If your community waste management systems offers commercial composting services for dog waste, using compostable pick-up bags formulated to meet ASTM D6400 standards would make sense. But EnviroWagg in the Greater Denver-Boulder area and Green Pet Compost in the Pacific Northwest are the only companies currently providing this service.
If you trash your pet waste, what is the point of using compostable pick-up bags? Unless the waste and bag are returned to nature in some systematic way, compostable bags have no function. In a sealed landfill, organics – including compostable bags – do not degrade as they would if exposed to air, light, heat, moisture and hungry microorganisms. They simply emit methane as they mummify.
Bags identified as “biodegradable” or “oxobiodegradable” without a “compostable” designation are made of plastic film with an added degradant that helps them break apart if exposed to the elements. As with compostable bags, the organic components of these bags do not fully decompose when hermetically sealed in a landfill.
All greened up with no place to go
Since dog waste in compostable or otherwise advertised “biodegradable bags” is tossed in the trash, why not just recycle that old newspaper or shopping bag for pick up? Really. Unless compostable bags are used as part of a recycling process, they actually have drawbacks. Here are three of them.
1) Do it yourself composting: Promotions often lead buyers to believe that compostable or other “biodegradable” bags can be used with various doggie septic systems or for backyard composting. But the bags take a long time to degrade and may disrupt the system. They simply do not expose contents to the elements in a timely way.
2) Price: Certified compostable bags can cost twice as much as bags made primarily of plastic. Compostable bag manufacturers foresee lower prices only when demand accelerates due to plastic bag bans and organics composting.
3) Magical thinking: Bags labeled “compostable” or otherwise “degradable” may even impede efforts to keep parks and waterways free of dog waste pollution. Some pet owners leave “biodegradable” bags on the ground or cover them with dirt with hopes that they will quickly degrade. One dog owner said (true story), “These bags are great! I leave them in the field and when I come back they’re gone.” Nature does not embrace the bags. Someone picks them up or they simply blow away.
So what’s the answer?
Considering that the dog waste you responsibly pick up and trash is headed for a landfill, a smart environmental choice would be to either re-use plastic bags or choose pick-up bags made of recycled plastic in the U.S.A. Both of these options eliminate the need to produce new plastic film and transport products long distances.
Envirowagg recommends Bio-Buddy bags, manufactured in Burlington, Washington, to green partners and others who want to get low prices on bulk recycled plastic or compostable pick-up bags. These bags can be custom printed for parks, company branding or fundraisers. Call Dick Mathes at Custom Bioplastics, 1-800-694-0017. See his advice for park managers.