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Choosing the Right Trash Bag Size

7/15/22
Grainger Editorial Staff

Generally speaking, if you find yourself thinking at length about your facility's trash bags, that's probably a bad sign. Maybe there was an emergency, or a bag failed at the worst possible moment, or you unexpectedly ran out. Ideally, you'd want your trash bags to be almost invisible, doing their job silently in the background without a second thought.

But an industrial facility, warehouse or other commercial building can easily require tens of thousands of dollars a year of trash liners. With that in mind, it's worth taking a look to make sure you're getting the right level of performance at the right price.

Choosing the Material

The first thing to think about is what kind of waste the bags will need to handle. Bags made from different materials have different capabilities.

Linear Low-Density Polyethylene (LLDPE)

LLDPE is the most common material for trash liners. LLDPE bags can stretch well, helping them resist tears and punctures. LLDPE bags are good for holding heavy trash that contains things with sharp corners or jagged edges.

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

HDPE bags are strong and lightweight but less flexible than LLDPE bags, which means they aren't good for things with sharp corners or jagged edges. They’re frequently used in office and restroom wastebaskets.

Super Hexene RAO

Super hexene RAO is stronger and more durable than LLDPE or HDPE. Super hexene RAO bags have maximum puncture resistance for heavy duty applications. They're also lighter than LLDPE bags, which can benefit your facility's sustainability and source reduction efforts.

Polypropylene

Heavy duty polypropylene bags are sometimes called contractor bags or construction bags because they’re very resistant to punctures and tears and can hold metal, concrete and other heavy and sharp trash. These bags can also be reused.

Choosing the Size

When you’re choosing a trash liner, it’s important to get the size right. Of course you don’t want to go too small, but it’s not true that bigger is better. If your bags are too big for your trash cans, not only are you likely spending more on them than you need to—you’re also adding unnecessary weight to your facility’s waste stream. As a rule of thumb, you want bags that have an overhang of four inches or less—see our liner recommendations for some common trash can sizes.

Choosing the Weight

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

To get the most cost-effective and least waste-producing bag, start by estimating the average weight of a full can liner in your facility. Then choose the liner that has a maximum load rating that’s closest to your estimated average. 

Choosing the Color

Color may not be the first thing you think about when choosing a bag, and for many applications it doesn’t matter at all. But keep in mind that there are times when the color of the bag is important:

  • Opaque trash liners are useful for hiding unsightly trash, which is often desirable in hospitality environments and commercial buildings.
  • Clear bags and blue bags are often used for recycling.
  • High-visibility orange bags can be used on roadsides or anywhere that visibility can be a problem.
  • Bags labeled for hazardous waste—often red, but also available in other colors—are used in medical facilities and other facilities that deal with waste that requires special handling.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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