One of the biggest challenges to being a good responsible pet owner is getting rid of the waste. A good citizen dog owner will always pick up with dog bags after their dog and dispose of properly.
Dog Waste Contributes to Pollution
First the reason you want to pickup after your dog is because dog poop left on the ground accounts for roughly 20 to 30 percent of all bacterial pollution found in our waters. Dogs harbor and generate bacteria that can be harmful to humans. Coliform bacteria are in their digestive system. This group of bacterium includes E. coli, disease causing bacteria, and fecal coliform bacteria. Dogs can carry salmonella, giardia as well as intestinal parasites. Scientist are now able to study the origins of fecal bacteria infested waters by studying DNA present as well as other test. Although not total precise the findings do point to a large problem with pet wastes in regards to pollution. The dog waste enters the water systems through run off. Dog waste accounts for a major source of pollution at the beach as well.
Still a lot of dog owners do not pick up after their dogs. Even when there are free dog bags for cleanup are provided and possibility of fines imposed the owners will still not pick up after their dogs. I live in a fairly progressive area and walk my dog at least once every morning. I am constantly dodging dog bombs that owners refuse to pickup.
Part of being a conscientious dog owner is to pick up after your dog. That, it seems, is only part of it. For years I reused the plastic bags found at the grocery stores and drugstores. It seems that these bags are made of petroleum products and are not biodegradable. So I have been putting poop in a container that will take one thousand years to degrade.
Biodegradable Dog Bags
There are dog bags on the market that are biodegradable and should be used for this purpose. There are two types of degradable plastics being made. The first was a polymer mixed with a byproduct of the oil refinery business. The second uses polymers and starches made from vegetable products mainly corn. Both of these types of biodegradable bags use an additive that aids in using oxygen or water as a catalyst to a break the bags down. The petroleum based products have longer shelf life but uses oxygen as a catalyst and will not decompose deep in a landfill deprived of oxygen. The starch based product has a very short shelf life, has to have a high microbial environment to compost and uses fertilizers, pesticides in production. There is a body that tests and certifies biodegradable products. The ASTM stands for American Society for Testing and Materials and is a voluntary organization of the companies involved in manufacturing materials such as chemical companies. The ASTM D6400 is a standard for biodegradable materials that basically states that an item is shelf stable, biodegradable and will decompose.
Flush-able Dog Bags
There is a third option that may suit the Eco minded dog walker. One company makes flush-able plastic dog bags arguing that flushing allows our water cleaning systems in our town to process the dog waste just like they process human wastes. The bags are made of polyvinyl alcohol which is an odorless and non toxic. They degrade by moisture and this could be a problem. User would have to carry bag back to house to dispose of.
There are solutions to wanting your dog to go green as well as you. The products are not totally without fault but they are better than the alternatives which are leaving it on the ground or using petroleum based plastic bags in the landfill that take a long time to degrade.