What Are Garbage Bags Made of: Can Liner Materials Guide

What Are Garbage Bags Made of: Can Liner Materials Guide

By Michael Kralstein | Can Liners

Jul 30

Although everyone uses them, very few people know what garbage bags are made of. Unfortunately, this can lead to costly mistakes, including throwing your hard-earned profits out with the trash. 

In general, trash bags are made from polyethylene, which is a petroleum-based resin that is preferred because of its tear resistance and strength. There are three different types of polyethylene resins used to manufacture trash bags: 

  • Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) resins 
  • Linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) resins, and 
  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE) resins. 

LDPE, LLDPE, and HDPE are all polyolefins with unique molecular structures that offer each type of garbage bag different properties. In fact, these plastics are the only ones with a lower specific gravity than water, which is why these resins will float. Let’s take a closer look at each of these three resins and how choosing the right garbage bag can positively impact your bottom line.  

Garbage Bags Made of Low Density Polyethylene

Low density polyethylene is an older resin, but you can still find it being used in more lower-end utility can liners. This thermoplastic was first made by Imperial Chemical Industries back in 1933. In terms of its molecular structure, LDPE has a less tightly-packed structure and the most extensive branching of any polyolefins, which is why it has a lower density, lower tensile strength and higher resilience. 

In addition to garbage bags, LDPE resins are regularly used for a range of different wash bottles, containers, dispensing bottles, computer components, and more. However, when it comes to the manufacturing of garbage bags, LDPE has been largely replaced by linear low density polyethylene.

Garbage Bags Made of Linear Low Density Polyethylene

Linear Low Density Polyethylene (LLDPE) boasts a vast number of short branches, which is structurally different from LDPE due to the absence of long chain branching. Although LLDPE has shorter molecular branches, they are able to easily move without being entangled. In contrast, LDPE resin has longer branches which can easily become entangled with each other. This is why LLDPE is substantially stronger than LDPE and preferred over LDPE in the manufacturing of garbage bags. 

In fact, LLDPE are the most common type of garbage bag and are able to withstand more puncture damage and greater impact. The unique tear-resistance and puncture-resistance properties of LLDPE make it ideal for applications where extra stretch and/or strength is needed. This type of heavy-duty garbage bag boasts the ability to accommodate waste with jagged or sharp edges. A few key advantages of garbage bags made of LLDPE include:

  • Garbage bags made from LLDPE can be used across multiple applications. 
  • These garbage bags offer remarkable stretch resistance and maximum resistance to punctures compared to garbage bags made from HDPE
  • Garbage bags made from LLDPE resin are manufactured in a wide myriad of colors
  •  In comparison to garbage bags made from traditional low density resin, LLDPE garbage bags can be run at a substantially lighter gauge and have equal strength.

Garbage Bags Made of High Density Polyethylene

High density polyethylene (HDPE) polymer chains feature less branching. Because of the reduced molecular branching, HDPE material is less permeable and more ridged than LDPE. These garbage bags are temperature resistant, offer a large strength-to-density ratio, and offer excellent moisture protection. 

Garbage bags made from HDPE resins are the ideal choice for bathrooms, lightweight trash, and paper. Grocery store bags are made from HDPE because of its exceptional strength. While extremely strong, garbage bags made from HDPE material will tear easily if they are punctured. A few key advantages of HDPE can liners include:

  • These garbage bags are approximately 3x stronger or more durable than LDPE garbage bags of the same thickness. 
  • Garbage bags made from HDPE can offer substantial cost savings on a per-bag basis. 
  • Garbage bags made from HDPE resin require two-thirds less petroleum based raw material to create.
  • HDPE can liners can reduce shipping, storage, and warehousing costs.
  •  Trash bags made from HDPE resins offer a vast range of temperature resistance from -40 degrees F to +212 degrees F (boiling).

Garbage Bags Made of LLDPE vs Garbage Bags Made of HDPE

Let’s look at head-to-head comparison of the two most popular garbage bag resins — LLDPE  garbage bags vs HDPE garbage bags:

HDPE Garbage Bags

LLDPE Garbage Bags

Efficiency of the Material 

The Best Material Savings

Good Material Savings

Tear Resistance

Good Resistance to Tearing 

Better Resistance to Tearing

Puncture Resistance

Better Resistance to Puncturing

Good Resistance to Puncturing

Load Capacity

Good Load Capacity 

Good Load Capacity

Contact AAA Polymer

Understanding what garbage bags are made of and choosing the right type of can liner can substantial implications to your business. In many instances, AAA Polymer has been able to help our customers experience significant savings by switching from a more expensive can liner to a more suitable solution. 

As can liner experts, we offer a full catalog of different commercial garbage bags designed for virtually every application. We'll use our years of experience to match your needs to the best solution and work to reduce your trash bag costs. 

Contact AAA Polymer today to request your free garbage bag audit.

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About the Author

Michael Kralstein started working in sales full time for AAA Polymer in February 2000. In 2006, he became the Sales Manager of our can liner division. He currently manages all aspects related to can liners.

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