Dogged by plastic

Biodegradable options for doggie bags abound, if you’re willing to pay for them

This puppy really doesn’t give a crap that its excrement is being picked up with an Earth-friendly poo bag, the Wag Bag. But you might.

This puppy really doesn’t give a crap that its excrement is being picked up with an Earth-friendly poo bag, the Wag Bag. But you might.

Photo By David Robert

Paper or plastic? That knotty question comes in the form of a pimply-faced checker at the supermarket. He seems to be daring me, in his service-friendly way, to declare whether I’m an environmental pig or not. His question is nearly as old as the chicken-or-the-egg one.

From an environmental standpoint, I figure it’s better to go paper, as it’s made from a renewable resource (trees) rather than a nonrenewable one (petroleum). In March, San Francisco became the first city to approve a ban on plastic bags in supermarkets and chain pharmacies in favor of compostable bags. According to the San Francisco Department of the Environment, it takes 430,000 gallons of oil to produce 100 million nondegradable plastic bags.

Nevertheless, I have the checker fill up the plastic bags. My reasoning is simple: I have a dog. Those free little baggies come in handy at least twice a day to clean up Yukon’s dog doo.

But a little searching online and at local pet shops shows that I have no excuses, other than economical ones. There are biodegradable doggie bags of all sorts out there.

Eco-Products claims its BioBag (50 bags for $5) completely biodegrades into compost and is certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute. I couldn’t find that brand locally, so I can’t vouch for it. (Also, most traditional recipes for composting don’t allow dog manure in the mix. Dog poop, and the bag that contains it, should probably go in the regular garbage.)

At Bark Avenue in Southwest Reno, I found Wag Bags (24 for $7). For those who are more fashion- and aroma-conscience about their poo-pick up, the bags are lemon-scented and come in three attractive colors of yellow, red and green. As with other bags, you pick up the poop, invert the bag, and throw it away. The bags are mitt-shaped, supposedly for easier poo-handling. The reality is the mitt design makes it all the more likely your hand will touch the stuff. It forms too snugly around the hand, making the act of turning it inside out difficult. It might be better for small dogs. Manufacturer Otis and Claude claims that 95 percent of it degrades within 6 to 18 months, with the remaining 5 percent degraded in 5 to 7 years.

Happy Tails at Mayberry Landing carries Pooch Pick-Up, biodegradable, pet-waste bags made with cornstarch for faster break-down. At just under 12 cents a bag (35 bags for $4), Pooch Pick-Up is one of the more economical options out there. The roomy, unscented bags feel like plastic and work as easily as any plastic supermarket bag. Manufacturer Kyjen says the bags completely degrade within two years.

PetCo’s only biodegradable-bag offering was Bags on Board (100 bags for $12). An opening in the box is designed to dispense bags easily. Bags on Board carries a “100% Biodegradable” logo, although beneath the logo in small print is this: “except as defined by California.” Because I’d already spent $11 on doggie bags by this point, I didn’t test this brand.

So options are out there. The deciding factor is whether you’re willing to spend the money—from 10 to 30 cents per bag—to do it.