Are you destroying the environment with your dogs poop bags?
Using an eco-friendly poop bag seems like a no brainer for those of us who care for the planet and minimizing our carbon footprints. I always feel pretty good about myself after I bag my pooch’s poo in a fancy compostable bag, toss it and go. Unfortunately, according to a press release made by the FTC in 2015, marketers of dog waste bags “may be deceiving consumers with the use of their unqualified ‘biodegradable’ claim.” If a product says it’s biodegradable, consumers like you and me probably think it will break down in the trash or composting bin. But due to unregulated guidelines and misleading packaging, it’s possible the poop bags you’re using aren’t as earth-friendly as they seem.
First off, what is the difference between compostable and biodegradable? A compostable material creates a “hummus” that can be used to enrich the nutrients of plants and soils. And something that’s biodegradable can break down into small pieces until microorganisms consume it. As we look more into the differences between the two, you’ll see for something to be considered a compostable material it must break down completely without releasing any metals or toxins into the compost. Unfortunately, biodegradable materials can’t say the same, because they can leave metal residue in their return to nature.
Take a look at your poop bags. If you’re like me, you bought yours from a big-box store, like Costco. It turns out, these aren’t what I thought they were. “A paper bag is not only biodegradable, it’s also compostable; but a biodegradable plastic bag isn’t necessarily compostable.”
From a strictly environmental standpoint, compostable bags are much better in theory. But the sad reality is that most industrial compost sites don’t yet accept compostable pet waste and it takes a certain temperature and sanitary procedure to properly dispose of pet waste on a large scale. So unless you or your local community has a residential pet waste compost system, compostable bags are probably not your best option.
My city does not accept pet waste at its industrial compost site, so the next best option is a degradable or biodegradable bag. Simply put, degradable and biodegradable bags undergo a chemical change when subjected to specific environmental conditions, which result in a loss of physical properties. Biodegradable bags start decomposing when exposed to naturally occurring microorganisms like bacteria, fungi and algae. But there is no reference to the amount of time needed for degradation and it isn’t outright obvious that the result is beneficial to the environment like compostable bags.
I know that now you’re wondering, “what should and shouldn’t I be doing with my poop bags to help the environment?”
- Consider a dog waste only compost bin. You can use a Doggie Doolie or you can make your own!
- You shouldn’t be throwing your pup’s waste into a regular garbage can, as it will surely end up in a landfill.
- You also have the option to to flush your pup’s waste down your toilet. Yes, you heard me right, you can flush it down your toilet if you have water-soluble waste bags.
- Bury it. You need to be sure to dig at least five inches underground and be sure that you keep it away from any water source or edible plants. Dog poop can be a wonderful fertilizer for non-edible plants.
- You can dispose of your fur-friends morning bowel-movements by taking it to your local industrial composting facility, but make sure they accept pet waste before making the trip over.
Fun fact: even if biodegradable waste bags are scientifically proven to degrade because landfill compress the trash down so tightly, there’s usually not enough oxygen flow or aeration to allow the biodegradable materials to break down.
A poop bag with just 1% plastic can contaminate a compost heap. So if you’re not using a compostable bag that breaks down and creates hummus for the environment, here’s what you should be doing with your pet's waste. First off, you’ll want to look for products that are ASTM D6400 Certified (USA) and EN13432 Certified (EU), and break down and decompose in just 90 days.
But my poop bags are neither biodegradable or compostable! For many of us whose local stores, including big box stores, don’t carry either of these options, it seems we’re kind of left holding the bag… so to say. We haven’t quite grasped the best way to deal with waste and efficient recycling here in the US, and the sad reality is that for the moment, our dog poops in plastic bags will surely contribute to the landfills until we find a better system. Until then, maybe it’s time you have a word with your local council and ask what they’re doing about pet waste. After all, over 50% of Americans have dogs! We do our best as individuals to clean up after ourselves and our dogs, but we can also make a difference as a community to help save our environment.
I also want to add, do you use neither biodegradable or compostable? I would love to tell you what to do with it to make it safe for the environment, but the true answer is that there is no current “right way” to throw away your poop bags. The best thing that you can do, is to keep those environment destroying bags on that shelf you never use, and go buy either biodegradable, compostable, or water soluble waste bags. Because, with those we have a clear answer as to how we can safely throw them away. And with that mind, let’s continue to how you can change the community around you.
So it’s up to you, compostable or biodegradable? And don’t forget, not only should you be mindful of your poop bags, but with your dogs treats too. Citations: https://www.rover.com/blog/truth-about-biodegradable-poop-bags-in/ http://bridge-gate.com/2013/07/whats-difference-compostable-vs-biodegradable-vs-recyclable/ https://bagtoearth.com/us/municipalities/compostable-vs-biodegradable/https://thedailyshep.com/compostable-dog-poop-bags-good-or-bad/