Getting the Garbage Out: Choose the Right Trash Can Liner

A trash can liner or bag, is used for holding and carrying garbage. Its primary job is to keep your garbage contained while it makes its way from the can to the curb, dumpster, dock, or wherever its final stop is before it goes away for good. If your facility is a large one, you have lots of different-sized trash bins and bags to line them. And depending on your garbage can location, the garbage itself can vary significantly.

Not surprisingly, you haven’t given much thought to garbage can liners or your facility’s trash in general. What might be surprising, however, is that where you throw things away might be a goldmine for cost savings. At Grainger’s corporate facilities in Lake Forest, Illinois, for example, trash can liners cost the company approximately $40,000 per year.1 This is a significant expense for something that simply gets tossed. What’s your annual spend on trash can liners? Are you using the most cost-effective option? Let’s take a closer look.


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How to Choose the Right Liner

What kind of garbage gets tossed in specific locations throughout your facility? Will the bag need to contain sharp objects? Is the garbage heavy or wet? If yes, you will need linear, low-density polyethylene bags.

These bags are:

  • Made of puncture and tear-resistant resin
  • Great for waste that has sharp or jagged edges
  • Suitable for a wide range of applications

If the answer is no, and the application is lighter, a high-density polyethylene bag will do the job.

These bags are:

  • Best for soft refuse (office, restroom, paper)
  • Three times stronger than ordinary polyethylene
  • Lower-gauge resin, which is more temperature-resistant from - 40 to about 212°F

The lighter construction of these bags can also help lower freight, storage and warehousing costs. So if you don’t need the extra weight, don’t pay for it.

What’s the Right Size?

If you’re using more bag than you need, you’re wasting money. How do you know? Take a walk around your facility and look at how the bags fit each bin or can. If a bag hangs over the edge of the can or receptacle by more than 4 inches, you’re using too much bag for the job.

Ideal Overhang

General Guidelines For Size

Bag Width: Use ½ the outer circumference of the container
Bag Length: Use the height of the container plus ½ the diameter of the container bottom and add 3” for overhang.


What About Weight?

Another common misconception is weight or gauge. Many people believe that the heavier the gauge or thickness of the plastic, the better, or stronger the bag. Today this is not necessarily the case. The technology in plastic resins has really evolved, and thinner, lighter gauges with more flexibility now do the job of yesterday’s heavier plastics.

How much weight does the bag need to hold? Figure out the average weight of a full can liner in its typical environment. Once you’ve decided on that weight, use that number to check the Maximum Load Rating of the bag. This number is available in any liner product listing.

Does Color Matter?

Opaque liners are best for aesthetic reasons and hide unsightly trash. This is more important for hospitality environments where trash might need to be carried through common areas. Clear bags are often used for recycling, and orange bags can be used along roadsides or anywhere visibility could potentially be an issue. For medical waste, bags that feature the biohazard symbol are essential.

Knowing how and where trash can liners are used throughout your facility is the first step toward ensuring you’re using the right ones for the job. Too much liner could mean you’re spending more than you need. Be sure to check that you’re using one that’s strong enough for the job, and that it’s the right type and weight.

Grainger offers a wide selection of Tough Guy liners for the job.

1. Data provided by Jeff Rehm, LEED-GA and Sr. Manager Corporate Facilities & Global Sustainability, W.W. Grainger, Inc.