How to…Line your Rubbish Bin without a Plastic Bag

How to…Line your Rubbish Bin without a Plastic Bag

Australians use nearly 4 billion plastic bags per year, using each for only a few minutes. When you think that plastic is made from non-renewable fossil fuels, it seems pretty crazy to be using such a valuable resource to make something that’s only going to be used for such a short amount of time, and then thrown away.

A common argument – or even justification – for using these plastic bags is, oh but I do recycle my bags, I use them to line my rubbish bin. Thing is, that’s not recycling. It’s barely even re-using.

It’s still sending to landfill, just with other rubbish inside.

I have to confess, before I signed up to Plastic Free July I used to take the odd plastic bag from the shops when I needed to line my rubbish bin. I certainly wasn’t going to pay for virgin plastic to line my bin in the form of fancy bin liners. And what is the point in buying compostable corn starch liners when you’re sending them (and their contents) to landfill, where they won’t break down? Landfill sites essentially bury the waste and prevent exposure to air, moisture and light – and also the microbes that can break them down.

And then someone said to me, why don’t you line your rubbish bin with old newspaper? Such a simple and obvious solution! I really don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.

How to Line a Rubbish Bin Without a Plastic Bag

All you need is a few sheets of old newspaper. I use three sets of two sheets, and sometimes I’ll fold some additional ones to put in the base. It takes about a minute.

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When the bin is nearly full you simply roll over the tops to make a parcel and dump in your outdoor rubbish bin. The great thing is that newspaper is usually made from recycled paper so has already had a previous life (or several lives) before you send it off to landfill.

What are you waiting for?!

84 Responses to How to…Line your Rubbish Bin without a Plastic Bag

  1. I’m really happy to hear that councils are taking this issue seriously. I guess we can’t rely on either one of our retailers taking the lead. Love the idea of using newspapers – very smart.

  2. Hi there you champion! What a great idea (thanks) and I’ll be following your blog with great interest. I am very impressed by all your recipes and how-tos. Thanks so much for doing what you’re doing, so that I can sit back and steal. Big love to you xx

  3. SO VERY HAPPY to have stumbled across this blog – thanks to Activist Abby’s share on facebook. Thank you so much for sharing this knowledge you have just made my life better!!! (oh yeah, and helped the planet of course!)

  4. Very interesting — how do you take it out for collection? Though I only have a small amount, still, the waste disposal service requires it to be in a “garbage bag”. Any pointers on that? Thx, Sandy

    • We have big plastic wheelie bins outside, so I simply take my small bin down and empty it into that. The wheelie bins hook onto the back of the truck and are emptied mechanically so no-one has to handle the rubbish. But if you’re specifically required to put it into a bag then I’m not sure – I’m assuming it’s because the collectors are loading the truck by hand? What about using old cardboard boxes, if you have any? They’re quite sturdy, but I guess you’d have to ring the collectors to check. There’s not much point using those compostable bags as they won’t compost in landfill anyway. The other option could be becoming a zero-waste home! Now there’s a challenge! : )

  5. Wow, I’m a bit ashamed to say I hadn’t thought of this – but it sounds easy! I shall try it out! Thanks for posting.

  6. What a fantastic idea! I’ve been using the compostable bags for quite a while and I thought all this time I was doing the right thing as I thought they would break down, unlike regular plastic bags. I naively didn’t realise that this is not the case when they’re sent to landfill. So, I’m excited by this idea and willing to give it a go. Will just need to buy the right shape bin!

    • Those compostable bags are so tricksy! They seem like they are such a magical solution (I used to think that too), but alas – they are too good to be true. When you think about it, using virgin materials to make a product that it destined for landfill almost immediately is quite ridiculous! Good luck with this!

  7. Hi, thanks for “normalising” not using plastic bags to collect rubbish. For people who want to go that one step further, why line the bin at all? I challenged a friend about using plastic bags in the bin and asked why he did it. He said it was habit. Now he just chucks all his rubbish in the bin and empties it out. If there’re any “ickies” he gives it a quick rinse and the bin is good to go again.

    • I live in a flat, and I have nowhere to compost my food waste. I have two worm farms but the worms just don’t eat enough! When I have a garden and can compost my food scraps I won’t be lining my bin. In fact, I hope to have no (landfill waste) bin at all! There’s a challenge : )

  8. Great idea indeed!
    But not so easy when you have no paper around – I don’t read them and none at the local coffee shop. We don’t produce much garbage – about one/two small bags a week.
    But still, I wonder how else it might be done? I am really interested in any other alternatives (maybe the no bag, straight into the big bin is best?) because I am writing a page on decreasing our plastic consumption for my website (
    I’ll keep coming here to check!
    Thanks for all the great tips!

    • I would say just use the bin liner-free and rinse it as needed. A smaller bin would be better so it didn’t get too gross before it was emptied. If you compost your food waste (which we can’t, but we give a fair amount to the worms) then it shouldn’t make much difference if it’s not lined.

      Good luck with decreasing your plastic consumption!

  9. I don’t line my smaller bins with anything, and I never have. I’ve never saw the point because my smaller bins contain dry garbage only. My smaller bins who are 9+ years old have never once been washed, and probably look cleaner than the empty bin you showed that had always been lined with plastic. :s

    Although I do like your idea and I thank you for it. It’s just an alternative for those who get their newspaper subscription online like I do.

    • Hi Eva, thanks for your comment! We can’t compost and whilst we give most of our food scraps to our worms (worm farm) we still have a bit of liquid waste that goes in our kitchen bin (eggshells, citrus, onions) so the newspaper works for us. It’s the only bin in our house, and we get a free community newspaper which we read and then use to line the bin. Once we move and have the ability to compost, we will probably do away with lining the bin – or possibly even do away with the bin! Wouldn’t that be awesome?! That’s the goal…

  10. Why don’t you not line your bag with anything? Pretty simple really. That newspaper you used could then be recycled. If you have a worm farm or compost bin all your food waste goes in there. Since your bin is so small you could just carry your bin to the big bin.

    • Hi Nick, thanks for your comment. Bear in mind I wrote this post 2.5 years ago! I agree that a liner is not necessary when you are further down the zero waste path, but at the start when people aren’t composting all of their waste it is a great plastic-free option.

      Personally, I have two worm farms and a bokashi bin, but very occasionally I do put food waste in our kitchen bin. I live in an upstairs flat without a garden and compost is not collected locally. I also share my bin with 15 other flats and feel that bundling the rubbish in a paper parcel is a more neighbourly thing to do! When we move at the end of the year to a place with a garden I intend to eliminate my bin completely : )

  11. Fantastic idea! I am going to follow your idea for the paper. It is really very useful tip. Thank you for taking care of saving our nature. Little steps would eventually lead to the big change. Best regards!

  12. ha! Finally a good use for The West Australian! (That’s our local state news paper… I don’t think much of it)

  13. I would do this- IF we had newspaper……I’ve even tried asking on Freecycle, but most people get their news online now. I’ve had no success. I’ve still not come up with an alternative to the plastic bag.

  14. What an awesome idea about linning the bin with newspaper, I was just thinking of what I could do to replacing bin linners at home. Its been a great month: we have a worm bin so most food scraps go in their but since using the soft plastics recycling station at the supermarket we have noticed a big decrease in the amount of rubbish we send to the dump, infact we only put the rubbish out every fortnight now instead of weekly! we could get this down even more, I’m tweaking this process. All of these small steps to make a big difference. Love all the ideas, keep them coming, bulk buying next on the list :)

    • Sounds like you’re making great progress, Corina! I think if we can get our plastics under control and compost/worm farm/bokashi our food scraps, there isn’t much left to deal with!

      Good luck with the bulk buying. Let me know how you get on! : )

    • Hi IslandMomma, this blog post is about lining a rubbish bin without a plastic bag. For many people beginning the plastic-free and zero waste lifestyles, this is a stumbling block – “but I need a bag to line my bin”! Actually, no, we can use paper. We used a community newspaper that had been read from cover to cover, so we already had the paper. Definitely no need to use brand new, unused paper!

      So it’s a solution. I didn’t say it was perfect, and in the three years since I wrote this post I’ve gt rid of my rubbish bin altogether! But when I started out, and needed a plastic-free solution, used paper was my option : ) At least paper is a renewable resource (especially if using recycled) whereas fossil fuels are not. Better, but not ideal. Hope that helps!

  15. I love this. I too have been using the store plastic bags to line my bin and NO ONE seems to offer an alternative other than ‘well if you produce no rubbish you won’t need it’. I’m far from zero waste yet, but I don’t want to keep using plastic bags until that day! My partner is certainly going to hate me, but I’m gonna try the newspaper option.

    • Thank you Alexa! The zero waste and plastic-free journey definitely isn’t a one day event, it’s a process and it takes time to get there! For me, living in a flat meant I couldn’t have a compost bin, and setting up a worm farm took a little time. Big changes come from lots of little changes, and steps along the way. so good to hear you’re not being put off by the challenges! They are a great way to learn. Let me know if you have any other questions and good luck with the journey :)

  16. I have a plastic trash bin here too. I just wash it out… no need to line it. : ) If it was a wicker bin or something else this is a great solution!

    • Hi Amy, that is very true. Where we used to live when I wrote this, we had one of those trendy round sinks and it was too shallow to actually fit the bin in! The tap was fixed so it wouldn’t work. Occasionally we’d hose it off outside but the tap was down a flight of stairs and across the car park. Goodness, bins sound like such a fuss – glad I no longer need one! ;)

      • One of my pet peeves is the installation of washing mashines with effluent hoses fixed to sewerage and hence, inaccessable. Why would anyone do that? I LIKE mine to go into the laundry trough, and i use that water for things like rinsing out bins particularly if it has been raining & doing it outside to water the garden at the same time doesn’t apply. And yes, I do use garden friendly minimal detergents – but my tiny garden doesn’t use much and I can re-use the water for presoaks etc.

  17. Growing up in the 60’s & 70’s there was no such thing as plastic bin liners and groceries were packed into large paper bags. The rubbish bins were metal, and small. All food scraps were wrapped in newspaper so there was no mess. There was much less packaging to dispose of as we bought meat from the butcher sans plastic bags, the meat was wrapped in white “butchers paper” and fruit and veg from greengrocer, also sans plastic bags so we carried them loose in our own bags or used paper bags provided. There were bulk food stores which also sold household goods such as soap, detergents & even methylated spirits. You took along your own containers & used string or cloth bag to carry your shopping home. A while ago I convinced my partner to join me in dispensing with plastic bin liners & wrap rubbish in newspaper instead. Somewhere along the way we shifted from this and went back to plastic bags. But this is going to change again!

    • Thanks for sharing Heather – I love stories like these! It’s interesting how we’ve changed in the name of “progress”. I’m glad that people/businesses/organisations are realising that trashing the planet and wasting resources isn’t actually progress and we are going back to some of these more considerate ways :)

    • Completely agree Heather. Also remember vividly that is how the shopping was for us in New Zealand in there the same era. Long to have those days back again.

  18. It’s a great idea, but, unfortunately we have stopped getting newspapers in order to save the trees. I have been using biodegradable plastic shopping bags. Any other ideas?

    • Hi Leila! Someone will have a newspaper – a local cafe, business or neighbour. One newspaper will do quite a few bins. Alternatively, you could not use a liner, tip the contents straight into the street bin and give it a quick rinse if it needs it. If you compost your food scraps it shouldn’t be getting to stinky!

  19. I get free newspapers delivered a few times a week (while street does) and would you believe they are all wrapped in plastic? I’ll start using them for bin liners though…

  20. Everything old is new again! For us boomers there was very little or no plastic so it’s a blast from the past hearing about wrapping rubbish in paper and using your own shopping bags. Well done for highlighting these simple ways to reduce plastic use and reintroducing them to younger people.

    • That is so true Rhonda! I would have loved to have sat down with my grandparents and chatted about all this. Isn’t it interesting how we change in the name of “progress” but then suddenly it doesn’t seem so much like progress after all! ;)

      • Rules in the apartment building where I live are that garbage must be in a tightly tied plastic bag before tossing down the garbage chute. Also green bin contents must be in tied plastic bags to avoid odour. There are few alternatives in an urban environment. I use the few sturdy brown paper bags I have saved for the garbage but the green bin is a problem.

        • Whereabouts do you live Nancy? Is it possible to take your waste downstairs and put directly in the bin? (The bin will smell anyway, but I get that cleaning the chute could be tricky.) If you could start composting your food scraps (worm farms and bokashi bins are good for apartments) then it would reduce your landfill waste significantly, too. Hope this helps!

  21. I just exchanged some plastic liners size wise for my garbage can but now I’m thinking of returning them and trying the newspaper idea! I live in a house and will check with my landlord that this is ok.

  22. Does the news paper break down in landfill? I thought that news paper did the same thing as plastic in landfill, and was unable to decompose, say as it would if you put it in compost. I need to keep trying with the no bin liner plan.

    • Hi Jessica, no they don’t, but plastic bags often escape from rubbish trucks and landfill because they are so light. They blow in the wind, get carried by birds etc. So it helps reduce litter, and also use of fossil fuels. Plus it’s an excuse for taking a plastic bag – oh, I need one to line my rubbish bin. Actually, no we don’t! ;) But not everyone can stomach a bin without a liner, or having to clean it out. So this is a good first step. If you’re happy to go without, even better!

  23. Great idea for small bins :) Any suggestions for your larger kitchen bins (about a 50L one). We do compost and recycle, but there is still a need for a rubbish bin. I live in a shared house, so the small bin in the picture definitely wouldn’t cut it.

    • This is what I’m wondering too! Our kitchen bin is something like 40-50L. I actually buy bin bags to line them with. I’d love a plastic free alternative! Maybe I just need to ditch my bin and get a smaller one? Although my bin is plastic too, so don’t really want to chuck that out if there’s an alternative.

      • Hi Justine! See my suggestion above, but you could try a smaller bin. You could always trial it with a cardboard box or something to see how you go first. And don’t forget, you can buy bins second hand! The plastic bin could possibly be repurposed – I think a gardener could use it!

  24. Reading comments I see you saying you can’t compost besides using a wormery (good on you for that!)- do you know of any community composting schemes worldwide?? I’ve been wondering if they are plausible.

    • Hi Anna! Things have changed now and we actually have 4 compost bins, too. Yes, there is a great site called which started in Australia but is for global use. Also, check local community gardens as some allow the public to compost their scraps :)

  25. Good idea, but I say ditch the plastic rubbish bin too. Use a heavy cardboard box or a wooden box, or an old (large) handbag, or a recycled metal container.

  26. Sadly we don’t have rubbish bins so I can’t see how we could forgo a bin bag. We can recycle paper cans and all food waste so the rest is mostly plastic packaging…. Frustrating as they used to collect this too

  27. Our red bins are emptied once a week. Unwrapped, moist food waste and nappies are a health hazard. Any suggestions ?

  28. Any other possible materials? Re-usable washable bin liners made of wool or bamboo or cotton perhaps? Just that newspapers are becoming obsolete with digital media taking over. Composting any wet things eliminates the bottom falling out problem.

  29. Hi Lindsey, I paid for and downloaded the Hoarder Minimalist but it disappeared from my iPad and I can’t read it! Any advice please?

  30. Hi! I love this idea and am looking for ways to reduce our plastic use. However, we live in Beijing and newspapers are very hard to come by! I am wondering what else we could use here that would be better than plastic? Do you have any ideas?

    • Thanks Helen. Can you simple rinse your bin out (and not need a liner at all)? Otherwise I’d look at getting a system in place for managing food scraps. Usually that is why we line a bin – all the stinky wet scraps. Sort them out and you hopefully won’t need a bin liner :)

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