What is the difference between a dog poop bag and a plastic bag?
After all, both should be as dense as possible, tear-resistant, transportable, a bit elastic, and knowable. Many poop bags have black paint mixed in to make them opaque and easier on the eye.
That’s about it with differences.
Unfortunately, dog waste bags and plastic bags have one thing in common: plastic is an environmental sin!
As a dog person, you are rightly obliged to dispose of the dog’s legacies. As a dog person, you are usually also a nature lover.
I’m certainly not the only one who feels like a hypocrite when she regularly lectures others about the environmental damage of plastic straws and bags, but orders 1,000 packs of plastic poop bags myself.
The Sustainable People Premium dog waste bagThe 120 of these dog waste bags from The Sustainable People are ‘OK compost HOME’ certified and are therefore actually 100% home compostable outside of industrial composting. A clear advantage over all the greenwashing alternatives.
Picobello dog waste bags made from 100% recycled plastic found these thick Picobello dog waste bags made from 100% recycled old film in the Infolio Verpackungs GmbH range. The price-performance ratio makes it a good option for all multiple buyers who are looking for a better alternative to conventional plastic bags.
Dog excrement is disgusting, causes dog hatred among the population, pollutes water, provides nutrient input and over-fertilization of heavily frequented dog toilet zones, and is a potential source of infection due to the pathogens it contains.
Disposal is a must and is also mandatory in many places. That’s where dog poop bags come in.
There are now a few alternatives to the traditional black poop bag. But are these alternatives really more environmentally friendly?
What is harmful about plastic dog waste bags?
Most manure bags (and many roll cores in the round manure bag packaging) are made of plastics such as polyethylene (PE) or often “high-density polyethylene” (HD-PE). This is made, among other things, from components of petroleum.
Extracting and breaking down these fossil raw materials contributes to the release of greenhouse gases and thus to climate change.
Dog waste bags are obviously intended for single use only. With millions of poop bags used every year in Germany alone, this makes a not-inconsiderable contribution to the disposable culture, which leads to an excess of waste and harms our environment.
Poo bags that are left lying around are shredded into microscopic pieces by the effects of the weather over the years and centuries.
These end up in the form of microplastics in the oceans, our groundwater, the food chain, in the inhaled fine dust, etc. And microplastics also have a reputation for being harmful to the environment and health.
In theory, every substance is degraded at some point and can be broken down into its mineral components.
With plastic, it just takes so damn long that you can no longer officially and with a clear conscience speak of “biodegradable” because of the long time frame.
Plastic is therefore problematic for the climate, the environment, and health during production and also after use.
Incidentally, PE plastic bags that are simply colored green are also occasionally sold. I assume this psychological gimmick is meant to make the bags appear more ecological.
Paper dog waste bags
Paper is made from wood, a renewable resource. At first glance, one thinks that this should be environmentally friendly and sustainable and therefore “good for the environment”.
Even single-use bags made of paper do not perform any better than conventional plastic bags in life cycle assessments. – Federal Environment Agency 06/2017
In reality, however, we no longer create paper like we did 100 years ago.
Until tear-resistant, thick paper is made from a tree trunk, umpteen process steps with all kinds of chemicals and high consumption of water and energy have to be carried out.
At the latest when this energy comes from fossil fuels, sustainability is gone.
And paper for dog waste bags must be particularly tear-resistant and thick.
More material requires even more water and energy in production. The bag shouldn’t get soggy even on cold, wet days when you’re carrying your leftovers for a long time.
And by no means all wood comes from sustainable European forestry, but sometimes simply from global clearing areas.
All of these factors result in a pretty bad carbon footprint for disposable paper bags.
For this reason, reusable carrier bags are recommended for shopping rather than disposable paper bags.
Poop bags are by no means a reusable product (ugh!).
This means that paper bags are not really an alternative to poop bags.
Only one advantage remains: untreated paper rots pretty quickly after all.
I’ve also heard that small dog owners misuse bread bags made of waxed paper as poop bags. However, coated paper no longer has the composting properties of untreated paper. So this seems more like a “feel good” measure for the conscience without any real benefit for the environment.
The only thing that is really better for the environment is probably the use of recycled paper.
Dog waste bags made from organic plastic
We know that from food: Here it is precisely regulated which goods may bear an organic seal. It’s a different story with plastic, apparently, all sorts of material mixtures can be called “organic”.
That sounds good to us customers, but these plastics are not really eco.
To complicate things properly, the term “bio-plastic” or “bio-plastic” is used in two senses:
- Is made from renewable raw materials.
- Can be biodegraded.
Dog waste bags made from renewable raw materials
Modern manufacturing processes make it possible to process certain plant materials into durable plastics.
These plastics are then often referred to as “ biobased ”.
Bio-based plastics are far from being more environmentally friendly than conventional plastics.” – Federal Environment Agency 06/2017
Compared to conventional plastic, there is an obvious advantage for the environment that no petroleum is used in the production.
But unfortunately, a large proportion of petroleum plastic is often added to the end products and not identified.
Bioplastic products are therefore often not made entirely of bio-based plastic.
If dog waste bags are advertised with slogans such as “made from renewable raw materials”, this does not mean that these bags can be completely decomposed naturally.
In addition, the use of plant-based bioplastics leads to the highly industrialized cultivation of (sometimes genetically modified) plants such as corn, sugar cane, or potatoes.
Because of course, it is mostly monocultures and plantations that cover the growing demand for these raw materials for bioplastic production.
Biodegradable dog waste bags
“ Biodegradable ” means that a substance can be broken down into its components within a reasonable time frame by, for example, microorganisms and fungi and their enzymes.
However, it is not precisely defined how quickly this must happen. So even a substance classified as “biodegradable” can remain in the environment fairly unchanged for many years.
Materials that will decompose at some point are initially only mechanically ground down to microplastic particles by wind and weather, just like normal plastic.
And many of the supposedly biodegradable or compostable dog poop bags just don’t decompose under natural conditions, in the ocean, or in domestic compost!
Yes, there are some bio-plastics that are classified as “ compostable ”. But here you have to look into some detail to get the exact meaning.
According to the DIN standard EN 13432, plastics are considered to be “compostable” if they have largely decomposed within 12 weeks under defined conditions in special composting plants.
The joke is that poop bags are not industrially composted. Dog excrement, with or without a bag around it, must be disposed of in the residual waste for hygienic reasons. Regardless of the material, the poop bags end up in a waste incineration plant anyway.
And even if such a bio-plastic bag ends up in a composting plant, it will be sorted out there again. Because of the previous sorting methods, bio-plastic cannot be distinguished from conventional petroleum plastic.
Many waste disposal companies are resisting this madness and have initially prohibited the disposal of bioplastics in the organic waste bin. It all sounds very chaotic to me, unthought-out, and not really “ecological”.
The conditions in domestic compost are different from those in a composting plant in terms of temperature and humidity. Here, these “biodegradable” bags made of bioplastic would simply only decompose to a limited extent or not at all under natural conditions.
This also applies to the zillions of bags that are left in the environment by careless dog owners, complete with the contents. Bioplastic or not.
A better alternative could be bags with a seal that confirms “home compostability”. With these bags, it must be ensured that a large part of the material can be biologically decomposed even at elevated room temperatures (20-30 °C).
Here you can, for example, look at the packaging of the desired product or the manufacturer’s website to see whether there is an indication or one of the corresponding European seals (“OK compost home”, “Home compostable”, “home compostable”).
Conclusion: Is bioplastic good, plastic bad? Unfortunately, the situation is not that simple.
Of course, the manufacturers emphasize that you can make a contribution to environmental protection by buying their product. But that seems to reflect more good marketing than actual fact.
An analysis of previous research results on the subject of bioplastics on behalf of the Federal Environment Agency came to the conclusion that from an ecological point of view, bioplastics cannot be evaluated as exclusively positive.
Roughly speaking: In many cases, the production and disposal of bioplastics simply result in other problems and environmental pollution, and there is no clear advantage for the environment by switching to bioplastics.
Source: Analysis of the environmental impact of packaging made of biodegradable plastics, Federal Environment Agency 2012
Dog waste bags made from oxo-degradable plastic
As an environmentally conscious bag buyer, you should definitely have heard of this!
Eco-poop bags are usually incredibly expensive compared to conventional plastic bags. So if you come across a supplier whose products are said to be particularly environmentally friendly, but cost little more than petroleum plastic, then you should question that critically.
Many manufacturers of poop bags made of oxo-degradable material advertise them as an environmentally friendly alternative with nice-sounding labels such as “degradable” or “recyclable”.
However, this is highly misleading consumer deception.
Because these bags are actually completely normal petroleum-based PE plastic bags, which are chemically treated in a special process ( TDPA TM Totally Degradable Plastic Additives, EPI technology, EPI bioplastics) and thus become mechanically more susceptible to decay.
After being used in the environment, these bags are by no means naturally decomposed by soil organisms, so that their components could be completely returned to the natural cycle.
Instead, these bags are simply more susceptible to erosion and, under the influence of UV light and moisture, break down more quickly into barely visible microplastics than untreated plastic bags.
To our eyes, it only looks as if such a bag would compost.
The manufacturers of the material claim that it is actually biodegradable, but that does not seem to be really credible under natural conditions.
For this reason, a report by the European Commission from 2018 comes to the conclusion that oxo-degradable plastics are not a solution for the environment ( To the report ).
Despite all the advertising claims, these oxo-plastic bags are not allowed to bear any official seal indicating good compostability.
And the bans on disposable plastic items discussed in the European Parliament therefore also include all oxo-degradable plastic products ( press release ).
Polyvinyl alcohol dog waste bags
These bags are advertised as fully biodegradable, but come with one major downside: they are water-soluble.
On the basis of polyvinyl alcohol, for example, films are also made around dishwasher tabs that dissolve during the wash cycle.
In practical terms, I imagine this to be difficult. My dogs are fed raw, after days of offal the output consistency isn’t always perfect.
And I don’t go for walks in urban areas with a high density of rubbish bins, but in forests and meadows. You carry your bags around with you for quite a while. And sometimes it rains.
According to the manufacturer, these bags do not dissolve directly in contact with moisture, but take a while to do so.
However, I have already read in the reviews on Amazon and some Facebook discussions that this is not entirely true and that the slightly softer content of the bag occasionally threatens to slip out of the prematurely dissolved bag when running.
That doesn’t sound that tasty!
Still, a small price compared to the other materials. I think I’ll give these bags a chance. You can use something like that as needed on suitable occasions and at least save a bit of plastic waste.
Dog waste bags made from recycled plastic
At a second glance, this does not appear to be such a bad alternative to the other materials.
After all, no new fossil raw material is mined with recycled plastic. Plastic that is used again instead of ending up in the garbage minimizes the waste of resources.
The Federal Environment Agency takes a similar view and, in its FAQ about bioplastics published in April 2019, points out that feces from pets a) must be disposed of as residual waste and b) not even “biodegradable” waste bags due to their poor composting properties under natural conditions should remain in the environment. ” Collection bags (…) made of recycled plastic (bio- or fossil-based)
are recommended .”
It’s not as nice as I had hoped, but it sounds doable!
So far, however, only a few poop bags are made from 100% recycled plastic (we like these ones ). And whether you can trust the information is another thing due to the lack of a seal of approval.
But still better than not doing anything at all!
The manufacturers seem to have recognized that there is a target group for green dog waste bags l.
Many advertising statements about the production or compostability of dog waste bags seem suggestive to want to satisfy this need of us consumers.
However, the current situation still seems to be such that although many claims are made regarding environmental friendliness, there is
hardly any data on the actual ecological balance of dog waste bags.
All in all, the whole system is not very transparent for us consumers. So you should always ask yourself critically which provider you ultimately want to trust.
- Bioplastics are not always made from 100% renewable raw materials.
- Many bioplastic products, like other plastic products, come from Asia and have been shipped halfway around the world for their one-time use.
- Renewable raw materials such as corn or wood can also promote environmental damage during cultivation and processing.
- Compostability according to DIN EN13432 means that these bags are only largely degradable under very special conditions. However, this is irrelevant for poop bags anyway, since these are not allowed to end up in the organic waste anyway.
- Oxo-degradable plastics are made from petroleum and simply break down into microplastic particles very quickly.
- At first glance, polyvinyl alcohol appears to be less of a problem. Here, the water solubility may not be so practicable for use as a fecal bag.
So you can’t really do it right with the options mentioned. Overall, recycled materials may seem like an unsatisfactory but sensible middle ground.
It is to be hoped that growing demand will lead to a better solution in the long term.
As long as it seems, the only thing left to do is to save plastic waste elsewhere in your own CO2 footprint:
Drive a little less SUV, consume less meat, and do without other plastic products!