When we think about what this year has taught us, learning about the need to protect nature is at the top of the list. More and more people are realising how necessary it is to be considerate of the damage that we are doing to our planet. We are finally becoming more eco-conscious. When we look at the main ways that people have tried to become more sustainable, what comes to mind is the shift away from travelling by plane, eating a more sustainable diet and making swaps away from single-use plastic. We’ve stopped using plastic straws and made efforts to use reusable bags but what about the plastic bags that are used to pick up after your dog?
Unfortunately, we cannot completely stop using these bags – we need something to pick up our dog’s poop. The good news is that there are dog poo bags available that are as convenient as plastic ones but don’t contribute to the problem of plastic pollution. If you want to be a responsible dog owner, making this switch is an easy way to contribute to a greener world.
The devastation of the Plastic Age
We are now living in what is being called the Plastic Age – where our over-use of the toxic material has led to there being traces of plastic in our fossil traces. And, because so much of our plastic being manufactured is designed to be single-use, the size of our landfills are increasing at a worrying rate. With overpopulation being a more pressing issue than ever, adding to landfills is only ruining more of our natural world. However, littering plastic is not just a problem on land but the oceans too. 1 truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute killing sea creatures and ruining the habitats they live in. It’s a no brainer that we need to start to make the change away from single-use plastic and towards a sustainable alternative.
The issue with littering plastic is more than just taking up space and obstructing wildlife – it’s the chemicals in plastic that harm our planet, too. Plastic contains toxin chemicals, so when a landfill is filled with the stuff, its runoff is extremely harmful. The traditional plastic bags are made from ethylene which is derived from petroleum or natural gas and is very difficult to degrade. This then negatively affects the soil, causing the knock-on effect of polluting the plants that need this soil to survive. Thinking about dog poop specifically; when this is wrapped in a plastic dog poop bag and dumped into a landfill, the bag prevents the organic matter inside it from decomposing – it just takes up even more space.
Going completely bagless isn’t a feasible option either. Firstly, its inconvenience would put off even the most eco-conscious dog owner. But more than this, burying dog poo can cause the pathogens in the waste to be released into the ground, then rivers and seas. The bacteria in dog poop can damage wildlife when it is washed into the watershed. So, burying your dog’s waste or throwing it into a nearby push is not an option – we need to pick up the poop.
In the UK alone, there are 10.1 million pet dogs. This equates to a lot of dog waste that needs to be picked up after – proving the necessity of dog owners switching to sustainable dog poo bags. The first option is a degradable dog poo bag that contains D2W – a component that means that plastic which usually takes 20+ years to decompose, only take 2-5 years. Although these bags are not made from natural materials, speeding up this process of decomposition will decrease the rate of the buildup of landfill mass. You can dispose of these in the bin, knowing that the plastic will decompose instead of remaining there for years and years to come. These bags also protect the residue from your waste leaking out, but instead, help it to decompose safely.
The other option is home compostable dog poop bags. Composting is the decomposition of organic materials into simpler organic matter or organic compounds. Compostable poop bags are made from cornstarch transformed into polymers which create a sustainable yet sturdy bag. These can be deposited in the bin where you have the peace of mind knowing that you are only adding natural materials into the waste bin. Ideally, these bags are put into a compost. This can either be in a home compost or an industrial compost facility. An extra benefit of this is that with the right levels of oxygen, water and heat, all the pathogens in your dog poop are irradicated and your dog’s waste can be used for fertilisers for the garden. Adding sawdust to your compost can help to create the ideal fertiliser as it neutralises the high levels of nitrogen in your dogs’ poop.
How can you know for certain whether your dog bags are compostable? In the UK, look out for ASTM D6400. This is the standard specification for material that degrades by composting. This is needed for a product to be labelled as compostable.
All in all, the switch from traditional plastic bags to more sustainable options is a necessary yet easy swap. You would not have to sacrifice the ease of using a dog poo bag but will be assured that your dog’s waste is not causing environmental damage. To make the unpleasant job of picking up poop even easier, you could purchase a dog poo bag dispenser. These can be clipped onto your dogs’ collar, ready to be used when you need them. These small changes make a big difference and are an easy way to become a sustainable, responsible dog owner.