5 Ways to Avoid Buying Trashcan Liners

Photo (cc) by IntangibleArts

When I lived in Seattle my under-sink trashcan was quite small. I could get away with this for several reasons: I lived alone, cooked frugally, and took enthusiastic advantage of the city’s single-stream recycling program. Generally it took a week or more for the can to fill up.

Being an illegitimus frugalis, I never bought a single kitchen trashcan liner. Why should I have, when plastic shopping bags were so ubiquitous? Even though I toted at least one reusable bag everywhere I went, the plastics had a way of accumulating:

I picked them up while walking home. (Once I also picked up some free ice cream this way.)

People gave me things inside shopping bags.

Sometimes I bought so much (usually from the used-bread, used-meat, or dented-can bins) that the order wouldn’t fit in my cloth bag, so I’d have to accept an additional plastic one.

I gleaned them while on vacation. My relatives tend to use plastic with happy abandon. Folded-up bags take up practically no room in a carry-on.

Thus I always had at least a few dozen bags on hand. That is, until Seattle’s ban on plastic shopping bags took effect in July 2012.

Alternative bag sources

I had my backlog o’bags, and it was still possible to get more – discarded on the street, say, or from the Walgreens just over the city line. But I also had a secret weapon: my absolute inability to throw something away if I could get one more use from it.

Here are some of my frugal trashcan tips:

  • Open your next package of toilet paper at the top, with scissors. When the paper is used up, line the trashcan with the empty bag. (If you buy jumbo packs of paper towels or toilet paper at Costco, the big plastic outer wrap can be used for larger amounts of garbage.)
  • Getting new socks, underwear, or T-shirts? Open that package from the top as well.
  • The mail-order pharmacy sent my maintenance meds in soft, collapsible (and non-recyclable) envelopes that fit the bathroom trashcan perfectly.
  • Bags that held pet food or cat litter are stiff enough to stand upright in the kitchen trashcan. (I didn’t have a pet, but some of my neighbors did. As an inveterate dumpster wader, I’d pull the bags from the recycle bin.)
  • If you live in a non-recycling area, throw trash into a box and toss the filled carton into the dumpster or garbage can.

These practices may seem penny ante to some, and may very well be – I don’t know how much you actually save because I’ve never bought a box of plastic trashcan liners.

But it isn’t just the savings. I’m just as interested in giving that plastic one last use before it gets discarded. Imagine if millions of more people did this.

One more shot

Now I live in Anchorage, Alaska, where plastic bags are handed out as freely as insincere compliments on Ladies’ Night. Some stores give you a nickel per reusable bag, but I still see a lot of discarded bags floating around or impaled on winter-bare tree branches. Ugh.

My hostess is an avid recycler, so I’m back to generating very little garbage – and to lining the bathroom trashcan with shopping bags, toilet-paper packages, and the like.

Incidentally, those women’s magazines’ household-hints sections are correct: An empty tissue box does a great job organizing folded-up plastic shopping bags. The other items live in the bottom of or next to the trashcan, waiting for one more shot at usefulness.

Readers: Do you reuse bags or other items for trashcans? Got any other ideas to share?

More stories on DonnaFreedman.com:

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease
Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

One type of food associated with the Mediterranean diet offers especially large benefits.

10 Ways Retailers Trick You Into Spending More
10 Ways Retailers Trick You Into Spending More

Think you’re a savvy shopper? Find out how retailers persuade you to dig more deeply into your wallet.

7 Steps to Keep Your Car Looking Like New
7 Steps to Keep Your Car Looking Like New

Take a few steps to preserve the beauty of your car, and you stand to get a lot more money at trade-in time.

Beware These 3 Tax Penalties on Retirement Accounts
Beware These 3 Tax Penalties on Retirement Accounts

Protecting a nest egg is tough — but you can make the situation far worse with some boneheaded mistakes.

11 Secret Uses for Everyday Items That Save Money
11 Secret Uses for Everyday Items That Save Money

These are simple solutions for life’s irritations.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

The Next 5 Groups Who Will Get the COVID-19 Vaccine
The Next 5 Groups Who Will Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

The CDC has unveiled a schedule that likely will determine who gets the next doses.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

The 4 Best Things to Buy in January — and 4 to Avoid
The 4 Best Things to Buy in January — and 4 to Avoid

As a new year dawns, deals abound for some types of products. In other cases, it pays to wait.

11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked
11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked

Does your retirement budget account for all of these costs?

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.