Why are there different colored garbage bags?
Posted by Vivian McNeil on
Last week I bumped into a friend of mine, Dana, who had recently moved from South Florida to Munich, Germany. Dana was telling me that the lifestyle in Munich was quite different from here in the USA. The people there are not so personable and can often be simply rude. Turns out that she is into winter sports and likes skiing and snowboarding. Munich has a wide variety of ski resorts to choose from that seem close enough to touch the Alps. Then Dana told me about the interesting color coding for garbage segregation. As a matter of fact, each county in Germany has its own trash rules and regulations. The general waste bin is black which is where the bulk of your garbage bags will go. Paper trash which is not wet or dirty goes into a blue bin without a bag. The bin for organic waste is brown where all biodegradable waste goes. After that I asked Dana, “Do you need to use colored garbage bags?”. Her answer was negative, but one will never know what new trash rules the next city council will impose.
Types of garbage bag color coding
In addition to the standard black garbage bags, white garbage bags, and clear garbage bags, there are many other color trash bags that make up the colors of the rainbow. Depending where and what you are disposing will determine the garbage bag colors. So, what is the need for all the various trash bag colors? Why are there waste bag color codes?
Black garbage bags are the most common type of trash bag which are used for most non-recyclable waste. The color black keeps the mess contained and somewhat neat when the bags are sitting outside getting ready for pickup. When it comes to lawn and leaf bags for your fall clean up most homeowners like the black plastic trash bags for disposal since they conceal all the rubbish. Besides for disposing trash, black garbage bags can be used to heat pools, darken rooms by placing on windows, and even making a stylish dress.
Clear garbage bags are generally used for lighter trash like paper and cardboard. Using clear garbage bags allows the trash to be visible to the sanitation department for proper assortment. Business offices use clear trash bags for collecting the remnants of shredded paper. These shredder bags are usually sitting around waiting for the maintenance worker to place then in the dumpster. Those who are collecting cans and bottles for money, will use clear bags for them to be identifiable to the bottle and can redemption center. In today’s day and age, it’s vital for your items to be totally visible when entering any facility.
White garbage bags are often found in the kitchen and bathroom. The color white is not so harsh and appears to be neat when placed inside your choice trash can. Thirteen-gallon kitchen garbage bags are white and are the most common bags found in U.S. kitchens. White color trash bags come with or without drawstrings which help bring closure when the bag is at max capacity. Many popular brands have now begun adding pleasant scents to their tall kitchen trash bags which helps diminish the bad odor. Trash usually takes on a bad odor when sitting around too long or something smelly is placed inside. Don’t feel bad if you need to replace the bag even when it’s not full.
Blue recycling bags are used for recyclable trash when the disposer wants to clearly identify what’s inside. New York City has recently phased out the use of blue recycling bags and requires residents to use blue colored trash bins for metal, glass, and plastic beverage cartons. Make sure to clearly label each receptacle with a NYC blue recycling sticker. Hotels and healthcare facilities will use blue garbage bags for depositing soiled linen when sending them off to be cleaned.
Yellow garbage bags are used for disposing of waste that needs to be handled with caution. Types of waste include biohazard wastes, infectious waste, and hazardous material. Each of these bags needs to be handled with extreme care and needs to be clearly marked. Yellow colored trash bags represent a higher level of care and are to be handled accordingly. Not always will a facility be dealing with hazardous waste, sometimes they might be disposing broken glass and simply want the handler to be careful.
Red plastic garbage bags are mostly found in health care facilities that dispose of medical waste. This includes biologicals, pathologicals, cultures, and infectious agents possibly used in research laboratories. Any of these or similar items must be handled according to the state’s laws. Failing to comply can result in hefty fines that can put any service provider out of business. On a less serious note lifters love using large red garbage bags when the holidays roll around. All the toys are placed inside and are conveniently dropped off by Santa Claus.
Green garbage bags can be a bit confusing since the term “green” is a hominin. Eco friendly garbage bags or “green trash bags” can be any color or condition as long as they are 100% biodegradable. After the compostable trash bags are treated and broken down, what remains of them are little black shards of plastic. When sitting in the ground for months and years, microorganisms in the soil will eat away at these compostable fibers and eventually disappear. Environmentalist in the USA are trying to get brands on board to manufacture biodegradable garbage bags. Not having to have plastic accumulate would drastically reduce the amount of plastic left in the environment.
Besides for the eco friendly trash bags, there are garbage bags that are colored green. One might see these being used for recycling or in a neighborhood cleanup campaign. In early spring my township gave everyone green tee shirts and green bags to do a park cleanup. It was fun and sent a message to the kids that everyone takes part in keeping our world clean.
Pink trash bags will be found in offices and facilities that are looking to spread and support awareness for breast cancer. October is breast cancer awareness month, and many people will donate to charities that are looking for a cure. What's most important is that pink garbage bag campaigns spread awareness and remind women to get an annual mammogram. As the saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
Orange garbage bags on occasion will be used for clinical waste that needs to be treated by incineration . In Geauga County, Ohio, the town has chosen to use orange colored trash bags for its “simple recycling” program. These bags are used for recycling household items such as clothing, shoes, towels, and toys. When spring and fall cleanup role around, we are tempted to simply dispose of any items cluttering the house. However, others in your neighborhood might not be as blessed and just might be able to benefit from you filling one of these orange trash bags.
Final word on colored garbage bags
When using any bag for infectious waste it must be clearly marked. Simply purchasing colored garbage bags without checking if these comply with the local health department is a serious and dangerous error. The last thing anyone needs is for hazardous or medical waste to be handled as generic trash. Ever since OSHA or Occupational Safety and Health Act was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on December 29, 1970, many health service providers have received hefty fines for such mistakes.
Colored garbage bags without any markings are used by churches and schools for clothing drives. Bags can be given out to residents or students and color coded according to what items should be placed in them. For example, boys’ pants and shorts would go into a blue bag while girls’ dresses and skirts would go into a pink bag. Presorting will make it easy for the volunteers to separate and prepare the clothing to be reused by those who are in need. A nice idea would be to wash and press the clothing and have an event with food and drinks. It will lighten up the atmosphere and make the less fortunate feel a little less embarrassed.
I came across a beautiful idea presented by Fernando Llorente of Change Makers called, “The Rainbow Recycling Campaign”. Each recyclable material corresponds to a bag color and volunteers will bag each of the items according to its colored trash bag code. In this campaign, metals were placed in a red bag, plastics were placed in a blue bag, papers were placed in a green bag, and organics and glass were placed into a yellow bag. This color-coding method is different from the single stream recycling method, as these materials are pre-sorted and not absorbed all together. Most local recycling programs will collect all recyclables into one garbage truck and rely on the sanitation facility to break these items down into reusable material. All it takes is one community at a time to make a world of difference.