One of the first persons I asked to sign our petition in support of a plastic bag ban in Easton agreed to sign but then hesitated. “But I use plastic bags for kitty litter. What would I do without plastic bags?” I realized two things: first, that when some people heard “ban”, they actually heard “abolished.” I assured her a ban would only apply to those single-use plastic bags the stores provide at checkout. There would be many alternatives left in the store for dealing with pet doo-doo. Relieved to hear this, she signed.
I also learned that if you have a pet, those single-use plastic bags are your go-to for pet waste. I cringed when I spoke with someone from out of state who told me how great the nice thick plastic bags from their liquor stores back home were for conveying kitty litter. I also learned that many dog owners used grocery store plastic bags for picking up doggie poo. All those big bags for a little dump. All that forever plastic filled with pet waste filling our landfills forever.
Is there a more earth friendly way to deal with pet waste?
Of course, but it takes a little forethought and a different set of habits. You can compost kitty litter. If you do this, you will have to use a biodegradable brand of kitty litter. The regular stuff has silica dust and toxic additives. You can source kitty litter made from pine or wood pellets/shavings that has the added benefit of making your kitty box smell nice. You can also use shredded newspaper which also biodegrades. Even if you don’t compost, these are environmentally friendly alternatives to what you put in the kitty tray.
If composting is not in the cards, consider other options for carrying the litter out to your trash can. There are biodegradable and compostable bags. Bio bags are the Wild West of the alternative bag industry. There are bioplastics that easily decompose. Biodegradable bags that need sun and air to break down. They might be made of starch and cellulose, or mixed with synthetic (petroleum-based) polyesters, or bio-based oils that do not always biodegrade. Compostable bags might require a composting facility in order to compost. In that case they won’t break down in a landfill. These alternative bags also might not be up to the task. Read your product reviews. You can also just use brown paper bags. These are sturdy and decompose naturally. Or, just trade that cat in for a goldfish. Just kidding!
Thankfully with dogs all the waste action takes place outdoors, where you and your pooch also benefit from a little exercise in the process, and all you need to take care of business is a handy bag. Which bags do you use? My daughter’s family uses the plastic bags they bring their veggies home in. It’s always good to check if the sweet potatoes poked a hole in the bag before use. There are more eco-friendly ways to bring fruits and veggies home, but that’s another story. As described above, there are lots of alternative poop bag options. Many brands offer bags that are labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable.” These terms are used interchangeably. The bags I looked at all seem to be made of cornstarch and a petroleum-based resin that they claim is safe for your compost pile. Theoretically, if we on the Eastern Shore had a municipal compost facility, you would need to ensure that the facility accepted your bags of pet waste. Or you could put your doggie bags in the same compost pile as your kitty litter, as long as you don’t use it to compost your vegetables! In your yard, you can carry a trowel instead of a bag and just scoop the poo into a trash can, preferably one lined with a biodegradable trash bag. I even read that flushing is an option for doggie, but not kitty, waste.
The alternatives to plastic bags keep evolving and, we hope, can help us ease off our addiction to 100 percent petroleum-based plastic bags. As demand for environmentally friendly alternatives increases, so does the research. These halfway-there bags are a start.
Marion O Arnold