right now :o)

  26. Ame says:

    My concern over garbage bags is for all those people who now use grocery bags to dispose of their trash, what alternatives will there be when your grocer no longer has plastic bags?
    Someone needs to a produce biodegradable solutions at a fair price.
    Many grocers & retailers were using bags that would break down quickly.
    Where ever you get your bags, try to use fewer & read labels for mention of anything to suggest it’s “landfill friendly”.

  27. Isha says:

    Hi,

    Great post, as usual, on a subject I think about too. Trash is disgusting! No-one wants it all over their floor! Since I want my kitchen trash bag to be completely full so as not to waste the plastic, it usually is changed only once a week. By then, the stuff at the bottom is not pleasant. As such, I also use name brand bags and find that since I’m a serious couponer (combine coupons with sales), I often pay less than the generic costs anyway. I’ve recently been happy with a brand from Home Depot and also think the Target brand is a good inbetweener. Though I recycle a lot, there’s always exceptions–like perhaps that maple syrup bottle, or in my case, peanut butter containers often go in the trash instead of the recycle, because they are so messy.

  28. almost there says:

    I find the prices you pay way high. I am a member of Sam’s Club for dog food, tires, and garbage bags and not much else. Savings more than pays the 40 bucks per year in membership fees. I buy the member’s mark at Sams Club, ($8.36/150 ct or 5.6 cents per bag). The Glad Force Flex tall 13 gal bags there are $11.88/120 ct or 9.9 cents per bag. Their 33 gal bags are the least expensive I have found also.

  29. Lisa says:

    I’ve read one really good use for the super cheap trash bags: diaper pail liners. They can be used in a Diaper Champ (same deal as the Diaper Genie but non-proprietary–yay1), or you can use them in a regular old trash can.

    I love Costco’s trash bags too.

  30. Kate says:

    If you compost your food waste and recycle everything, I think you’ll find that any trash bag (even a cheap one) will do the job. My trash is super light – made up of bits of plastic that cannot be recycled. And I use just one bag every 3 weeks.

  31. Sarah says:

    We recycle in my household, but I wouldn’t recycle a glass syrup bottle, either. The effort required to get it clean before recycling would undo me.

  32. Tabitha says:

    I agree with this although if you look again you will be able to find the force flex in a non-brand these days. I guess their patent ran out and they are much cheaper as a non-brand. I’ve had my share of mishaps with garbage bags that has driven me to pay a premium for the name but these new non-brand force-flex work just like glad or hefty. Plus I find that 60-70% of store bags have a small tear that leads to leakage no matter what.

  33. lurker carl says:

    I’d be looking into why so much household garbage is produced each week instead of which brand garbage bag to buy. Lots of garbage usually equals lots of consumptive purchases instead living frugally off home cooked meals prepared from staple ingredients.

  34. This may be tangential, but I’ll tell you about my garbage bag dilemma: I think that garbage bags should be made from recycled plastic. Period. Something that is designed explicitly to be thrown away should not be made from “first generation” material, in my mind. However, they never have the kind I need in recycled plastic. They have recycled plastic bags, and they have bags with the drawstrings (the kind I need for my garbage can), but you can’t get both. I want to vote with my wallet for the recycled plastic, but I can’t because they’re not the kind I need.

    I really ought to take my complaint into a letter to the companies that made garbage bags, rather than complaining in blog comments, but here I am nevertheless! ;)

  35. Jamie says:

    For what it’s worth, we just use a paper bag for our trash and it works great. I was embarrassed about it when we first started doing it – it was a temporary fix when we moved to a new house – but it means we don’t pay anything for garbage bags, ever! Plus we have a good use for grocery store bags!

  36. deRuiter says:

    We recycle and compost to minimize waste. Dishes are hand washed in a plastic dish pan (from a yard sale!) so leaving the syrup bottle to soak in the dishpan after washing dishes gets it clean without effort. In nice weather the dish pan water is emptied on the flower bed just outside the kitchen door to save paying for metered water for the flowers. For trash bags in the garage and wood shop we recycle the plastic bags in which shredded cedar mulch is sold. For lining the little trash receptacles in the bedrooms and bath we recycle plastic bags from the grocery. For the kitchen I get the heavy, lined paper sacks from a local horse stable in which oats are delivered, cut off the top 6″ so the bags are the exact height I need for the cabinet which holds the trash bag, and use these wonderfully sturdy bags (designed to hold 50 pounds) a second time. The strong walls of these bags allow the bag to stand up straight with no trash receptacle needed. We haven’t bought a trash bag in years. I love getting a second use out of things which big business thinks should be bought new and used once. We buy a lot of our clothing, furniture and household items at yard sales so there isn’t nuch first use packaging. The kitchen garden cuts down on packaging too.

  37. Mel says:

    Wow – there seems to be a lot more garbage than I expect!

    Our household: 2 adults. We recycle (or reuse) all glass, plastic and most paper (we collect the recycling in thick plastic bags from clothes shops etc). We would recycle tin, but there’s no way to do that where we live (?!). We cook at home maybe 5 or 6 times a week.

    We fill possibly 2 normal supermarket shopping bags a week – and maybe 3/4 of that is food scraps (peel etc), which if we could, would be composted. Of the packet of rubbish bags I bought when we moved here nearly 2 years ago, I’ve used one – to carry a baby’s car seat in through the rain. What *does* create so much more garbage for other people?!

  38. Pat says:

    #24 seems to lead the life that I myself lead. We are a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 kids) and we generate a very small about of actual trash each month as we recycle/reuse almost everything that comes into our home and either compost or feed to our chickens any kitchen waste. I actually was pretty surprised at Trent’s comment about the maple syrup bottle being in his trash. This item definately should be recycled. You can start out now Trent and teach your children this valuable skill. Recycling takes a very, very small amount of time and after awhile you’ll notice that you are recycling more and more. People don’t even notice my little recycling spots in our home (with the exception of the paper bin w/twine which sits out in the kitchen). My kids think it is fun to go to the recycling center on Sunday after church (we also do the church recycling since we are there anyway). Recycling has saved me ALOT of money over the years too since garbage service in our area was $80 for 3 months, which I found excessive. By recycling we only generate 1 bag of actual trash which I drop off at the transfer station once a month for only $2. That’s $6 for 3 months versus the $80 for home pickup. I drive by there anyway on errand day so it’s a no brainer for me. Please give recycling a try Trent.

  39. ChrisD says:

    My parents always reuse grocery bags, getting free rubbish bags. But these are actively designed to NOT be waterproof (so children can’t suffocate). This means that you often have to clean out the bottom of the garbage bin, which is horrible. As I could recycle everything except compost I had very little rubbish, hence cost of bags was almost irrelevant and any leaks were really horrible. By buying good quality bags (but not some expensive brand), they leaked maybe three times in as many years, which meant that I almost never had to clean out a smelly slimy rubbish bin. For me that was worth any price.

  40. Jane says:

    deRuiter – Have you noticed any problems with your plants? I looked into using my water from the washing machine to water my garden and determined that over a long time that it would be harmful to the plants. I thought grey water needed to be treated. Do you use a certain detergent?

  41. Lindsay says:

    We also get all our trash bags at Costco. Great price, great quality, no issues.

  42. nffcnnr says:

    Hey Trent! Why were you throwing away maple syrup? Why didn’t you recycle or reuse the glass maple syrup container?

  43. rmummy says:

    Love that you used a picture of Toronto garbage bags for your post. The City’s outdoor workers are on strike so no garbage pick up. The garbage (which must be double bagged so cheaper bags are in order here) is piling up in outdoor skating rinks and parking lots next to public parks.

  44. nancy says:

    We are empty nesters with lots of company weekly. We just had this conversation about trash bags. We use the store plastic bags in an under sink garbage can. We recycle and compost. Protein food garbage goes down the disposal, so we usually have very dry garbage. The discussion was was there a benefit to buying the reusable bags for groceries if we still had to buy garbage bags or was it more profitable to use the free plastic grocery bags for garbage, thus eliminating the cost of the reusable bags and the store bought garbage bags. We have mandatory recycling in our town so it is picked up weekly. My husband being a tinkerer usually disassembles appliances, irons, lamps, etc. that are being discarded for the recyclable parts(aluminum, copper tubing etc.). We make a trip to the recycling center about 3-4 times a year and bring home about $18.00.
    And not to pile on but I also wondered why the syrup bottle was in the garbage.

  45. candylover says:

    A portion of this post was featured on the Consumerist website. I was so proud.

  46. t says:

    We typically buy bags from an army veterans group fundraiser. We haven’t had much trouble with them. If one does put broken glass or sharp items in, they usually wrap it with a plastic grocery bag so it doesn’t puncture the garbage bag.

    My girlfriend uses large plastic shopping bags from retail stores. They work pretty good. What is nice is her disposal provider has two 30 gallon rolling bins (trash and recycling) for everyone in her neighborhood.

  47. Mindy says:

    Argument only works if you use every trash bag all the way full all the time. If you ever use a trash bag partially (say.. clean out cars and only use 50%.. diaper pail in kids room 30%) then your ‘savings’ for quality trashbags is shot.

    My solution – cheapest of the ‘quality’ trash bags AND a box of the cheapycheapy bags for smaller loads.

    Best of both worlds!

  48. Kevin says:

    I don’t really understand the “environmental” concern with respect to garbage bags. I don’t see why it matters whether or not the bag is “environmentally friendly.” They’re burying them underground, right? Who cares whether or not the bag is breaking down if its covered by 50 feet of dirt, never to be seen again? It’s not like they’re planning on digging this stuff up again any time in the forseeable future.

  49. LV says:

    I, too, use the Glad ForceFlex. I bought the Wal Mart brand “flex” bags one time. Seemed like a good deal, but wasn’t. I used three, all of which suffered from a varying degree of tearing, and returned the rest. I sensed that the customer service counter was a bit amused and slightly irritated to see someone returning trash bags, but the price was ridiculously out of line with the quality.

  50. Danielle says:

    We have a system that we like. Our regular trash bags are brand name (some form of Glad) because that was the most effective purchase cost for our kitchen trash. The friend who gave us our diaper trashcan when our daughter was born gave us nice scented bags (it can use any bag of the right size, it’s just nice to have). I recently bought some lawn and yard bags (40/$7) that are huge to use for things like weeds and dry household stuff (mostly paper). The size is totally worth the price since we fill them to the brim and they hold more than 3x a regular bag would. All other trash cans get grocery store bags, which we stock up to a decent amount and then take to our local Walmart to recycle if we have too many.

    As for recycling, in our small California town, the only recycling available is for CRV items. I can’t say I care enough about the environment to drive 90 miles to recycle my tin, though I’d do it if there were somewhere I could.

    As to the point of your post (which I read to be along the lines of “have a reason for paying more if you are paying more”), it’s something I’ve been trying to teach a friend of mine for awhile now. There’s nothing wrong with buying the more expensive version of something, just with doing it blindly.

  51. Rachel says:

    You are absolutely right! I used to buy the WalMart brand of garbage bags….and frequently had messes all over the floor. Finally took the plunge and tried the forceflex Glad bags. No problems now! WIth 6 small children, we have lots of odd-shaped items in the trash…..and it is necessary to have strong bags…..NOT the added stress of another mess when you’re taking the trash outside.

  52. Charlie says:

    The “fuzzy math” someone referred to is because they buy the name brand in bulk and compared that to the store brand in… well, most likely, “normal sized” packages. For the record, I bought a box of Glad Forceflex, which promptly break at the seam (on top, where the string is) when I put them into the trashcan. Perhaps the mouth of my trash can is too big, but it tears with very little effort. I replaced a box of Hefty with these. IMO Hefty > Glad.

  53. John Drake says:

    Everything you throwaway you bought. So the less packaging and other things you buy and throwaway you save money.

  54. leslie says:

    Do not buy dollar store saran wrap!! This stuff is awful! It is so thin and I had to cut it with scissors. Completely useless!

  55. honestb says:

    I buy generic, and have never had them break. I think it really depends on the generic brand.

    What I did for several years was put one of the giant green ones in my kitchen garbage bin. When it was full up to the top of the bin (the bag was about half full) I’d take the bag out, put the contents of every other garbage in the house in, and put it out back – usually pretty full, sometimes not quite. Now I use the little white ones in the kitchen (our recycling service got way better, and we just have less garbage), but I still think it was a good system.

  56. fairydust says:

    Funny about the Force Flex. After seeing one TV ad for that product with Jackie Chan being unable to break through (and many other funny ads in the same vein since then), I sent away for a free sample. The very first time I opened the Force Flex bag up and tried to put a folded up soda box (the kind that holds 12 cans) into it, it ripped right down the side. Guess I’m just tougher on things than Jackie Chan :) I go with the Hefty regular drawstring and really stock up when they’re on sale.

  57. Katy says:

    It amazes me that people are still ranting about the need for “landfill-friendly” biodegradable garbage bags.

    Is it not common knowledge by now that NOTHING in a landfill biodegrades? 50-year-old newspapers have been found in old landfills fully intact. Lettuce leaves and grapes are recognizable after decades in a landfill. Know why? The landfill is packed so tightly that no oxygen can get in there and allow microorganisms to break things down.

    Why waste time being angry that a company hasn’t come up with a biodegradable trash bag? When they do, they’ll just be charging you more money for something that won’t affect the health of our planet in the least. And I guess people will buy it out of sheer ignorance. (“A fool and his money…”)

    The best thing to do is what others suggested here: compost and recycle as much as possible. The rest will go to a landfill in a plastic bag (for sanitary transport). Move on.

  58. jc says:

    interesting comparison, and glad you didn’t bring up this similar comparison because you’d get torched by haters, but I will. your logic also explains why some of us would rather own a somewhat more expensive honda or toyota, new or late model used, from which we can expect relatively few crises in the first 120,000 miles and at least another 80,000 miles of mileage that is as reliable as most other cars.

    the key word here is crisis. when you’re counting on a car to run, it had better run nearly all the time, and each time it doesn’t you’re facing a crisis, usually for multiple family members.

  59. fairydust says:

    Oh, I should add (to #52)that since then our local recycling facility has started taking those cardboard soda cases, so we no longer throw them in the trash – that has helped cut down on the volume quite a bit, and the bags tearing.

  60. Elizabeth says:

    I don’t disagree with the basic premise of your post (sometimes it’s worth going higher end), but consider whether the amount of trash you’re producing could possibly be correlated with opportunities to save money. Not just on the bags — you paid in one way or another for every piece of packaging that you’re throwing away.

  61. Kate in Canada says:

    Sarah – post # 31 – All you have to do is fill up the empty syrup bottle with warm water, let it sit overnight, and rinse it out. Twenty seconds, tops.

  62. J says:

    We tried the cheap ones, they failed miserably. We buy the Glad ForceFlex ones and they work great. After picking up

    Now, onto the critics:
    - For those going nuts over the audacity of buying trash bags (and the environmental impact) and using the grocery store ones instead, why aren’t you bringing your own bags to the grocery store?
    - For those wondering why a syrup bottle is in the trash, trash/recycling pickup varies tremendously across the country. Where I live they pick up 1-7, but other towns do 1-3, some none at all. When we go to my parent’s house, there is NO recycling. It feels somehow dirty to throw away recyclables, but there’s no alternative available.
    - For those using a disposal, many municipalities are considering banning them because their waste is harder to deal with.

    I’m continually amazed at how much “better than thou” this blog generates.

  63. Georgia says:

    I use garbage bags that cost me $.10 each or less. They are the 13 gal size with handles. I recycle all my grocery plastic bags by using them in my bathroom cans and the large amount left, I take to the monthly food bank to be used to send commodities home.

    I buy name brand dish washing soap at the $1 Store and pour it half each into 2 bottles and fill up the rest of the way with water. You still squirt into the dish pan as you normally due and your $1 bottle of dish soap lasts for double the use. I buy Dawn, Ivory, etc.

    I use few tins and when I do, I wash them and try, if possible to flatten them so more fit in the trash.

  64. Smootosis says:

    Generic trash bags from dollar stores work well for those who recycle, as heavy/bulky items will go in plastic bins for recycling, leaving the trash bags free for “trash.”

  65. Mel says:

    In reply to #58: As I said in my earlier comment, we use the grocery bags for our main bin (also – our bread comes in a similar but smaller plastic bag, that goes into the bathroom bin). When shopping we *almost* always use reusable bags, but occasionally not – the quick last-minute shop on the way home from work, for example. I find we have about the right balance of bags coming in and bags going out.

    And as for the syrup bottle, my understanding (although I’ve re-read it and seen I was wrong) was that the bottle was broken to begin with – hence throwing out a bottle with syrup left, and not cleaning & recycling it.

  66. Mel says:

    In reply to #58: As I said in my earlier comment, we use the grocery bags for our main bin (also – our bread comes in a similar but smaller plastic bag, that goes into the bathroom bin). When shopping we *almost* always use reusable bags, but occasionally not – the quick last-minute shop on the way home from work, for example. I find we have about the right balance of bags coming in and bags going out.

    I’m not trying to be holier-than-thou, I’m just continually surprised at how much rubbish people actually generate – and how much they’ll spend on disposing of it.

    And as for the syrup bottle, my understanding (although I’ve re-read it and seen I was wrong) was that the bottle was broken to begin with – hence throwing out a bottle with syrup left, and not cleaning & recycling it.

  67. John says:

    Your philosophy is very annoying, and you’re not incredibly smart. Your time cost/savings analysis is flawed. If you aren’t earning, then you aren’t earning. If by doing something you are only earning a few dollars an hour, or saving a few dollars, when you ordinarily wouldn’t be earning anything, then you are still making/saving money.

  68. Amazonite says:

    Great points here by a number of posters. I’ve also found that the bargain brand of garbage bags are a huge waste of money — we also recycle and don’t generate a major volume of trash, but what we do have needs to stay in the bag. I use Glad cinch sak kitchen bags — the forceflex ones are great but a bit too expensive for me.

    Another related point — I use the zipper top food storage bags. My mother buys the dollar store brand because they’re “so much cheaper”… yes, but out of a box of twenty bags, I’ve found 7 or 8 of them to be slit right beneath the seal. Not much of a deal if you have to throw them out right off the bat.

  69. An Emergency Fund says:

    I agree. There are things out there that you can buy a cheaper alternative that will be quality, but garbage bags are not one of them. We love the garbage bags that we buy. They’ve never let us down.

    We too tried to buy cheap bags before, and they were so thin. I think they may have had twist ties in the box too.

  70. Dale says:

    Been married 3 years. Just after marriage, we bought a box of Member’s Mark (Sam’s Club) and never had a single problem with household garbage (we tried to use them outside once in a pinch, an that didn’t work so well with all the pointy sticks). They lasted more than 2 years. By that time, we had switched to Costco and bought their Kirkland bags (bless them they have drawstrings) and performance has been just as good, and a little more convenient.

  71. angie says:

    The last time I bought trash bags was years and years ago. At that time I didn’t recycle very much.

    Now we use plastic grocery bags as liners in our small trash cans. We reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost, so we generate less than 20 gallons of trash a week. If I had to buy bags, I’d look for some that have recycled plastic content, to close the loop.

    Even though I almost always remember to take reusable bags with me to the grocery store, the plastic bags still accumulate.

  72. Abbie says:

    We use WalMart brand bags all the time, and have no issues with them.

  73. Shymom says:

    We are very similar to Angie in post #64. We try to generate very little garbage and generally our can is only 1/3 full. (family of 4 with a 12 year old and a 16 year old.) We recycle and compost everything that we can. The inside cans are lined with what few plastic shopping bags come into the house. Those are treated like gold and we reuse them as much as possible. ie dumping out the trash and keeping the bag. I haven’t bought garbage bags in years. Honestly, I don’t see the need for the routine use of them HERE.
    We have the luxury of having our garbage and recycling (and yard waste) picked up at the curb. If we had to transport garbage ourselves, or were unable to compost, we would surely be using garbage bags.

  74. Matt aka Your Friendly Neighborhood Cheapskate says:

    I personally launched a two-pronged attack against high garbage bags prices many years ago

    1. I am a recycling fool.
    2. I use Costco trash bags. However, I don’t pay retail for them. Instead, I wait till Costco has a coupon for them and I load up. They’re usually for $3 off/box, so the savings add up!

  75. Jesse says:

    We also use the force-flex bags.

    But I wanted to comment to those who keep saying “recycle, recycle!” – I don’t know about Trent, but having grown up in a small town in the midwest (Missouri), I know that finding places to recycle can be IMPOSSIBLE. And I mean that literally – we lived 1.5 hours from Kansas City and 4 hours from St. Louis, and STILL TO THIS DAY, the only recycling that anyplace in the area will take is soda cans (and the like). Now, obviously, since it was a small town area (with LOTS of farming), people did PERSONALLY reuse containers, but as far as actually getting rid of containers, it’s near impossible. Like I said, I don’t know about the area Trent lives in, but before yelling “recycle”, let’s please keep in mind that some areas in this country just don’t have the resources to DO anything like that. Hence debates on trash bags.

    Like I said, we use Force Flex, we don’t generate MUCH trash, but we LOVE the Force Flex because a lot of containers have hard or pointy edges. You might get a hole in the FF, but you won’t get an all-over-the-carpet-as-you-run-for-the-door mess. Definitely an improvement over the cheapies!

  76. JT says:

    I also add another vote for the Costco Kirkland store brand of garbage bag – they are relatively cheap and (at least for me) they do the job very well.

  77. Mary says:

    I’ve agreed with you for years. I bought the generic bags long long ago & they always broke & I ended up putting several bags together to make one…no savings there. I buy the Glad drawstring bags, they’re nice & strong & one does the trick.

  78. Cotton Shower Curtain says:

    This is really interesting take on the concept. I never thought of it that way. I came across this site recently which I think will be of great use http://www.buygreensavvy.com. Have a look!

  79. johnny says:

    what i have discovered in buying such things as the cheap brand of trash bags (ruffies 30gal super heavy duty ) is that they were a complete waste to me. They dont even fit in a 30 gal trash can, but only aprox 3/4 of the way down, when i tried to fit the bag over the rim of the can it ripped down the side, so it sems they would be better advertized as ruffies, 20 gal trash bags,not very supper heavy duty…so now I will use them as kitchen bags, utilize only half their capacity, and also have to go buy a whole new box of more expensive bags for mt 30 gal can. Then to top matters off, i go to the company website to complain, and the remark/comment form only allows you 500 characters which i did not find useful in adequately conveying the full extent of my annoyance.

  80. DeadSurvivor says:

    Cheap Bags don’t seem to be a problem here. Granted they break more easily than expensive brands, cheap bags have been no issue in my household.

    Also, on smaller cans, grocery bags are free (as opposed to purchasing garbage bags for small bathroom/bedroom type trashcans.

  81. I hear ya! In my years of practicing a fairly frugal lifestyle, I’ve learned there are some things that aren’t worth the “savings”. In addition to trash bags, I’ve learned my lesson in buying generic “Scotch” tape and “Band aids” in particular.

  82. KC says:

    I have never bought a trash bag. I guess I’m more of a minimalist than most people. I make almost everything from scratch and buy things in the larger containers. I resue or recycle almost everything. Then use maybe 1 grocery bag for garbage once a week. I cannot believe you couldn’t make do with a simple trash bag or grocery bags. Sounds like you’re doing it wrong.

  83. Elk says:

    My family has only used store bought garbage bags for dire situations such as cleaning up after removing the carpet for renovation. For daily use, we use 8-17 inch bins for every room in the house and line them with grocery bags. For the kitchen, we line the grocery bag with newspaper as well to help soak up the mess. The pros: The trash has to be taken out more often so no lingering 2 days+ worth of smell around the house, it’s free, and there’s more recycling because we’re less inclined to place throw a bottle into the trash because it’s more convenient.

  84. Cheap Texan says:

    I’m sure many have already said it, but I compost and recycle (plastic, paper, and glass). I may have one bag of trash a week. I use the Target brand tie bags and have never had a problem.

    I will say that we have a recycling bin that our city picks up same day as trash, but they don’t take glass. I just have a rubbermaid bin for glass that I take when it’s full (just time it with another errand in that area).

    Really, I would be shocked if you don’t recycle and/or compost!! Especially with all your Prius preaching (not that it’s a bad thing)!

  85. deRuiter says:

    Know anyone with horses, chickens or any farm animals? They throw out empty 50 pound sacks from the food which are immensely strong, clean and perfect for the heaviest trash. I collect every horse food bag and cracked corn bag, and shake them “one more time” to get the last bits of food out for the barnyard chickens. Then these sturdy bags are used for trash. They’re amazingly strong, cost nothing, and get a second use. It’s great for the environment because we never have to buy trash bags and it saves money. Small trash containers in the house are lined with plastic bags from the store, knotted when full and tossed into the big animal feed bags. When you recycle kitchen waste (chickens or the compost heap), recycle aluminum, metal, glass and paper, buy a lot of major items used from yard and estate sales, there isn’t all that much trash anyway. I’m with the reader who takes everything salable to the scrap yard every few months, it’s nice to get that bit of cash for not putting things in the landfill. I pick up any aluminum beverage can when walking, hiking, in arking lots, and sell them to the scrapper. All that bending to pick up cans keeps me from having to pay for a gym membership. Always look for the free option, before you buy anything!

  86. Carl says:

    You all should be ashamed of yourselves. You should look for the products which are made in the usa. If we do not do this, the only money we will have to live on will be the few measly cents we saved while selling our own country down the river. We all need to show the companies who make their products elsewhere that we will not support their abandonment of our great country.

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