When purchasing trash liners, industry experts recommend that facility cleaning managers choose products with a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content (PCRC).

“In the old days, we were thrilled if we could find a liner with 10 percent PCRC,” says Ashkin. “Today, we can find bags that have 75 percent PCRC, if not more.”

Despite the higher content of recycled material available in today’s trash liners, many green standards and guidelines advocate the minimum percentage. Green Seal’s GS-42 standard for commercial and institutional cleaning services supports the use of plastic trash can liners with a minimum of 10 percent PCRC, or a thickness of less than 0.7 mils. Similarly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines for Plastic Trash Can Liners requires a minimum of 10 percent PCRC.

In the state of California, waste management regulations require plastic trash bags intended for sale in the state to contain at least 10 percent PCRC. Manufacturers must also meet the annual aggregate use requirement that 30 percent of material in all plastic products should be post consumer material.

According to Ashkin, this is not enough.

“All bags should have recycled content in them,” he says. “The good news is, some manufacturers have figured out how to improve their technology to be able to make the same thin bags using a higher percentage of PCRC.”

In addition to calling on manufacturers to improve their processes, Ashkin puts the onus on end users to purchase liners from a supplier that offers bags with a higher percentage of recycled content.

“Don’t let companies with poor technology drive the decision,” he urges. “We need to be leaders, and we need to do more.”

Although liners with a high percentage of PCRC are preferable when implementing green cleaning practices, some distributors offer a viable alternative in the form of liners that use pre-consumer recycled content, also known as post-industrial recycled content.

Philip Rosenau Co. offers trash liners certified by UL Environment that contain reclaimed irrigation tubes. The amount of recycled content in these liners, which are the company’s main sustainable liner offering, fluctuates between 30 percent and 94 percent, depending on the availability of reclaimed tubing, says McGarvey.

“The manufacturer makes irrigation tubes for farms, and by law they cannot burn or bury them, so they use them to make trash liners,” he explains. “What we end up with is a thinner liner that is stronger than a lot of liners on the market using virgin material.”

Solutex Inc., in Sterling, Virginia, sells linear low density trash bags that contain anywhere from 65 percent to 75 percent pre-consumer recycled content. According to Charles Moody, president, the manufacturer makes these trash bags using shavings from the production of other plastic bags.

“It’s not to the greenness of using plastic that was destined for the landfill,” he admits, “but it’s still a better option than using 100 percent virgin plastic.”

While most high-density bags, such as desk-side trash liners and grocery bags, do not contain recycled content, manufacturers are beginning to respond to end-user demand for greener options. Moody’s high-density trash bag supplier recently informed him that the company plans to produce bags with 10 percent PCRC, and feedback from customers has been positive.