Dogs make a lot of waste. At least one to three times a day, actually. And every time they do, most of us take a small piece of brand new waste out of our pocket, pick up their waste with that piece of waste, and throw it in the waste bin half a block later. The life cycle of that plastic bag began and ended all before you’ve even had a coffee. Enough with the greenwashing, deception and confusion with dog poop bags: let’s cut the crap.
What is the best way to dispose of dog poop?
The answer to that question is nuanced, but mostly depends on where you live. The first thing you want to do is check out how your local municipality handles poop. Best case scenario is that they can compost the poop into usable, nutrient-rich soil (like in Toronto and Waterloo). If your local compost doesn’t collect poop, you can call to request it!
The next best option is to keep it out of the landfills. Flush it down the toilet (without a bag), use a private poop collection service, or try your hand at home composting! All are great options, but are perhaps a little challenging for the average dog.
The last resort is to pick that stuff up (dog poop can be super harmful to our environment and health if left to drain into our water systems and soil), and you’re going to chuck it in the garbage.
What is the most environmentally friendly poop bag?
We believe that 100% compostable dog poop bags are the best current solution. Here’s why.
COMPOSTABLE VS. BIODEGRADABLE
Biodegradable materials are ones that break down into their original components. Compostable materials break down into organic matter that provide nutrients to the soil in a composting environment. In this way, compostable materials are biodegradable but biodegradable materials are not compostable. A plastic water bottle, for example, is technically biodegradable because it will eventually disintegrate back into the earth – 500 years later.
WHAT ARE COMPOSTABLE VS. BIODEGRADABLE POOP BAGS MADE OF?
Poop bags that are labelled “biodegradable” are usually made of the same petroleum-based plastic as water bottles, but have chemicals added that make it down into smaller pieces faster. While this reduces the volume in landfills, the reality is that it simply creates more microplastics that end up in our oceans & rivers until they disintegrate hundreds of years from now.
On the other hand, poop bags that are labelled “compostable” should be made of natural materials, and transform into organic waste that is useful for the environment at the same rate as the rest of the compost. That last bit is important, because if compostable bags end up in the landfill they can release methane gas as they decompose.
However, studies have shown that petroleum-based plastic also emits greenhouse gas when exposed to the sun and the surface area of those plastics increases – i.e. when they become microplastics that float in our oceans.
THE ENTIRE LIFE OF COMPOSTABLE VS BIODEGRADABLE VS PLASTIC
So, we have to look at the big picture! It’s true that compostable materials can take more energy and resources to create. Since they are made of natural stuff like corn, bamboo and flax, a bunch of energy goes into growing those plants and processing them. On the other hand, biodegradable and plain ol’ plastic bags are cheaper to manufacture, because oil is cheap.
When the plants used to make the materials are alive they act as a carbon suck: that is, they store CO2 as they grow. If they are not composted properly and end up in the landfills, that CO2 is released back into the air. So, depending on the transportation and production process of the compostable bags, the net CO2 emissions of plastic bags could be less than the compostable ones.
However, we believe that we should move towards a world that doesn’t rely on the creation of plastic and the consumption of unsustainable resources. We believe that investing in renewable energy, promoting sustainable materials and diverting waste from our landfills and oceans is the only way forward. That is why we use compostable, 100% plant-based poop bags at Nifty Dogs.
Where Does the Dog Poop Actually Go?
Aha! An excellent, and incredibly important question. Once you’ve made the switch to 100% compostable poop bags, you should be feeling quite good! But, you should also know that even in municipalities where poop is composted, that bag may end up in the landfill anyway because of the way it is processed in the waste treatment facility. We still wholly believe that compostable bags are the way to go, but let’s look at Toronto to understand why.
HOW TO THROW OUT DOG POOP IN TORONTO
As mentioned, dog poop goes in the Green Bin in Toronto. It can be picked up in any type of bag – plastic, biodegradable, compostable – it doesn’t matter. Why? Because all of the plastic that has gotten mixed in is sorted and filtered out and sent to the landfill before the stuff in your green bin is composted. This means that your dog poop bag may never make it to the compost. Yikes!
WHY WE USE COMPOSTABLE DOG POOP BAGS
At Nifty Dogs, we feel good knowing that if our bags do make it through, they’ll be composted. If they are sorted out and make it to the landfill instead, they’ll still decompose far faster (think 100+ vs 500+ years) than the other bags in the pile, and won’t turn into harmful microplastics. Finally, by using a compostable product rather than a plastic one, we have voted for positive environmental change with our dollars and choices and haven’t contributed to the production of new plastic.
Where to Find Compostable Poop Bags and How To Choose
If you want to make the switch to fully compostable poop bags, there are a few things to look for on the poop bag label.
THINGS TO BE WARY OF
If the bags are made of “biodegradable”, “degradable” or “oxo-degradable” plastic, they are likely made of petroleum-based plastic with additives to make them break down faster. These are not compostable.
Vague terms like “eco’, “green” and “bio”. If the bags have no certifications or proof of compostability, ask!
THINGS TO LOOK FOR
Some certifications can be helpful to confirm whether the bags will truly compost in industrial facilities (such as the OK Compost and ASTM-D6400 compostable certification which our bags have!). Not all certifications are equal, however, so this isn’t the only way!
What are the bags made of? Look for ingredients such as cornstarch and PLA (or Polylactic Acid, which comes from renewable resources like corn starch or sugar cane). All of the compostable bags we’ve seen also include PBAT, which is unfortunately partially derived from oil. Ironically, however, it’s the bit that’s added to make the product degrade quickly enough to meet the home compostability criteria. You can learn more about PBAT here.
You can also look on the company’s website for reports or proof of their commitment to transparent and honest environmentally friendly products.
We hope that helps you on your ever changing journey in advocating for a healthier planet. With hundreds of millions of dog poop bags used around the world every year, we’re excited to provide an alternative that can make even a little impact on a big challenge.
- Biodegradable vs Compostable: What’s the Difference? By Public Goods
- Disposing of dog poop the green way by The David Suzuki Foundation
- Shortlist of what some Canadian cities want you to do with your poop by the Canadian Public Health Association
- Greenwashing 101: All You Need To Know (2020) by Almost Zero Waste
- Plant-based? Compostable? What you need to know about bioplastics by Emily Chung, CBC News
- Certified Compostable Products: What to Look For and What It Means by Urthpact
- What Goes in the Green Bin (Organics)? by the City of Toronto
And finally, if you have any questions about poop and plastic, drop us a line! We’d love to hear from ya.