Picking up your dog’s poo is part and parcel of being a responsible dog owner. If you feel a responsibility for the environment as well, you’ll want to make sure the dog poo bag you use is as green and eco-friendly as can be.
Although each dog is different, your four-legged friend is likely to go for a poo anywhere between 1 and 5 times a day.
Murphy is a bit of a pooing-machine with a sensitive stomach and on the higher end of the scale, meaning I go through quite a lot of poo bags! Switching him to ethical grain-free dog food helped his stomach a lot!
Multiple that by roughly 9 million dogs in the UK and we’ve got a bit of an issue on our hands.
The option of using single-use plastic bags to pick up all that dog poo to put in the general waste bin is not an environmentally friendly option at all. It’s also not an option I want to take.
So, what’s the best eco-friendly dog poo bag then?
Eco friendly dog poo bag options
On the market, there appears to be two main options for more environmentally friendly dog poo bags: compostable and biodegradable.
However, all is not what it seems, and in the world of product labelling, these two terms mean very different things.
Dog poo bags are prone to ‘greenwashing’ – a misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product.
The labelling of a dog poo bag as biodegradable more often than not falls into this greenwashing category. A compostable poo bag on the other hand is a much more substantiated and evidenced claim that you can trust.
Below I’ll briefly explain the difference between degradable, biodegradable and compostable poo bags and why only one is an option for the environment. I’ll then suggest the best places where you can buy real eco-friendly poo bags in the UK.
Degradable dog poo bags – bad for the environment?
Generally speaking, dog poo bags are bad for the environment.
This is because they are made from plastic, which is made from petroleum buried deep in the earth.
Plastic doesn’t only have a negative environmental impact when its raw materials are being sourced, but also during the manufacturing phase and then when they’ve finished being used.
Plastic poo bags are likely to persist in the environment for tens, maybe hundreds of years.
Labelling a dog poo bag as ‘degradable’ is nigh on meaningless and also heavily misleading. Yes, even plastic will degrade given a few centuries but this is not beneficial for the environment.
We also know that when plastic eventually does breakdown, microplastics are created. Microplastics cause widespread negative impacts across ecosystems and environments due to their small size and durability.
Using a plastic dog poo bag is probably the worst option from an environmental perspective. It can’t be recycled and either finds its way to landfill or to be burned.
Biodegradable dog poo bags – good or bad for the environment?
Are biodegradable dog poo bags better for the environment then?
Biodegradable dog poo bags are also made from plastic.
The difference with a biodegradable poo bag when compared to just a plastic or degradable one is that it contains an additive that is supposed to help the plastic break down faster. These are sometimes known as bioplastics.
Some biodegradable plastic bags are manufactured to become oxo-degradable at the end of use. During oxo-degradation, the additive in the material starts to cut down the long chains of plastics when placed in certain conditions – namely oxygen, heat, UV light and pressure.
Manufacturers claim that when the material starts to oxidise and degrade (the oxo part), the fragmented molecules can then be consumed by microorganisms, again given the conditions.
A biodegradable bag will take 2-3 years to breakdown. Even then it still may be partially intact.
Although this may be a quicker break down period than conventional plastic, the science behind bioplastic technology isn’t fully supported as a sustainable, environmentally friendly solution. There’s also an increased likelihood of microplastics entering the system.
Compostable dog poo bags
Compostable poo bags are very different to biodegradable bags.
A fully compostable dog poo bag is made from natural plant-based materials.
More often than not, compostable bags are made from a plant starch, such as corn or potato, as well as sugars and other vegetable matter. The starchy base gives the bag strength for holding the contents.
A 100% compostable plant-based bag means it will breakdown into the very same natural materials that a plant is made from – water, carbon dioxide and organic matter.
If any ink is used on the bag, this will have to be compostable too and will usually be water-based.
A compostable poo bag will need to be placed in certain conditions for it to breakdown into soil-enhancing compost. This may be achieved in a home composter or it might have to be taken to an industrial composting facility. All composting environments require the right levels of heat, moisture, microbes and oxygen.
All certified compostable materials will have a logo or code to let you know how they can be disposed.
For example, the code EN13432 means the item is only suitable for industrial composting. An OK Compost Home logo means can be put into your home compost pile. It’s not a crystal clear system but there are rules and regulations to be followed.
Depending on the composting conditions, a compostable dog poo bag will take anywhere from 3 months to a year to fully break down.
A well-managed compost pile will rot away a compostable bag in 3 to 6 months. High temperatures are critical to compost heaps (a home composter can reach about 60°C), which will not only decompose the organic waste but also kill most of the bacteria and little nasties that you don’t want in there.
Based on how much ‘organic waste’ your dog produces, you may not be able to put every single bag into your compost pile and will have to balance it out with other organic matter. This all comes down to a well-managed pile!
The difference between compostable poo bags and biodegradable poo bags
In the UK, there is a huge difference between compostable and biodegradable.
A compostable item, such as a compostable poo bag, must meet certain standards and criteria. In order to be labelled as compostable, the item must be inspected and then certified by an independent organisation. This is similar to how the labelling of organic products works.
With a certified compostable poo bag, you know exactly what you’re getting. When put in the right conditions, both the bag and waste inside will naturally biodegrade into compost, which can then be reused to enrich soils. A compostable poo bag will leave no toxins and no microplastics.
The term ‘biodegradable’ is not regulated and doesn’t have official certifications.
It just means that something will breakdown without any time scales. This means that biodegradable can be taken advantage of from a marketing perspective and used to make unfounded claims.
To the average customer, seeing ‘biodegradable’ on the front of packaging makes it sound like it will be good for the environment and that you’re playing your part to make an eco-friendly choice. In reality, this is probably not the case.
I think this is not only confusing, but downright deceptive. In the US, the Federal Trade Commission had to warn 20 manufactures of dog poo bags who were deceptively labelling their products as compostable and biodegradable.
As we’ve seen, biodegradable bags are often made from fossil-fuel plastics with a number of additives. They’re also not tested and certified by a third party, meaning we’ve no idea what kind of impact it will have (I’m not imagining a positive one).
Can you compost dog poo in biodegradable bags?
No, you can’t compost a biodegradable dog poo bag.
The main reason is as stated above. A ‘biodegradable’ poo bag is usually made of plastic or polythene and not organic, compostable material.
Although a compostable poo bag is naturally biodegradable, a biodegradable poo bag is not always compostable.
What are the most eco friendly dog poo bags?
If you’re picking up your dog’s poo in a bag, the greenest and most environmentally friendly way to do this is in a compostable dog poo bag.
Depending on the type of compostable bag, you may be able to compost this within your home compost pile or send it to an industrial composting facility via your local council (do check your council’s website for more information).
If you’re thinking of buying biodegradable bags, opt for compostable poo bags instead.
The stick and flick dog poo method
Another way that some people deal with dog poo when on a rural, countryside walk is the ‘stick and flick’ method.
Instead of using a poo bag to pick it the waste, it is simply flicked into the undergrowth and away from any public footpaths. The aim of this is to reduce plastic waste.
This method is supported by a lot of people, including the Forestry Commission, but is frowned upon by some, particularly farmers and locals. This is mainly because dog poo waste can contain pathogens, which can be very harmful to livestock if eaten. Also, because dogs aren’t part of that direct ecosystem and they don’t feed from the area, their waste has a different organic composition and may disrupt systems if left in big volumes.
Lastly, the disproportionate number of dogs now in the UK means that if everyone did the stick and flick method, the countryside would be overwhelmed.
I can see and understand all of these arguments.
However, I think that when the circumstances are right – you’re in a rural spot, there aren’t lots of dog walkers around and you’re not in a farmer’s field – the stick and flick method is best for the environment.
I would not do this in an inner city park, near a children’s play area or just walking down the street. There’s a time and a place for the stick and flick method but I think it can play a role.
Where to buy compostable dog poo bags
From my research and experience, here are some of the best places to buy eco-friendly, fully compostable dog poo bags.
I’ve also considered the packaging the poo bags come in, which should be recyclable itself. Some of the text below contains affiliate links to the Ethical Superstore (a great place to make eco friendly choices). You find more more online eco shops here.
Beco Pets produce sturdy, plant-based and completely compostable poo bags. They do a couple of types of bags, so make sure you go for the certified compostable ones.
The poo bag come in a box that has been made with recycled cardboard. The company also donate 5% of profits to local communities, animal and environmental causes.
Beco manufacture other products, such as ethical dog food, providing high quality and sustainable nutrition for your pooch.
These compostable poo bags from Biobag are certified compostable with the Seedling logo and by OK Compost for industrial facilities. They are made from bioplastics, sturdy and a good greener alternative.
They also come packaged in a recyclable cardboard box.
Get these strong poo bags made from plants by Adios Plastic, a company dedicated to plastic free living.
These bags are compostable at home or in an industrial facility and come in FSC approved cardboard.
These dog poo bags from Ecovibe are 100% plant based and made from corn starch. They are super strong, durable and made with renewable energy.
The Ecovibe poo bags are EU certified and fully compostable in line with the EN13432 standard.
Made with a sugar and corn starch blend, these green poop bags are a fantastic option for eco-friendly dog poo disposal. They are 100% biodegradable and can be certified to be composted at home.
The box and cores for the poo bag rolls are also made from recyclable cardboard.
Wrap up on eco friendly dog poo bags
It’s important for me to make environmentally friendly choices where I can. Buying compostable poo bags is one instance where I can make a better, more sustainable choice and reduce plastic use.
By using a compostable poo bag, I know the bag and its contents will end up going to produce something useful – whether this is compost for soil or energy to produce electricity (how my green waste gets used by the council).
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly dog poo bag, there’s only one choice: a compostable bag.
If you’ve read this far, I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on the different and often confusing terms that you see on dog poo bags to help you make your own choices. Being informed is half the battle when it comes to being a little more eco-friendly!