Brits love their dogs and more and more of us are deciding to make them a member of our family. In fact, estimates suggest that there are nearly 13 million of our furry friends compared with 8 million, only 6 years ago.
Owning a dog has many benefits but, unfortunately, they’re not the most eco-friendly of additions to your family lifestyle. When you look at the amount of food (generally meat) that they eat, as well as the plastic contained in their dog toys, for instance, their eco paw print quickly starts to add up.
The real culprit, though, is dog poop. Or more accurately, the disposal of dog poop. It’s estimated that 25 million dog poop bags are used everyday, with most ending up in landfill sites, with there being sadly no chance of them ever breaking down.
Most dog owners who care about the planet responsibly pick up after their dog using dog poop bags. But did you know that you could be buying the wrong dog poop bags? Depending on the circumstances, recycled, biodegradable or compostable bags are all going to be kinder to the environment – at least, to some extent.
In this article we’ll explain the differences as well as helping determine what kind of dog poop bag is right for you.
The Different Types of Dog Poop Bags
We’ve established that not all dog poop bags are made equal, so let's have a look at the different types and evaluate their respective eco ‘paw’ prints.
Virgin Plastic Dog Poop Bags
These are the cheapest poo bags on the market and are sold in bulk throughout the UK. Once used they can only be placed into a general rubbish bin (which will then end up in landfill). These bags don’t decompose and will remain intact for hundreds, if not thousands of years before breaking down. Made from unsustainable petrochemicals, these should be avoided wherever possible.
Recycled Plastic Dog Poop Bags
Instead of making poop bags from scratch - so called virgin plastic, recycled plastic poop bags are made from discarded waste that otherwise would have landed up in landfill. By recycling this plastic into poo bags they get another lease of life, which means they are a good option when trying to choose an environmentally-friendly way of discarding your dog waste. Especially if you don’t have access to a proper composting method (more about this below)
Read the small print though, as some bags claim to be recycled when on closer inspection this makes up a small percentage of the total product.
Biodegradable Plastic Dog Poop Bags
These bags are made from a type of plastic which has added chemicals in order to help them break down more easily when exposed to air and light. The issue here is that they will only break down where light, heat and, crucially, oxygen is present.
Because of this, any biodegradable bag that ends up in landfill will never decompose, because the conditions present there are anaerobic (lacking oxygen).
Even bags that claim to be biodegradable don’t always rot to nothing. Microplastics are shed from these dog poop bags, and these can then in turn access our oceans and waterways. The ocean microplastic issue is a serious one, and so this is certainly something to consider when purchasing these dog poop bags.
Another issue is that due to the added chemicals, biodegradable plastic cannot be used for recycling, either.
Compostable Dog Poop Bags
These bags are made from so-called “bioplastics” and are usually made from plant-derived, sustainable materials such as cornstarch, sugar cane or wheat.
They should break down naturally when composted. However, they will only compost in the correct conditions and the compost should not be used for any edible plants.
Unfortunately, as with biodegradable dog poop bags, if you throw a compostable dog poop bag into the regular rubbish bin, then it won’t decompose, as it needs oxygen and moisture to do so.
Best Bag for You and Your Dog
Other factors to consider when deciding on the best dog poop bag to choose revolve around both practicality and preference. These include:
Scented or unscented
Handles (or lack thereof)
Most bags are a regular 7” x 11” which is big enough for most dogs’ deposits and allows space to tie the ends. If you have a larger breed, then look for the extralarge poop bags 7” x 13” size.
Scented or Unscented
From mint to lavender, it’s a personal choice whether you prefer a scented bag or au natural. This choice is a bit like whether you prefer a plain or prettily-patterned bag; in other words, it’s more to attract the owner than it is any serious, practical consideration.
Measured in microns, the thickness of a bag can make the scooping of dog poop a little less onerous. If you go for an option over 25 microns in thickness, then there’s a bit more of a physical barrier between you and the poop, but they will be more expensive as a result.
Bags with handles sound like a good idea but some say they get in the way when picking up the poop. They’re also not generally supplied on a roll which isn’t ideal if you like to use a dispenser for your poop bags when walking your dog.
Look for bags that do not come with unnecessarily large quantities of packaging and consider buying in bulk to cut down on delivery emissions. Many dog poop bag manufacturers are packing their bags in cardboard now, rather than plastic, so look to purchase these if you’re able.
Who knew that there was so much to consider when choosing the humble dog poop bag? Hopefully, by taking into account the above factors you, too, can now make the best choice for you, your dog and the environment.