Let’s talk about poop. Dog poop.
Yep, we’re doing it.
Why? Because poop plays a shitty role in the life of very dog owner, and it has caused a dilemma in our lives quite recently.
Over the past year, we have made effort to slowly decrease our consumption of single use plastics. One month ago, we actually decided to try our best to live a close to zero waste lifestyle on the road. We have focused on limiting the amount of unnecessary waste that we produce for so long now, that poop bags frustrate us greatly.
Generally speaking, poop bags are made of plastic. There are some alternatives – which we’ll talk about in a bit – but most (cheap) varieties are flimsy pieces of plastic.
Some have bright colors, some are scented with lavender or mint, and others are decorated with hearts or polkadots. But no matter their scent and appearance, we will always see poop bags as waste. But seemingly, this waste is unavoidable.
So let’s do a quick calculation to get an idea of the amount of plastic a dog owner consumes due to their dog’s toilet visits.
We know the number of poops a day differs greatly per individual, usually caused by the type of food that is being fed, but let’s say your dog poops twice a day. We’ll keep in mind that you’ll probably forget to bring poop bags once a week (let’s be honest, it happens). This sums up to an approximate 678 poop bags each year! And we all hope that our dogs live a happy, healthy, and long life, right? Okay, we’ll stick to an age of 12 years. 676 times 12 equals 8136 poop bags per dog.
Did you know that there were approximately 89 million dogs in the United States alone? This number is growing, as well. These numbers prove that the (plastic) waste created by poop bags can’t be ignored.
‘Biodegradable’ poop bags
A few months ago, we thought that we had found a great alternative to the regular plastic bag. Not realizing that there is more to this whole poop story than just the bag itself – it really is quite a difficult topic – we ordered a box containing 27 rolls of BecoPets poop bags.
The box was made of recyclable paper. That was the first thing that made it feel like a better product. Other bags are usually wrapped in a plastic film. Yes, plastic wrapped in plastic…
Sadly though, we have come to realize that these bags aren’t as awesome as the company makes them out to be. They are listed as ‘degradable’ and supposedly make cleaning up after your pet ‘as eco-friendly as possible’. Yet BecoPets fails to reveal what the bags are actually made of.
Companies can claim terms like (bio)degradable without their product having to fully break down, and without it even being remotely good for our environment.
BecoPets have since released a new variety that seems to actually be eco-friendly, yet it isn’t glorified as much as their original baggies. These new bags are made of plant material and are in fact home compostable. BecoPets however seem to prefer their plastic not-so-eco-friendly bags.
If we can’t trust what a company has to say about their product, like BecoPets do about their original poop bags, how can we decide what to buy? How can we make better decisions?
When buying poop bags, keep in mind that they have to specifically be listed as compostable (rather than biodegradable) to be certain of the fact that they are indeed plastic free. In the United States, these products are certified with Standard ASTM D6400, and in Europe with EN-13432.
Which bags to go for
We have since found a few products that seem to be compostable and plastic free:
- Poppy’s Naturally Clean water-soluble bags (though they might be packaged in plastic)
- FlushPuppies water-soluble bags
- BecoPets compostable bags (though they’re not transparent about their other products)
- EarthRated compostable bags (scroll all the way down, past their not-so-eco-friendly bags)
- AllBIO compostable bags (they make compostable bin-liners, too)
- Unni compostable bags
But where should we dispose of it?
But what should we do after bagging the poop? Where and how should we dispose of it?
As Rebecca nicely states at the end of her review about Poopooh Biodegradable dog poop bags:
‘And then I wondered; recycling bin or dumpster?’
Well, that’s the big question in life – or one of them, at least. After researching the topic for a while, we still don’t have a full answer to this question. And it seems like nobody does. It is clear however, that neither the recycling bin nor dumpster are where your dog’s poop should end up.
What everybody seems to agree upon is the fact that simply throwing a bag full of dog poop in the bin isn’t the way to go. This would namely result in two potential outcomes.
Firstly, it could tear during its journey from the bin to that massive heap of non-recyclable waste. During rainfall, harmful bacteria can leak from the bag into the local water system. Eventually, this could make many people very sick.
Alternatively, and most likely, the bag will be covered with other waste. Due to the weight pressing down on the neatly wrapped poop, it will mummify. Though both poop and the compostable bag should be able to break down quite swiftly, this so-called mummification process will prevent that. They will actually take thousands of years to break down this way, if it ever happens at all.
That’s another thing we have recently discovered; we have been doing it wrong all along.
Leaving it be?
If it isn’t good practice to dispose of our bags in the bins, why bag it at all, why should we even care to pick up after our dogs?
A few things in life are worth more than you might imagine. A friendly neighbor is one of them. If your dog keeps pooping on that one small stretch of grass in front of their house, there will come a point at which they are fed up with both you and your four-legged friend.
Leaving dog poop in the grass – be it in public or on your lawn – is actually harmful to the environment. Even if you don’t care about your neighbor nor your shoes, there is another good reason to clean up after your dog.
Dog waste can carry a great amount of pathogens. Though the poop would break down on its own eventually, a few things can happen for these pathogens to harm people and pets around us. There are other dogs that sniff the poop (and occasionally take a bite)l; we could step in it accidentally, and carry it home without knowing; and little children in the neighborhood can end up playing with it, too.
If the poop is left where it was, rain water can still carry the pathogens along and – just like in landfills – they can end up in our water systems.
It’s clear that leaving the poop where it is, is not an option – especially if you live in a rather crowded area.
Dog-waste only bins
Some cities in certain countries actually offer something unique; dog-waste only bins. These bins are destined for non other than bags of dog waste. Every few days, one specific company empties the bins, and will industrially compost the waste.
But two issues arise here. Firstly, people often use plastic bags. This means that during the industrial process, the bags either won’t degrade or turn into microplastics. And secondly, who’s to say that someone doesn’t dispose of other objects in this dog-waste bin?
We haven’t seen this system that often, it might actually be more common in the United States. There are numerous companies however that offer all products needed to set up such a system within your city. They create bins, poop-bag holders, massive rolls of 300+ compostable bags. You name it, they have it.
An example of such a company is BioBagWorld, located in Norway.
In my opinion, this is one of the best options. It offers a simple solution to everyone, within a given area. In order to prevent people from discarding plastic poop-bags and other waste into this bin, there should be a list of rules that is clearly indicated at each dog-waste bin.
The second option that keeps coming up is to flush your dog’s poops down the toilet. According to the EPA, this is actually the best solution regarding water safety.
As you might have read in the list above, some poop bags are actually water-soluble. If you think flushing your dog’s poop is the way to go, but you still want to bag it before you do, you can add these bags to your shopping-list. Manufacturers do explain that it would be best not to tie a knot before flushing the poop-filled bag. This knot might have difficulty dissolving.
We currently live in a camper van and hence do not have a regular toilet. This actually poses a very interesting further topic about our own number two’s, but we’ll talk about that some other time. It means that we don’t have the option to flush our dogs’ poop.
Personally, I’d skip the bag. I’d simply leave the house with a scoop and flush the poop before starting our walks.
But how about composting your dog’s poop at home? Is that an option?
Human poop can be composted. Though it sounds odd, we can actually use it as manure for edible plants. We had first heard about this in one of Dave Erasmus’ videos and were intrigued – yet secretly a little grossed out. So that got us thinking, whether dog waste can be composted, too.
Just like the poop bag dilemma in general, composting dog poop is a quite a controversial topic. It is generally not advised to compost dog (or cat) poop at home. Both contain pathogens that can be harmful to people and other animals.
Dr. Karen Becker is someone whom we can all learn a thing or two from. She explains that in order to safely compost dog poop and remove all (or at least most) pathogens, the compost should be kept at 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) for five days straight to ensure that no harmful pathogens can survive.
Since this is rather difficult to do at home, and researchers have not concluded whether large roundworms are actually killed in the process, you’re best off solely using dog-waste compost on decorative plants rather than your vegetable patch.
In some cases, especially if your children love to explore in your yard, it’s best to refrain from using this method all-together.
What would you do?
We do not know yet how best to continue from this point forward.
We still have at least five rolls of not-so-great BecoPets poop pags that can’t go to waste (well, quite literally, that’s what we’ll use them for). But then what?
Since we live on the road, in a camper van, the issue is a bit more difficult than usual. We would love to use a combination of the tree options listed above.
Let’s suppose we’ll eventually settle down in a small town that has incorporated the communal dog-waste composting system. We could use these bags and bins during our walks, but compost and/or flush the poops that end up near our home.
Have you thought about this topic before? How do you deal with your dog’s poop? If you scoop with a small shovel, what do you do on longer walk if your dog poops in the city center?
We’d love your two cents on the matter!