Are Your Dog Poop Bags Biodegradable?

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Pet waste is a bigger problem than many people realize, contributing to high nitrogen and phosphorus levels that can contaminate waterways, killing fish and other water-based life by depleting them of oxygen. 

Further, pet waste can often be full of pathogens dangerous to our health, such as fecal coliform — E. coli is a subgroup of this type of bacteria. So it is important for every pet owner to be aware of the best ways to dispose of their pet’s waste. 

Buying biodegradable dog poop bags to clean up after your dog’s number 2s is a simple way to help out the environment. But — and yes, that pun was completely intended — you need to be careful, as not all biodegradable bags break down at the same rate. 

In fact, some biodegradable bags may take decades to actually break down, while others will break down while you’re using them. Let’s find out how we can avoid that while also giving back to Mother Nature.  

What Does Biodegradable Even Mean? 

A biodegradable material is one that can be broken down into smaller components by bacteria and fungi. 

While many associate biodegradable materials with being eco-friendly, this isn’t always the case. For example, when items, such as grass cuttings or newspapers degrade, they break down into two greenhouse gasses: methane and carbon dioxide.

Both gasses are leading causes of climate change. NASA has found that CO2 can get trapped in the atmosphere for up to 1,000 years, and while the same can’t be said for methane, it’s a bigger immediate problem due to it having 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide for the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere. 

Are Dog Poop Bags Biodegradable? 

While some potty bags for cleaning up after our dog’s waste are made to be biodegradable, not all are. Pet waste bags made with 100% recycled paper are completely biodegradable both in landfills and in home compost systems. However, most of the ones you’ll find in stores aren’t made to biodegrade. 

There Is A Big Problem With Biodegradable Poop Bags!

According to pet company Innovetpet, even the waste bags that say they are biodegradable can sit around for decades in landfills. Companies can get away with putting “biodegradable” on their product because technically, the material will break down eventually, it just might take several years for that to happen. 

Another way is by using material that only breaks down quickly under a specific set of conditions, such as material that breaks down when constantly exposed to oxygen. One problem with that is oxygen and landfills don’t get along. Once the pooh bag is covered by new trash, oxygen levels decrease to non-existent, meaning these biodegradable bags can no longer quickly break down. 

Another common problem with biodegradable poop bags is the ones that do degrade quickly, and can do so too quickly. As in, when you’re still carrying them or trying to pick up your dog’s number 2s. This means in many cases, if you aren’t careful, you could end up buying a biodegradable poop bag that actually pales in comparison to the common plastic ones. 

Can You Compost Dog Poop?

While dog waste compost can make for a handy soil additive that helps repair old foliage growth while promoting new growth, it’s advised you don’t use dog waste as a fertilizer for crops you plan to eat.  

That shouldn’t discourage you away from composting your dog’s waste, however, because it is potentially the most environmentally friendly way to get rid of pet waste. And pet waste is a big environmental problem too. 

The biggest concern with composting dog waste is parasites such as worms. However, veterinarians say that when a dog is regularly checked and vaccinated, then the risk is low. Then with proper composting, the risk of parasites will be even lower due to the high temperatures inside these compost piles. 

Compostable Bags vs. Biodegradable Dog Poop Bags

At first, it can be difficult to tell the difference between compostable waste bags vs. biodegradable bags, but with a little understanding of composting, it becomes clear. 

First, while not all biodegradable bags are compostable, all compostable bags are biodegradable. This is because composting bags are explicitly made to break down quickly in compost piles, which can often be set up to be anaerobic, meaning there are only trace levels of oxygen present, if any at all. 

In North America, waste bags that claim they are compostable must meet requirements set forth by the government. Doing so will earn them the BPI-certified label. But as we saw with biodegradable waste bags, there is often a catch. 

Even when a waste bag has the BPI-certified seal of approval, it might not easily or quickly break down in your home compost bin. Many times, compostable poop bags are only certified compostable in industrial or commercial compost settings. Unlike home composting, these bags may need added heat and constant monitoring by professionals to ensure proper composting. 

What Does DW2 Certification Mean? 

When a biodegradable waste bag has DW2 certification, it means an additive was added to the petroleum-based plastic that will promote it to quickly and effectively break down once exposed to an open environment. 

While they do require oxygen to break down (making them inefficient for anaerobic composting), they are considered by many to be the best for your average pet household. Strong and durable thanks to their petroleum-based nature, but proven to eventually break down, unlike non-DW2 plastic waste bags. 

Author bio – A guest blogger has contributed this advertorial

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