Filed in Blog by on June 8, 2011 16 Comments
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It's time to brighten up your trash!

It's time to brighten up your trash!

Come on, you know me by now – the friendly face of zero waste but every now and then, something REALLY gets to me and I have to speak up.

Such as the time we went to the recycling centre and the banks were full. My Take: phone the banks, don’t leave it to someone else. It’s not difficult.

Or the time Sainsbury’s switched from plastic milk bottles to bags in a bid to save 1.4 million kilograms of packaging every year. My Take: people can recycle the bottles but not the bags, so this might INCREASE landfill waste.

Or the time M&S announced they will be saving 525 tonnes of packaging a year on their mini wine bottles; by changing from glass to plastic! My Take: glass can be recycled indefinitely and doesn’t contain harmful components.

So here it is again, something I need to drag out my soapbox for and have a little rant.

Believe me, I’ve thought for a long time before hitting the publish key because I’m all for a bit of fun. I know that the ‘fun theory’ can bring about positive changes in behaviour, but come on…

I came across these biodegradable bin bags (I don’t agree with biodegradable bags of any sort per se because all they do is break down into tiny slivers which hang around and can cause devastation to wildlife) but they are not just any old biodegradable bin bags, NO, dear readers they are FUN bags.

They have goldfish on them and there’s even a Christmas pudding design so you can chuck away all the plastic crap you’ve been bought for the festivities:

All the fun of the fair

All the fun of the fair

Disguise your rubbish as a Christmas pudding

Disguise your rubbish as a Christmas pudding

Fun? Yes.

Gimmicky? Bring it on.

Made me smile? You betcha

But please! No more.

These bags are designed to brighten up your day and the refuse collector’s day when they collect your trash.

They are sold on the premise that they will ‘brighten up your street’…

Say what?

One company tell us that black bin bags are such an eyesore, but these bags will cheer things up.

Another says “Your refuse has to go in something – why not let it be something that makes you smile?”

But the piece de resistance is surely the tagline “Happy Sacks: Making your rubbish look good”. <weeps into keyboard>

Aaaaaargh; and at around £9.99 for a pack of 12 I can’t imagine who would buy them. People ask me if a zero waste lifestyle is more expensive than a ‘normal’ one – erm, nope.

Tell me what you think – are these a fab idea that I’m missing or just some crappy piece of plastic marketing (no doubt filled with toxic inks) that encourage people to throw more things away?

<takes a bow, straightens skirt and steps off box>


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (16)

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  1. Barefoot Mahala says:

    Unnecessary, expensive, probably full of nasties somewhere along the line and pretty pointless anyway, in my area at least – all rubbish has to be in a wheelie bin.

  2. “Happy Sacks: Making your rubbish look good”. …. mine’s been drenched too. Saw the pudding ones a few Christmasses ago and that was bad enough, but gawd goldfish too! Got me thinking thinking though….might just start my own range with pictures of landfill and rotted food waste. Guess that wouldn’t be so popular. Aye, great rant Mrs G, hope the keyboard’s dry by now x

  3. Tracey says:

    I *do* like the look of the goldfish ones – they really made me smile – I just wish the innovative departments that come up with ideas like that could be coming up with ideas to reduce the waste, rather than make people not worry about it. What disturbs me most is that they are next to a (one assumes full?) wheelie-bin too – do they really want to encourage people to fill their bin each week and then still need to fill 2 whole bags of rubbish too? 🙁

    If the government had recyclable versions of these for the recyclable waste…? Now THAT could be promising – “Recycling makes you feel good – Happy Sacks makes it look good!” /sigh my talents are wasted! 😛

  4. Julie Day says:

    I agree with you Rae. Yes, it makes you smile and that, but it also adds to the landfill even if they are biodegradable. They should be made of recycleable plastic to make it even better to use.

  5. Cate B says:

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have streets with no bin bags at all? Years ago dust men collected just dust (ashes from the coal fires) everything else had a value and was salvaged and reused. It’s only the creation of plastic innovations that have led us here. I’m with you Mrs Green, expose the waste for what it really is, ugly.

  6. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Biodegradables have been put forward as a better alternative to plastic bags, sacks etc. This is another case of greenwashing since these types have the same landfill/EfW outcome of plastic, the latter now widely recyclable though still avoided by enthusiasts. Biodegradables cannot be recycled and probably contaminate plastic recycling streams, rendering all the material unusable. This matter has not been addressed by the biodegradable industry whose silence on the subject is very informative.

  7. CarSue says:

    My opinion: these rubbish bags are just that–RUBBISH! People should not be made to feel good about their garbage (or lack of recycling, for that matter). I may be biased, because we don’t even buy trash bags anymore. I reuse the bags that our dog food comes in, since they can’t be recycled, and I still cannot find a bulk food supplier in our town. Thankfully, since we only fill about one a month (sometimes less), I’m in good supply. But these “cutesy” bags are simply a stupid gimmick to make people feel like their trashy habits are okay. More importantly, bio-based biodegradable products are actually a worse choice for the landfill, since they are simply going to rot and release methane in the landfill just like other organic materials. If people are sick of the “unsightliness” of black rubbish bags, they ought to reduce their reliance upon them, not dress them up. It’s a pig in king’s clothing, that’s all.

    @Cate B: amen!

  8. Antonio Pachowko says:

    Here in Calderdale they do not accept rubbish unless it is in a black bin liner with Sita on the side. They have been told not to collect anything else and so this is a stupid idea for most people.

  9. Attila says:

    Lets all start knitting flowers to decorate the nuclear waste dump……

  10. Mr Green says:

    Hard to believe, someone really thought this was a good idea. Making plastic trash bags attractive only serves to make people feel better about creating waste putting it out for collection. How clever can that be??!!

    It does not help to solve the problem of plastic proliferation, it only serves to beautify a serious environmental issue and give it a friendly face. My opinion is that this is seriously stupid and counter productive to all the efforts to reduce waste and especially plastic bags. Making them cheerful won’t make them less toxic. NO we need to keep them BLACK or SEE THROUGH to remind people of the real nature of the problem.

    This kind of thinking leads to other ideas, such as painting flowers on machine guns …. yeah, to make them seem more friendly and less dangerous. Dhur !! madness reigns K.O.

  11. Kate says:

    Can you please say a little more about the pitfalls of degradable bags? I’ve been buying them on the premise that a little breaking down is better than none at all but now I will have to reassess. Although it will take me a long time to use up what I have…we go through a bag every few weeks…I am not a zero waster but am doing the best I can.

  12. Alyson says:

    Why would I buy, needless, rubbish just to put rubbish in it? Waste of money and no, it doesn’t put a smile on my face. And that’s my rant of the the day, I’ll shall put a smile on my face and go off and think what to do with leftover potato.

  13. Yvonne says:

    I wrote an email to M&S to point out that the move to plastic from glass was greenwash. I’ll let you know if I get a reply. It is quite hard to get food and drink in glass or non-plastic containers as it is as plastic is everywhere. I say more people need to point out the error of their ways.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    @Barefoot Mahala: Ah yes, that’s true; in some areas they will only collect from the bins…

    @[email protected]: love your idea of the ‘reality check’ bin liners 😉

    @Tracey: 😀 I think you’re on to something 😉

    @Julie Day: recyclable plastic would be an option, but then I guess people wouldn’t be able to use them for landfill waste…

    @Cate B: Yep, a street with no bin bags at all is my kinda happy street.

    @John Costigane: I find ‘bio degradable’ products such a burden; as you point out they DO contaminate the load for plastics recycling because they break down too quickly.

    @CarSue: well said; love your comment!

    @Antonio Pachowko: interesting; thanks Antonio

    @Attila: 😀 it’s as crazy an idea, right?

    @Mr Green: see through bags are a great idea and have been shown, in areas where they are used, to reduce landfill waste

    @Kate: Hi Kate, have a read of this article and see if it answers some of your questions; if not, give me a shout and I’ll try to help 🙂

    @Alyson: Mmmm, yum, leftover potatoes – one of my favourites because they are so versatile.

    @Yvonne: Thanks Yvonne; will give your mail some thought at the beginning of next week

  15. Kate says:

    @Mrs Green: Yes…sorry I was reading your post through the tired eyes of having a two week old baby. I read it again and now it makes sense. Thanks also to John Costigane whose comment was helpful to me. But now I have these degradable bags and as I said, they’ll last me a while (increasingly so, actually, as my waste is steadily decreasing), and there’s really nothing responsible to do with them…is it just a case of ‘now I know better’ so I should use them up since I already bought them anyway and then move on to something better?? The only thing I can say in my own defense is that at least they don’t have goldfish or whatever on the outside, and they were not more expensive than the regular black or clear plastic bags. I should also add that I am feeling very embarrassed for even asking about trash bags here…it feels like admitting failure or something that I still use them. I have this perception that half of the people I associate with think I am crazy for doing the things that I do to reduce waste (homemade toothpaste, reusable baby wipes and diapers, not accepting plastic bags, etc…) and the other half think I should be doing more, you know? It’s probably mostly in my head (other people rarely think about you as much as you think about yourself) but still, I am where I am in the process and appreciate your helpful and challenging insights as I go on my way.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @Kate: Hi Kate, yep definitely use up what you have then change your purchase next time – no beating yourself up over this or any other aspect of your life either. There is still SO much more we could do too, but life is about balance. Have a wonderful babymoon 😉

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