Flushable vs Compostable vs Biodegradable vs Plastic Dog Poop/Waste Bags: Comparison, & Which Is Best?

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There’s several terms/phrases used in the marketing of dog poop/waste bags. 

We are talking about biodegradable, compostable, plastic and flushable dog poop bags.

Although we haven’t mentioned it in the title of this guide, we also discuss degradable and oxo-biodegradable dog poop bags below in the guide.

You’ll want to know exactly what you’re getting when you purchase each of these types of bags.

You’ll also want to know what each term means according to regulations or consumer guidelines in each country or region.

We discuss these things in this guide.

We also list some of the top rated dog poop bags on the market across some of these dog poop bag types. 

Let’s look into these things further …

 

(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. Always check the laws and regulations in your area for product labelling yourself, and check with a professional if you’re unsure of anything)

 

Flushable vs Compostable vs Biodegradable vs Plastic Dog Poop/Waste Bags: Comparison, & Which Is Best?

In case you want to go straight to checking out some of the more eco friendly dog poop bags, some of our top picks for the best dog poop bags across the biodegradable and compostable categories are:

Biodegradable Dog Poop Bags

Check these certifications at the time of purchase though because products and standards/laws can change and be updated.

 

Compostable Dog Poop Bags

  • My Alpha Pet Dog Poop Bags (on Amazon) made with resins from plants and vegetables. Are ASTM D6400 Certified (USA) and EN13432 Certified (EU), and break down and decompose in just 90 days. This compostable bag is an alternative to a polythene plastic bag
  • Flush Puppies Doodie Bags (on Amazon)  – meet the ASTM d6400 standard and California law for “compostability” claims, and are certified compostable by the biodegradable products institute (BPI).

 

* Dog poop bags should not be added to your recycling. Only materials labeled ‘for recycling’ should be added there.

 

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 like plant or vegetable resin), so that it can be decomposed by naturally occurring 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 using the term ‘biodegradable’ in marketing, and what does it mean according to regulations?

It differs from country to country as to which products can use the word ‘biodegradable’.

As a general summary, products labelled as ‘biodegradable’ should meet the standards enforced by laws or guidelines in that country about the word.

 

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’

 

If you want more information on the ASTM, and how their guidelines are developed and given power, check out their FAQ page.

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.

 

How are biodegradable bags different to degradable and oxo-biodegradable 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.

 

Potential benefits of biodegradable bags

Buying organic based biodegradable material poop bags will have some of the following benefits:

You aren’t buying plastic bags

Plastic bags take an estimated 500-1000 years to break down in the environment via UV light

Plastic emits toxic micro polymers when it breaks down

Plastic can get caught inside the airways and organs of animals – choking, injuring or killing them

You won’t be buying flushable bags – which have their own set of contamination and blockage issues

You won’t be buying degradable bags which are essentially plastic bags with an additive for quicker breakdown

 

Potential risks and concerns with biodegradable bags

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:

1. 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.

 

Should you consider biodegradable dog poop bags? 

The theory of biodegradable bags is great. And to be honest, the products available are also pretty good.

So, what’s the problem? … How we dispose plays a major part in the issue with them.

Sending biodegradable poop bags to landfill sites is problematic the way we currently do it (covering the bio material in layers of other waste). Biodegradable materials need oxygen and aeration to be most effective.

If there was more communication and collaboration at a local and state/province based level, it would be great.

Some councils might have disposal initiatives specifically for pet waste, but they seem to be in the very small minority, and inconsistent.

Furthermore, if you have a safe and effective way to let biodegradable poop bags decompose and break down in your back yard (as long as it’s legal) – that would make biodegradable bags perfect for you.

As a final note – although biodegradable bags aren’t currently utilised or disposed of to get their full benefit, it could be said they are still much better for the environment than plastic dog poop bags.

The choice is ultimately 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.

 

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 are compostable bags?

Compostable dog poop bags are dog waste bags that can break down naturally with other organic matter to create hummus/compost, that fertilises plants, soil and other growing matter to make them more nutrient rich.

 

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.

 

What requirements must a compostable bag satisfy?

Compostable bags must usually meet a standard for compostability.

The requirement are more extensive than biodegradable bags as compostability bags must meet criteria in relation to:

Biodegradability,

Disintegration, Absence of contamination or difference from existing compost physical/chemical makeup,

Other chemical/physical parameters,

Worm tests 

Heavy metal tests

 

It’s important to understand that even a bag with 1% plastic can contaminate a compost heap. To be able to be compostable, a poop bag must be 100% organic so it matches the makeup of the other matter and the compost conditions.

It’s also important to note that industrial composting sites are much different to your average compost heap at home.

 

Compostable vs biodegradable bags – differences and similarities

The similarity is that both bags need air or an aerobic environment to break down properly via natural micro organisms in the environment.

The differences are:

All compostable materials are usually biodegradable

Biodegradable materials are only compostable if they meet all the compostable criteria which usually involves certain requirements. The criteria is mentioned in the question above.

 

Benefits of compostable bags

The benefits of using compostable dog poop bags compared to other poop bags are that:

Compost/compost hummus can be used to enrich the nutrients of different plants, gardens, soils etc.

Bio degradable bags only naturally decompose – they don’t create compost

Flushable bags present contamination problems both in the home and in the environment, and don’t always break up properly in a sewer system – leading to blockages

Plastic bags take an estimated 500-1000 years to break down in the environment, can get caught in animals’ throats and internal organs, and emit harmful micro polymers when they break down

 

Potential issues with compostable bags

The sad reality is that unless you currently have a residential pet waste compost system, or your local council has a pet waste compost system, compostable bags have little use.

Most industrial compost sites don’t accept compostable pet waste because it’s too hard to clean the dog poop, and the risk of contaminating other compostable matter is too high.

On top of that, home compost systems including dog waste usually need high temperatures and need to be sealed off properly to prevent pathogens and bacteria in the dog poop from making humans and animals sick.

 

Should you consider compostable dog poop bags?

In short, if you have a suitable home compost system you feel safe using that actually composts the pet waste, they are a great idea. 

Similarly, if your council offers facilities that compost pet waste – they could be a good option.

If however they are going straight to landfill sites in the normal waste disposal, the only benefit you have is that they aren’t plastic bags – as the compostable bags usually won’t have an aerobic environment to actually break down.

The decision is up to you.

 

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

Let’s summarise plastic dog poop 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

You’re probably wondering, is it safe to be flushing dog poop at home? Even if the bags flush ok and don’t clog your toilet, what happens to them afterwards?

 

What are flushable dog poop bags?

Flushable dog poop bags are quite new to the dog poop bag and dog waste bag market.

Other dog poop bags that are plastic, or biodegradable, degradable or compostable, are usually disposed of and dumped in landfill.

Flushable dog poop bags on the other hand are flushed down the toilet. 

To be flushable, the bags must be able to dissolve in the water so they don’t clog your toilet or the pipes.

But, how do they work in reality? Is it just clogging your toilet you have to worry about?

 

What are the potential benefits of flushing?

Let’s start with the benefits of flushing dog poop.

The main benefits to flushing dog poop are that they prevent some of the issues and limitations of the alternatives to flushing such as:

Eliminating the need to dispose bags to landfill sites

Eliminating the problems that plastic bags present

Eliminate the problems that biodegradable bags face

Eliminate the problems associated with composting residentially and industrially

 

The main alternatives to flushing dog poop are:

Dumping dog poop in the trash where it gets sent to land fill sites that accept pet waste

Composting dog poop – either at home (residentially), or at industrial composting sites

 

The major issues with using land fill sites are that: 

a) not all land fill sites accept pet waste

b) biodegradable material needs air to break down properly and landfill layers prevent air from getting to the bags (which actually produces methane gas which is a bad thing!),

c) plastic bags take around an estimated 500-1000 years to break down in the environment

d) plastic bags not only get stuck inside animals, but when they break down they emit harmful chemicals

 

The major issues with composting dog poop are: 

a) it can be both difficult (achieving the temperature needed to compost dog poop properly) and unsafe (with the bacteria, pathogens and diseases found in poop) to compost at home, and

b) basically no industrial composting sites accept pet waste as the process of treating the poop is too difficult and composting without contaminating other compost matter is too risky

On top of this, plastic dog poop bags are hard to recycle because they are soft (recycling machines only accept hard plastic) and they are dirty (it’s too costly and difficult to clean dog poop from the plastic).

 

What are the risks and concerns (eco and human) of flushing dog poop and bags?

So, eliminating all those problems makes flushable dog poop bags perfect right? Not so fast…

Using flushable dog poop bags introduces a new set of issues to worry about such as:

a) the bags themselves can be weak when picking up wet poop or picking up poop in wet conditions

b) dog poop may contain nasty bacteria, parasites and pathogens – bringing poop inside your house and bathroom poses a health risk for those living inside the house if contamination occurs

c) the way most flushable bags are tested doesn’t always confirm that the bag fully dissolves in the sewerage system (meaning it has to be removed as rubbish or it clogs up the system later down the line)

d) sewer overflow caused by man made or natural factors such as floods or infrastructure failures, can cause the dog poop to get into waterways, marine water with marine life, and even our drinking water 

e) it can be costly to fix and clean sewer systems affected by poop bags

f) Flushable bags also aren’t made for septic systems

Some of the above concerns are evidenced in come countries like Australia where it’s costing some councils millions to clean the after effects of some brands of flushable poop bags.

It should be noted though that the performance in terms of degradability and breaking down might differ from one bag brand and product to another.

 

Should you use flushable dog poop bags?

Ruling out the use of flushable dog poop bags altogether might not be the smart thing to do.

After all, they do help us get around the landfill and plastic bag issues.

However, in order for flushable bags to be something safe and smart to use going into the future, there has to be improvements in:

The bag being able to dissolve to an extent (more product development needs to happen)

The sewerage system being reliable enough not to spill harmful dog poop pathogens into the external environment (treatment of the poop needs to stay consistent)

 

Of course, the above is just our own research and opinions – make your mind up for yourself with the facts and professional opinions if required if flushable bags are right for you.

If you are looking to get flushable dog poop bags, it’s definitely worth researching the bag, and confirming yourself with the company that they are suitable for your situation, speaking to your council about safety and environmental laws and regulations in your area, and consulting a plumber or health professional if necessary (much cheaper than paying for someone to fix a clogged toilet or pipes!!)

 

Example of a flushable dog poop bag

The Flush Puppies Doodie Bags (on Amazon) are an example of a flushable dog poop bag.

They meet the ASTM d6400 standard and California law for “compostability”, and are certified compostable by the biodegradable products institute (BPI) (for industrial compost facilities only).

 

Can dog poop clog a toilet when using flushable bags?

Generally it doesn’t, but it depends on several factors like your toilet, how much poop you’re flushing, the dog poop bag etc.

When using a standard flushable dog poop bag, there’s generally more clogging problems down the line than at the point of flushing.

As a reminder, the general process of treating waste sent through a sewer system like in a country like Canada for example involves:

Screening and trapping large debris which are removed

Treatment for separation of solids and wastewater

Secondary biological treatment of water to treat small solids

Final disinfecting and removal of harmful bacteria

Discharge to water reserves like lakes and oceans

Solids processing including burning methane for electricity and heat, and using organic solids for fertiliser and sending the rest to landfill

 

Can you use flushable dog poop bags with a septic tank?

It is generally not a smart thing to do as it can smell really bad, human poop contains things like hair and ash which human poop doesn’t, and other things about dog and pet poop can interfere with the design and processing of the septic tank.

There are specially designed in ground pet waste sewer line attachments you can buy and install – but they can give varying results.

The reliability and design of the individual pet waste systems can vary, and a poorly designed one can be troublesome unless you know exactly what you are doing or looking for.

An example of a Dog/Pet Sewer Drain is the Doggie Doo Drain Dog Waste Sewer Line Attachment (on Amazon) .

 

Which Dog Poop and Dog Waste Bag Should You Use/Which Is Best?

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.

In your yard – you usually don’t have to use a dog poop bad – you can use a pooper scooper or shovel.

Out on walks, you might opt for the most sustainable dog bag you can use that you can afford and that actually performs well in picking up dog poop (i.e. doesn’t break, contains smells well, and so on)

We discuss some of the best ways to pick up and dispose of dog poop in this guide.

 

Further Resources

1. ASTM

2. EPI Global

3. Organics.recycling.enee

4. Petpooskidoo

 

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