The Federal Trade Commission recently published a press release stating that at least 20 manufacturers of dog waste bags have deceptively labeled their products as “biodegradable” and “compostable.” These labels tell consumers that the item will break down into its natural components, typically within one year of disposal, however, most of these poop bags won’t break down as quickly as promised, and some may not even break down at all!
But seeing how a single 75-pound dog produces approximately 500 pounds of poop a year, we have to figure out a better solution! What do we, as pet parents who are concerned with the environment, do to handle this stinking problem? We can’t just leave the poop sitting there! But we also don’t want to contribute to the incredible amount of pet waste that ends up in landfills.
There are three basic options for disposing of your pup’s poop. You can throw it away, compost or bury it, or flush it. Here is all you need to know to make an informed decision on how to dispose of pet waste in the most ecologically sound way possible.
What Happens When You Throw it Away
With all the news surrounding poop bags, it is normal to wonder what you are actually buying. Your everyday “biodegradable” poop bags may not be the best option, but that doesn’t mean you should leave your pup’s poop on the sidewalk. Picking up poop three times a day with plastic bags puts over 1,000 bags a year into landfills.
If you are using biodegradable bags to combat this issue and the bags don’t actually break down, then you’re only perpetuating this problem. Estimates suggest that poop bags, even “biodegradable” ones, can taken anywhere from ten to 1,000 years to fully decompose when they are in landfills.
There are different categories of poop bags, but petroleum-based bags and corn-based bags are the two most common. Corn bags are most expensive, but they meet a tougher standard for the biodegradable and compostable qualifications. This standard, ASTM D6400, means that the bag will disappear under certain timeframes and conditions. In California, for example, all poop bags with the term “biodegradable” must meet this standard. BioBag pet waste bags are corn-based and, although more expensive than many options, are the best for biodegradability. Earth Rated’s PoopBags are also a great option.
It should be noted, though, that even the best dog poop bags will still have a hard time decomposing in a landfill. Modern landfills are designed in such a way that almost no decomposition occurs. Though there are “better” options than using a regular plastic bag for your pup’s poop, there really isn’t a perfect waste bag to choose.
You may be asking yourself, “Why don’t I just flush my dog’s poop?” And this is a great question! Before you jump on board with the flushing option, but make sure to call your local water treatment center. Some are not set up to handle the pathogens that are found in pet waste. If your county does allow it, like many in California, this can be a great option.
The issue, however, lies in transporting the poop from outside, into your house to be flushed. The good news is that there is such a thing as a flushable poop bags! These are made out of a material called Polyvinyl Alcohol, PVA, which dissolves in water, much like toilet paper does. FlushDoggy has these for sale. You might want to be careful with using these bags in older homes as they have been rumored to clog pipes.
It is important to also remember that cat poop should never be flushed or buried. It has different pathogens than dog poop and breaks down in a much different way.
Though composting dog poop goes against everything you’ve ever learned and read about the art of composting, there is a way! Waste from animals can contain pathogens that are almost impossible to kill, meaning you don’t want to put pet waste on a food garden. Adding pet waste to your other compost pile will contaminate it, so it is important to keep dog poop out of any compost you plan on using in your garden.
Having a giant pile of dog poop in the corner of your yard does sound off-putting, but there are several products designed to help with your pet waste composting endeavors. Dog poop composting bins have recently gained popularity on the market. These bins keep the poop out of sight, out of smell and away from your other compost pile. Doggy Dooley makes several sizes and models of pet compost containers that are sure to help you and your canine companion clean up that carbon footprint and keep plastic out of landfills.
Another option is a pet waste digester. It sounds incredibly unappealing, but this tool will turn your dog’s poop into fertilizer in no time! These “digesters” work like miniature septic systems. They compost dog poop into a ground-absorbed liquid, utilizing ordinary water and natural acting bacteria and enzymes. The Doggy Dooley model has been around for years, but it requires space and a place to be buried. You should be sure to bury the digester in your backyard away from any gardens. All poop goes in the system with some water and eventually filters out into the ground as a much quicker alternative to burying your dog’s poop. If you have the room in your backyard, this is the best, earth-friendly option for handling all that poop!
There may not be a perfect solution to your pet poop problem; these three options all have their benefits and downfalls. The good news is, the FTC has warned manufacturers and marketers for many waste bag companies that their claims are misleading, so the poop bag market should become easier to navigate soon.
“Consumers looking to buy environmentally friendly products should not have to guess whether the claims made are accurate,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “It is therefore critical for the FTC to ensure that these claims are not misleading, to protect both consumers and honest competitors.”
We love our pups, poop and all. Every pet parents will have to determine what method of pet waste disposal is right for them. The circumstances will also change depending on where you live and where your pup does most of their pooping. We can only hope that we find even better, easier, and more planet-friendly ways to handle this stinky problem in the future!
Lead image source: daBinsi/Flickr