It’s time we addressed the elephant in the room, or rather, the big green bag in the room. For the past few years, do-it-yourselfers have increasingly been turning to a certain brand of bags from a certain national waste hauler to dispose of debris from their home improvement projects. If you pop into places like Home Depot or Lowe’s from time-to-time then you’ve probably seen dumpster bags stocked in their own standalone cardboard display; advertised as being more convenient and more affordable than a dumpster. On the surface, the dumpster bag seems more convenient and affordable, but in many cases, a small dumpster may be more suitable for the job.

Does the dumpster bag really beat the dumpster for home waste removal? Let’s see how these two options stack up against each other.

The True Cost of a Dumpster Bag

The main allure of dumpster bags stems from the incredibly low prices advertised on the bag itself (29.99!). But as evidenced by quite a few negative reviews, there seems to be a fair amount of confusion when it comes to the true cost of using a dumpster bag to dispose of your waste. Unlike a Budget Dumpster rental, where delivery and disposal fees are included in a single upfront payment, dumpster bags have a separate collection fee that varies by location. The rates quoted online are usually just estimates based on the customer’s debris type and total volume of materials. The final out-the-door cost is not determined until you have the dumpster bag scheduled for pickup.

Get The Biggest Bang for Your Junk

Our research shows that collection costs for one dumpster bag loaded with 3 cubic yards worth of construction debris in the average Midwestern city comes to a total of $129. This is on top of the $29.99 charged by the retailer for the bag itself, bringing the total to about $160 per bag. On the surface, this seems like a great deal especially to those of us who have worked on our homes before. But the quoted collection fee assumes that customers stay within the 3,300 lbs. (1.65 tons) weight limit of the bag; anything more than that will incur additional charges of an unspecified amount and may even pose the risk of the dumpster bag tearing during pickup.

In comparison, the typical 10 yard dumpster rental goes for between $260-330 depending on the city and is typically offered with at least two tons of weight capacity. If you were to try and throw out 10 cubic yards worth of debris with dumpster bags you would end up spending close to $480 for three bags, and even then you’d need one more bag to grab the remaining 1 cubic yard of material.

"There's so much room for...activities!"

“There’s so much room for activities!”

That situation can easily happen if you are undertaking an extensive home or garage cleanout where there are a wide range of both bulky and small items. Trying to cram everything into a dumpster bag at a rate of $160 per bag might seem economical until you realize you’re only a quarter of the way done and you’ve already filled your one bag. For just $100-$120 more you can rent a small dumpster that will accommodate most, if not all, of your debris. Or to look at it another way, two dumpster bags would accommodate 6 yards worth of debris and cost roughly $260.00 (Our research suggests you receive a small discount for additional bag disposal beyond the first bag. We used $160 for the first bag plus $100 for the second). But a small 10 yard dumpster costs roughly the same and you get 4 more yards of space to utilize…that’s 4 more yards of junk or debris you can get rid of!

Dumpster Bag Pickup Problems

Pricing is not the only problem with the dumpster bag. A fair number of customers have had mixed results with the collection services that underlie the whole dumpster bag operation. In some cases, customers have been left waiting for weeks for the company to come pick up the bag, prompting some to order a regular dumpster to dispose of the bags themselves. Other customers have purchased a dumpster bag without even realizing that the company doesn’t service their area, leaving them with a full bag and no way to haul it away.

"Don't worry, sir. We've got our best people on it."

“Your bag’s still on-site? Not to worry, sir. We’ve got our best people on it.”

These kinds of problems don’t exist when renting a dumpster. Any company that rents out dumpsters has a dedicated dispatch center set up to process pickup requests in a timely manner for both the customer’s convenience and to ensure that dumpsters are readily available for new orders. But since the dumpster bag is a one-time deal, there’s no additional incentive to retrieve it quickly.

There also seems to be some miscommunication as to what kind of collection service is included with these dumpster bags. There have been some instances where customers have set up the bag inside their home or in their backyard and expected the collection service to pick up the bag from that specific area. In much the same way a junk removal service would come to pick up an old mattress. One customer in particular set up their dumpster bag in their basement and expected the company to come right in and haul it away.

This leads us to the other problem with the dumpster in a bag. Despite being smaller and easier to place than a dumpster, you still have to place it in either the driveway or as close to the curb as possible. This is because the trucks used to pick up the bags are equipped with a hydraulic arm that requires at least 18 feet of vertical clearance. Customers hoping to place their bag behind their homes, far back in their driveways, near their garage or off to the side of their home will most likely be out of luck unless the bag is within 18 feet or so of the street.

The dumpster bag promises to free people from the ugly exteriors and cumbersome restrictions of the traditional dumpster, but in practice the dumpster bag is very similar to its metal counterpart and doesn’t offer a truly different experience. The only difference is that it’s much, much smaller.

Remember these guys?

Your tax dollars at work.

Remember That Other Trash Service You Pay For?

The dumpster bag is not just competing against traditional dumpsters, but also with municipal trash collection services. Most cities offer bulk trash collection at least once a month, offering to take a few cubic yards worth of furniture, carpeting, tables, TV’s, appliances, and yard waste. This presents potential customers with a choice between paying an additional $160 to have their small amount of junk removed, or simply waiting for their tax dollars to swing by and grab it all. And if I were a betting man, I’d bet most customers would opt to hold out for the next bulk collection week.

Dumpster Bags v. Dumpsters: The Verdict

The concept behind the dumpster bag is an intriguing one. It puts a new spin on an old method, but unfortunately doesn’t match up with the conveniences offered by a traditional dumpster. And whereas a roll off container can be used over and over again, a single dumpster bag is just going to become another piece of trash.

So if you are asking yourself whether to rent a dumpster bag or a dumpster, the answer is almost always going to be the dumpster. Not only will you get a better deal, but you won’t have to worry about ripping the container open or being stuck with your debris for a couple of weeks.

You can put a bag in a dumpster, but you can’t put a dumpster in a bag!