Are commode liners recyclable ?

by | Beginners Info, Personal Hygiene

Cleaning out the bedside commode is, probably, one of most caregivers’ least favorite jobs, and so it is easy to understand why commode liners are so appealing. I know that I have been most grateful for their invention at times. But you do start to wonder what is happening to all the plastic and its contents, and just how bad it is for the environment.

Are commode liners recyclable ? Commode liners are not recyclable. Most commode liners are made from plastic polymers combined with starch, cellulose and particular enzymes which allow them to partially biodegrade. Micro-organisms will naturally breakdown the starch and cellulose, leaving the tiny particles of polyethylene in pretty much a powder form, which will very slowly breakdown over a very long period of time. Commode liners are intended for disposal in landfill garbage.

What are the different options with and without commode liners ?

Different methods for emptying a commode bucket –

  • using a commode which fits over the toilet without need for the bucket
  • using the bucket and emptying it into the toilet afterwards
  • using a commode liner in the bucket and emptying into the toilet afterwards
  • using a commode liner with a absorbent pad, powder or gel in the bucket and disposing of it in the trash for landfill
  • using household bags with kitty litter and disposing of it in the trash for landfill
  • using a commode liner with kitty litter and disposing of it in the trash for landfill

Using a commode which fits over the toilet without need for the bucket

Transfer or rolling bedside commode

If you are caring for an elderly parent who has trouble walking, you can with a “transfer or rolling bedside commode” (these are bedside commodes on wheels) wheel them to the bathroom, if they are agreed, and then position them over the toilet, with the commode bucket removed, and use the toilet as you would normally.

To do this you will need to –

  • check the height of the legs of the commode and adjust them so that the commode can move into position over the toilet bowl – you will only have to do this the first time if you don’t change the height again
  • remove the commode bucket before transporting your loved one to the bathroom
  • put the seat and lid of the toilet in the upright position
  • wheel the commode into position over the toilet bowl
  • always lock the wheels of the commode once in position
  • if your loved one wants to get off the commode you can slot the splashguard under the commode seat so it, but I have never found it necessary
  • give you loved one some privacy

As regards the splash guard, we have been using a 3 in 1 commode over our toilet for almost 2 years without and splashguard, and there has never been an occasion when it would have helped.

This can also be done with some “shower transport commodes” but not all have adjustable leg height which is be needed to have the seat above the toilet bowl.

3 in 1 bedside commode

If your loved one is able to walk to the bathroom a 3 in 1 commode can be placed over the toilet and just be left there.

To install 3 in 1 commode over a toilet –

  • remove the pale from under the seat of the commode
  • for a smaller toilet you may wish to remove the backrest from your commode – push the buttons on either end of the back rest bar and remove the bar
  • lift the lid and seat of your toilet into their upright position
  • check the height the legs of your commode so that it over the toilet
  • adjust the length of the commode legs by pushing in the metal buttons and adjust the length of the commode leg by sliding it up and down until the push button pops out of the hole at the height you want
  • the legs should all be the same length for stability and safety
  • don’t adjust the legs so high that when seated the user’s feet don’t touch the floor – most of the foot should be on the floor when the user is seated
  • once the height is right place the commode over the toilet 
  • if you want to use the splash guard, lift the commode seat and slot the guard into place

For all the commodes you must check that the legs are adjustable and that they will be tall enough to go over your toilet.

You also need to check the weight limits fo the different commodes as they do vary depending on the material they are made from. The commodes for heavier individuals – usually over 300 lbs – are called bariatric commodes.

There are bariatric commodes in each type of bedside commode.

Using the commode over the toilet is the most environmentally friendly way of using it, but it may not be practical, especially if your loved one has to do things on their own.

Using the commode bucket and emptying it into the toilet afterwards

This is almost as environmentally friendly as the using the commode over the toilet, but it does involve cleaning a dirty commode bucket, which is of course what people who use liners are trying to cut out.

The good thing here is that again the contents is all going off to the sewage treatment plant and not into a landfill.

There ways of making the job less unpleasant and easier to do –

Caregivers should always be wearing gloves and the proper clothing to protect their skin from the cleaning chemicals, and also from the fecal matter and urine

You should be emptying the bucket after each use empty the bucket after each use, cleaning it and then disinfecting it.

You can clean with whatever cleaner and disinfectant you prefer.

Popular cleaners and disinfectants include Lysol, bleach, white vinegar, Pinesol, Odo-Ban, Nature’s Miracle Enzyme Spray, White Vinegar and Anti Icky Poo.

A good idea is to have a second commode bucket as so you can leave the used bucket to soak for a number of hours in disinfectant to remove some of the odors which will inevitably be absorbed into the plastic.

If you can find a bucket which is enameled, ceramic or metal, these will not absorb odors as does plastic.


Preparing the commode bucket

The real secret here is to prepare the commode bucket before it is used – 

 

  • you should add a few inches of water to the bucket as this will trap odors from urine and feces under the water, and it will make cleaning after dumping far easier
  • as well as putting water into the bucket you can add products to the water which create a film on the water further trapping odors and also adding a scent over the top

Products you can add to the commode bucket water

Poo Pourri – This is also very popular for bathroom toilets. The scented spray is spritzed onto the water surface in the commode bucket, and from there it inhibits the a lot of the odors from escaping the water.

Essential Oils – Oils such as Lavender and Peppermint are very popular, and are simply added to the water to scent it and also to leave a film to stop odors escaping the water in the bucket.

Listerine Mouthwash – I haven’t tested this, but I have read quite a few times on forums of other caregivers putting this in the water to great effect.

You can also add oils which have a disinfecting quality to the water, such as oregano oil or melaleuca oil.

What you should not put in the bucket before it’s used ?

 Don’t add bleach or any other chemical cleaner containing bleach to the water in the commode.

You shouldn’t do this for two reasons –

  • as your loved one sits and uses the commode water can splash up, which if it contains bleach or other chemicals, may get them on the genital areas and cause nasty skin irritations – bleach is an irritant to the skin
  • bleach and the ammonia in urine combine to make chlorine gas which is bad for the lungs, so when your loved one uses the commode if there is bleach in the water chlorine gas will be produced, and even in small quantities this is not good for them

Using a just a commode liner in the bucket and emptying into the toilet afterwards

If you don’t like commode bucket cleaning, but you don’t like all the human waste and plastic being sent to landfill sites in the trash, this is another solution which could work for you.

You buy commode liners which don’t have powders, gelling agents or pads in them, and you can use these over the commode bucket and tip the contents down the toilet, and then throw the bag only into the landfill trash.

The bags are also substantially cheaper without pads, powder or gelling agents.

 How to use the commode with just a disposable liner – don’t forget to wear gloves and to throw them away after the job is done –

  • place the liner over the commode bucket
  • put the commode bucket back in its place
  • immediately the liner has been used remove it 
  • pour the contents down the toilet – remember to go slowly to avoid spillage and the liner turning itself inside out, and don’t rely on the bucket handle, as I had one come off !!!!!
  • remove the liner from the commode bucket when it is empty and rinsed
  • tie up the empty liner with the draw strings and knot the bag
  • put the used liner in the trash for landfill
  • don’t re-use the liner as it will have bacteria all over it, and you don’t want your loved one o get an infection

Disposable commode liners sold without absorbent pads, gelling agents or powders

In the US

Bearals Commode Liners

Better Moments Commode Liners

Medaccs Commode Liners

SaniCare Commode Liners

SaniCare Commode Liners 

TidyCare Commode Liners  

In the UK

 Medaccs Commode Liners

TidyCare Commode Liners

Using a disposable commode liner with absorbent pad, gelling agent or powder

If you use these commode liners each one will have either an absorbent pad, a gelling agent or powder in it, to absorb any liquid in a very short space of time as well as the odors, and to solidify any feces.

The liners are disposed of in the trash destined for landfill, so I wouldn’t say they are particularly environmentally friendly even if they are biodegradable to a degree.

To use the commode liners –

  • place the liner over and into the commode bucket
  • if it uses an absorbency pad make sure it’s at the bottom of the bucket in the liner
  • if it is a powder or gelling agent they are already in the liner
  • the commode bucket under the commode seat in its holder
  • the contents will start to solidify within around 20 seconds
  • immediately the liner has been used you should remove it
  • pull the draw ties and tie them up
  • seal the bag as per its instructions – usually knotting it or using a sticky seal
  • put the bag in the trash for landfill straight away

Popular brands of disposable commode liners sold with absorbent pads, powder or gelling agent

Here’s a list of some popular brands of disposable commode liners sold in, what I would call starter quantities (10 – 30 per packet), that are readily available in the US and the UK, both online and in supermarkets.

The liners either use an absorbent powder, a gelling agent, or an absorbent pad to treat the urine and feces, and to solidify the liquids .

All the brands are safe for landfill.

In the US

Bearals Commode Liners 

CareBag Commode Liners

Carex Commode Liners 

Cleanwaste Sani-Bag+

Medaccs Commode Liners 

Nurture Commode Liners

TidyCare Commode Liners 

Vive Commode Liners  

In the UK

Abena Abri-Bag

Age Co Commode and Bed Pan Liners

CareBag Commode Liners 

Dr Helewa 

Healifty

Reynard Commode Liners

TidyCare Commode Liners

Vive Commode Liners

Buying disposable commode liners with absorbent elements in bulk

If you are using a number of commode liners a day it is pretty clear that if you buy you them in smaller amounts you are going to be paying a fortune. 

Below are some of the brands selling in larger amounts.

In the US

Cleanwaste Sani-Bag+ – 50 Liners

Cleanwaste Sani-Bag+  – 100 Liners

Cleanwaste Sani-Bag+ – 200 Liners

Medaccs Commode Liners – 50 Liners 

Medline Commode Liners – 72 Liners

Medustry Commode Liners – 60 Liners

Nurture Commode Liners – 72 Liners

Vakly Commode Liners – 48 Liners 

In the UK

Medaccs Commode Liners – 50 Liners

You can obviously buy commode liners in bulk on ebay or amazon.com from the US in the UK, but you may want to watch the price.

You will have to pay duty on anything you buy from the US plus the shipping, so it may not work out that cheap in the end. In general disposable liners in bulk in the US are almost half the price they are in the UK so it may be worth it.

Using household plastic bags and cheap kitty litter

Due to the cost of disposable commode liners with absorbent agents being so high, it seems to be quite popular to make your own disposable commode liners from household plastic bags and kitty litter, and to put them in the trash for landfill.

This has to be the least environmentally friendly method –

  • the cheaper kitty litters are made from mining methods which are very bad for the environment
  • the household bags are going to take hundreds of years if not longer to break down – and people generally use two bags incase there is a leak in one

The method is –

  • place a couple of plastic bags over the commode bucket
  • put a scoop or two of kitty litter into the bottom of the bags 
  • after it has been used more kitty litter is placed on top to soak up any liquids
  • once the liquids are absorbed the bags are tied up
  • the package is then disposed of in the outside trash

The kitty litter will both absorb liquids and help suppress unpleasant smells.

The problem for me here is that these are not biodegradable or environmentally friendly.

Using a disposable commode liner and biodegradable kitty litter

The disposable liners have been designed to breakdown at an accelerated speed, and would be better for the environment with a biodegradable the kitty litter than polythene household bags.

An example of disposable commode liners without pads etc –

  • SaniCare Commode Liners  – 150 Liners

Now that you have chosen a liner which will at least in part biodegrade, take a look at the organic kitty litters which will totally breakdown from microbial attack.

Biodegradable kitty litter

Kitty litters from different kinds of natural organic products – grass, pine wood, cedar wood, corn fibre, recycled paper and grass seeds –

 

  • Arm and Hammer Naturals Clumping Litter
  • Exquisicat Naturals Pine Cat Litter
  • Abound Natural Clumping Cat litter
  • Exquisicat Naturals Paper Cat Litter
  • Pioneer Pet SmartCat All Natural Cat Litter
  • Okocat Natural Wood Clumping Cat Litter
  • TidyCats Pure Nature Cat Litter
  • Frisco All Natural Grass Clumping Cat Litter

So, are the disposable commode liners biodegradable ?

Disposable plastic liners use use a polymer – mostly polyethylene (polythene) – which they combine with starch, cellulose enzymes to lower their resistance to microbial attack, and to accelerate the speed at which they degrade.

Here is a short text from a paper on the biodegradation of plastics –

“different degradable plastics have been developed where inertness and resistance to microbial attack of plastics is reduced by incorporating starch and later pro-oxidants. These synthetic and biodegradable polymers are made in industries by mixing a non-biodegradable polymer with organic biodegradable starch or cellulose. In such cases,  bacteria will digest the biodegradable part, and the non-biodegradable part will be broken down into small particles or powder. These kinds of “biodegradable” polymers are really an industry trick to gain the mark of biodegradability for the purposes of selling to consumers, where only the degradable part is eaten by bacteria. The by-product of the degradation is, thus, the by-produst of bacterial digestion plus the original non-biodegradable polymeric component that is now in powder form.” 

Source –

Indian Journal of Biotechnology Vol 7, April 2008, pp 235-239
“Impact of soil composting using municipal solid waste on biodegradation of plastics”
By
Ch Vijaya and R Mallikarjuna Reddy
Department of Biotechnology, Jawahar Bharati Degree College, Kavali, India
Department of Microbiology, S V University PG Centre, Kavali, 524 201, India

Read the paper here.

The actual breakdown of the liners splits the organic biodegradable parts from the non-biodegradable parts. They are no longer plastic liners.

The organic parts have de-composed leaving tiny particles of plastic, or plastic powder. Over a very long period of time the polyethylene powder, or whatever other plastic polymer the liners are made from, may eventually biodegrade, but it is a very long process.

I’m Gareth and I’m the owner of Looking After Mom and Dad.com

I have been a caregiver for over 10 yrs and share all my tips here.

Gareth Williams

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Are commode liners recyclable ?
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Commode liners are not recyclable. Most commode liners are made from plastic polymers combined with starch, cellulose and particular enzymes which allow them to partially biodegrade and break apart.
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