Trash Bags and Can Liners

Reducing Virgin plastic in Trash Bags and Can Liners

Join our initiative to raise the sustainability bar for trash bags and can liners.

Green Seal is developing an environmental leadership standard for trash bags and can liners that use less virgin plastic while maintaining top performance.

The draft standard recognizes environmental leadership in trash bags and can liners based on plastic efficiency: reducing virgin plastic use to the minimum amount required to maintain top performance for the product’s gallon size. By certifying products that are in the top 30% in their size category for the lowest amount of virgin plastic in the liner, Green Seal can play a critical role in recognizing producers who are environmental leaders in their industry and providing buyers with reliable, environmentally-friendly options in this product category.

The public comment period on the draft standard closed on January 29, 2023. Green Seal is now reviewing stakeholder input.


Household Use of Trash Bags

Approximately half of US households use at least 300 trash bags each year. Combined, American households send more than a billion trash bags to landfills annually, where they turn into microplastics that further pollute the environment. An estimated 79% of all plastic products eventually reach the ocean, harming marine life and emitting the potent greenhouse gas methane when they degrade.

Commercial use of Trash Bags

One New York City office building can use 23,000 can liners per month, or more than 4,000 pounds of virgin plastic.


Preventing Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution is a formidable challenge today, with fewer than 9% of plastics recycled and millions of metric tons entering the ocean each year. With a certification standard, Green Seal can play a role in driving demand for recycled plastics, helping to increase the recovery rates of plastic waste and promote the circularity of plastic products.

Reducing Carbon Emissions

Trash bags and can liners have significant carbon pollution impacts. These products generally are made of virgin plastics that are produced using considerable amounts of energy and associated carbon emissions. In fact, over 95% of the carbon footprint of plastics comes from its production.  

Manufacturers can save a significant amount of carbon emissions by making trash bags with less virgin plastic, whether they achieve this by using post-consumer recycled (PCR) content or through producing thinner liners that maintain uncompromising performance.

Verifying Performance and Durability

Historically, the thinner the liner or the higher the recycled content of a plastic product, the lower the durability and tear resistance. For households, cafeterias, daycares, and any building with food or liquid waste, the reliable strength and tear resistance of a garbage bag is critical for safety and cleanliness. As a certification body, Green Seal will play a critical role by verifying that garbage bags made with less virgin plastic can demonstrate effective performance including puncture resistance and ability to hold heavy loads without tearing.


Green Seal’s reputation for credibility and market impact rests on an open and transparent process for developing our science-based standards, following international best practices.

Green Seal uses stakeholder feedback to inform our decisions on final standard criteria. This includes using Advisory Groups composed of market and technical experts from three interest categories: producers, users, and general interest. During the standard development process, Green Seal strives for balanced participation from all interest categories. To learn more, see our Standards Development Manual.

The public comment period on the draft standard closed on January 29, 2023. Green Seal is now reviewing stakeholder input.

Working Group

Green Seal’s standard development includes a Working Group made up of leading companies, nonprofit organizations, and independent subject matter experts. Working Group members provide technical and market feedback throughout the standard development process, program implementation, and evolution.

Project Timeline

The following timeline is an estimate of the project progress. Throughout the following phases, Green Seal welcomes and is actively recruiting subject matter volunteers with interest and expertise in this market.

  • Winter 2022/2023 – 60-day Public Comment Period on Proposed Standard
  • Spring 2023 – Issuance of Final Standard and Launch of Certification Program

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