When you go to look at dog poop and dog waste bags, there are several terms used in the marketing of these bags that you probably want to know what they actually mean in reality.
We are talking about biodegradable, degradable, compostable, plastic and flushable dog poop bags.
What might surprise you is that what you think some of these terms mean and what the requirements of using these terms on labelling are by regulations or law are two completely different things
(NOTE: always check the laws and regulations in your area for product labelling yourself, and check with a professional if you’re unsure of anything. The information in the following guide is educational only – it should not be taken as expert advice).
If you are using biodegradable bags for example, you want to make sure they are actually good for the environment right?
Let’s look into it further…
(ALSO NOTE: dog poop bags should not be added to your recycling. Only materials labeled ‘for recycling’ should.)
Biodegradable vs Degradable vs Compostable vs Plastic vs Flushable Dog Poop & Waste Bags – What To Know, & Which To Use
Biodegradable Dog Poop & Waste Bags
This can be a little complicated. But, in a nutshell…
What does biodegradable mean in theory? Biodegradable means that the poop bag material is made of some type of organic material (naturally growing based things), so that it can be decomposed by naturally occuring organisms back into the soil and air.
An example of dog poop bags made with resins from plants and vegetables are the My Alpha Pet Dog Poop Bags (on Amazon) that are ASTM D6400 Certified (USA) and EN13432 Certified (EU), and break down and decompose in just 90 days.
Another example are the Bio Bag Premium Pet Waste Bags (on Amazon). In 2017, they are BPI certified to meet the ASTM D6400 specification.
The Flush Puppies Doodie Bags (on Amazon) also meet the ASTM d6400 standard and California law for “compostability” claims, and are certified compostable by the biodegradable products institute (BPI).
The brand Earth Rated also do a bag which have a material that is vegetable based.
What are the requirements and guidelines for the term ‘biodegradable’? Using the United States as an example, products labelled as biodegradable usually:
- Have to meet ASTM D6400 guidelines
- Should meet any legal guidelines which outline how long the bag should take to decompose – generally any material that takes longer than 6 months is not allowed to market their product as ‘biodegradable’
In Europe, the European Standard EN 13432 lays down criteria for what can or cannot be described as compostable and what can be called biodegradable, and the Australian Standard AS4736-2006 is closely based on EN13432. The main difference is the addition of a worm eco-toxicity test.
Should you consider biodegradable dog poop bags? The choice is up to you, but buying organic based material poop bags will mean the bag in theory will break down with aeration quicker and more naturally than a standard plastic bag.
There are two potential issues with using biodegradable bags if you think you are getting a bag that will automatically break down in the environment:
- The first is that biodegradable materials are usually only effective at decomposition if they have an air supply. If they are trapped under tonnes of land fill, they are either not going to decompose properly due to a lack of air supply, or they might to emit methane – which is more deadly than C02. And landfill sites that accept pet waste is where out dog bags go.
2. The second is that some people within the pet industry argue a bag should not break down quicker than the dog poo itself. Dog poo can contain nasty bacteria, pathogens and other unsafe disease causing organisms which can be dangerous for other dogs and humans. The bags that take a few years to break down will conceal the dog poo for longer – which keeps a barrier between it and any human or animal.
Note that only some landfill sites accept pet waste, and biodegradable bags can’t be recycled.
Degradable & Oxo-Biodegradable Dog Poop Bags & Waste Bags
There are also Oxo-biodegradable or degradable bags.
These bags are different to biodegradable bags in that instead of the material being natural based, it is simply a plastic type bag, like polyethylene, that contains additives that help the bag material break down faster, but still over a number of years.
An example is the EPI additive used in some dog poop bags like the Earth Rated brand.
Degradable and Oxo-biodegradable bags take longer to break down than bio degradable bags, but will break down more quickly than standard plastic bags – as long as there is an oxygen supply/the right conditions.
Because degradable bags are made of a plastic, they can contaminate your compost heap if you have one so don’t compost them.
Compostable Dog Poop and Waste Bags
What does compostable mean in theory?
The idea of compost is simple – you put organic material and organic waste (like vegetables/food scraps, leaves and other organic matter) in a compost heap, which breaks down into hummus (usually over months), and produces a nutrient rich fertiliser you can use to improve growing, soil and gardening quality.
Even 1% of plastic can contaminate a compost heap. To be able to be compostable, a poop bag must be 100% organic.
It’s also important to note that industrial composting sites are much different to your average compost heap at home.
What are the similarities and differences between compostable and biodegradable dog poop bags?
The similarity is that both bags need air or an aerobic environment to break down.
The differences are:
- All compostable materials are usually biodegradable
- Biodegradable materials are only compostable if they meet all the compostable criteria which usually involves checks against biodegradability, disintegration, absence of contamination or difference from existing compost physical/chemical makeup, other chemical/physical parameters, worm tests and heavy metal tests.
What are the requirements and guidelines for the term ‘compostable’?
This can be a little bit tricky to answer because there are several in depth and detailed criteria compostable materials must meet (refer to the above paragraph).
Once again,the testing standards of ASTM D6400 or D6868 are referred to.
Should you consider compostable dog poop bags?
In reality, compostable dog bag and dog waste bags are generally not accepted by industrial composting sites due to the risk they present in contaminating the compost.
Similarly, if you do it at home, you can contaminate your current compost heap, or, the pathogens, parasites and nasties contained in the dog poop can be dangerous if not composted properly – plus composting dog poop requires higher temperatures and other conditions that a residential compost pile usually can’t meet.
You might be wary of compostable bags at this stage – but, there’s definitely hope for them in the future if you can compost privately (and safely), or if your government or council/province has a pet waste composting initiative introduced.
Compostable bags also can’t be recycled.
Plastic Dog Poop and Waste Bags
- Full plastic dog poop bags are usually made with oil/petroleum – a non renewable energy source
- Plastic dog poop bags break down in the environment when exposed to UV light – it’s estimated it takes 500-1000 years for a plastic bag to fully break down in the environment
- Not only can plastic get caught and stuck inside animals who swallow it, but it can pollute water and soil with petro polymers once it breaks down
- Interestingly, plastic creates less pollution, takes less energy to make and is lighter than paper materials (paper is recyclable)
- Plastic dog poop bags can’t be recycled after use because – a) only hard plastic can be recycled and b) only dry and clean plastic can be recycled (it’s too hard to clean and dry poop bags after they have been used).
- Some plastic dog poop bags are made of recycled organic material and polymers (plastic) – these bags might be more biodegradable, but are not compostable due to not being 100% organic
Should you consider plastic dog poop bags?
Plastic bags can be cheaper than poop bags that are made to be biodegradable or compostable. Also, because most bio and compostable bags don’t receive aeration anyway, their breakdown is negated to an extent.
But, they take 500-1000 years to break down and can be deadly for the environment (soil, air and water), and animals.
The reality is, if we keep using plastic bags, they will keep getting made.
If you can’t afford bio and compostable bags, plastic bags may be an option, but if options become available for bio and compostable bags to be disposed of properly, plastic bags will be out the door in all likelihood.
Flushable Dog Poop and Waste Bags
Flushable dog poop bags are bags you can flush down the toilet.
Should you use flushable dog poop bags?
There are several potential issues with using flushable bags:
- If you are carrying them inside – you risk contaminating your house or bathroom with dog poo bacteria and pathogens
- The bag might flush and not clog your toilet, but it could clog at some point down the sewer line
- Flushable bags aren’t made for septic systems
- Some tests of flushable bags show the bag migtht break up but not fully disintegrate
- Dog waste contains bacteria, viruses, and parasites. In the event of sewer overflow (caused by man made or natural factors), this dog poop can get into waterways, marine water with marine life, and even our drinking water
Which Dog Poop and Dog Waste Bag Should You Use?
In the short term, there is no perfect bag.
Biodegradable and compostable bags seem superior to plastic bags and flushable bags overall from a safety and environmental perspective, but in most societies and governments/communities in 2017, we don’t have ideal waste disposal systems to utilise them.
Landfill doesn’t suit biodegradable and compostable bags because both need aerobic break down processes (there is no aeration to waste underneath land fill).
In addition, the materials in dog poop bags have another layer of difficulty to treat and dispose because of the poop inside of them that carries bacteria, viruses, and parasites – and also makes plastic dirty.
Dedicated pet waste composting sites, dedicated pet waste biodegrading sites, improved or modified sewage treatment services and infrastructure, or even biogas technology could all make biodegradable and compostable bags excellent in the future.
2. EPI Global
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