Choosing to bag Fido's business in a biodegradable poop bag is absolutely the green choice. Given the correct conditions, biodegradable poop bags will perform as promised.
Here's the hitch. The conditions in landfills are anything but correct. In most landfills, conditions prevent organic material from decomposing. Furthermore, poop in landfills leads to water contamination and methane gas production, which is why most landfills actually have a no-feces (dog or otherwise) policy.
So the question isn't one of wrapping — choose the green bags — but one of disposal.
First of all, do pick up the dog poop! Short of the gross factor, the big problems with leaving the poop to nature in high-density areas are:
- Dog poop is carried by storm water directly into waterways, where it causes bacterial contamination.
- It's nitrogen-rich so it depletes oxygen levels, hurting fish and other wildlife.
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There are responsible ways to keep the doggie doo out of the landfill and to make sure those biodegradable poop bags have a chance to work their magic:
- Compost the poop.
- Flush the poop.
If your knee-jerk reaction to dog-poop compost is less than sunny, it's time to reconsider. With proper set-up, composting yields rich soil and safely returns the poop to the earth. Popular home composting methods include:
- A compost pit — About one metre deep by one metre wide, with a cover.
- Dog poop compost bins — available at pet stores and garden centres.
- Vermicompost — gross, sure! But it works.
Dog-waste compost should be kept separate from other compost and is best used on ornamental — not edible — gardens.
Prefer to flush the poop? Biodegradable — but not compostable or degradable — baggies can be flushed, making it simple to send your dog's poop down the pipes. Just be sure to check with your municipality to ensure the sewage system can handle the grit.
Compostable bags require the heat of a compost pile to break down, so they cannot be flushed. And beware of the word degradable (as opposed to biodegradable) which refers to formulated polythene. Polythene bags will fragment, not biodegrade, leaving tiny bits of plastic in the water.