Saturday, 30 April 2016

Random thoughts on home-made bin-liners

Even before plastic bags cost 5p a go, I was a conscientious shopper who tended to have at least one shopping bag with me every time I went out, and often more than one owing to my charity shop habit. I still accumulated plastic bags somehow though. The odd unexpected need to get something when out and unprepared for shopping; people dropping things off swathed in plastic. The home-made carrier bag tube was always full.

Now it's emptying at a steady rate thanks to the fact I use old plastic bags as bin liners. My thoughts turn to ethical matters, and whether I can make my own bin-liners for the household bins (not the kitchen bin, that's a gunky/ moist job I'm currently okay to leave to plastics) out of the vast stocks of fabric I have.

Question: How long do cotton fabric and plastic take a long time to biodegrade? 

A quick search yielded an estimate of between 450-1000 years for the plastic.

Cotton fabric? About half a year. Also checked on thread and that will take a few months also.

Sold to the slightly deranged woman with lots of old duvet covers to hack up!

On the topic of biodegradability, I learned in my internet foraging that cigarettes can take up to 12 years and sanitary towels up to 800 years to decompose. I don't smoke so that's more of an 'oh, how interesting' fact. I do menstruate so that 800 years causes a bit of uneasiness. Even going for the lowest estimate of 400 years is hardly uplifting. Weird to think that all the sanitary towels I have ever used will outlive me by centuries. Weird and slightly gross. There are guides out there on how to make you own reusable menstrual pads but that's not top of my list right now. If it should manoeuvre it's way up there, I promise now to try and resist the urge to blog about it. Or if I do I won't post pictures. Unless I make them out of fabric so cute that I can't resist.

One more small digression before I get back to the post title, the winner of the longest to decompose title that I could fine was glass. Any ideas how long that takes? Well, I'll tell you. 1-2 million years. Wow. If sanitary towels were made out of glass I'd be feeling even more grossed out. And I'd also probably have sustained at least one serious injury by now.

I remember as a child collecting sea glass along the shore. As an adult I found a jar full of the stuff while having a clear out of some memory boxes. Blues, browns, dark greens, ambers, opaque whites, pale minty hues. You can buy sea glass jewellery and that idea is appealing to me. I love the idea that these fragments of glass are going to undergo numerous incarnations in their long lives. Bottle to sea jewel to child's treasure to pendant to possible relic.

But back to the subject in hand: bin-liners made from old duvet covers that are too scruffy and old to give to charity shops for someone else to use. Kitchen bin is excluded at present from this ethical amendment to my lifestyle, which leaves me with three different bin liner patterns to draft, one for the titchy bathroom bin, one for the incredibly mature bedroom bin (you'll have to stay tuned for future posts to find out exactly what kind of bin it is), and the middle room and front room bins which are those wicker-y ones with sharp bits poking out that you get from £1 shops, a plastic layer sewn in that somehow gets stained and dirty even if you have always used a plastic bag as a liner.

Later, people. I have biodegradable landfill alternatives to design!


  1. I wonder if there's a way to use fabric bags even for the kitchen. I suspect most of my wet rubbish is probably food or plant scraps.

    1. I know mine is oozy in the form of leftover sauces and the contents of jars discovered lurking in the back of the fridge a good 4 months after they've been opened. :)