Choosing a biodegradable dog waste bags is not as easy as looking for “100% Biodegradable” on the label. The products vary widely in terms of usability and price.  And if you are throwing your dog’s waste in with your trash, the claims of “100% Biodegradable” don’t mean much.

What to Consider When Choosing Biodegradable Dog Waste Bags

1. Does Your Town Offer Composting?

It does not make sense to spend a lot extra for biodegradable bags if they’re not going to biodegrade in any reasonable length of time, and biodegradable bags are not going to biodegrade if they are put in the trash. That is because most trash winds up in landfills that are sealed up to prevent pollution, and for products to biodegrade they need access to air.  As one manufacturer acknowledges on its Web site:
If BioBags are placed in an anaerobic (air-locked) landfill and deprived of oxygen and the existence of the micro-organisms that “eat” naturally biodegradable materials, their ability to decompose will be severely restricted.1

The Biodegradable Products Institute puts it more bluntly: “Nothing biodegrades in a landfill.”
At this point, few towns offer municipal composting of things like dog waste.  Even if your town offers composting, chances are that it does not accept dog waste.  The best-known program in the country, for example, in San Francisco, specifically prohibits animal feces.2 Seattle’s composting program only accepts food and yard waste.

So chances are that biodegradable bags are not worth the premium you would pay.  Even if you have a home compost pile, dog waste is not suitable in a normal home compost pile, and the bags would not biodegrade properly anyway. Home compost piles are not as effective at composting as industrial composting facilities.

2.  Convenience

We liked the convenience of dog waste bags such as those by Bags on Board that come in rolls that fit into readily-available dispensers.  The dispenser can be attached to a leash.  While the BioBag bags are available in rolls, we could not find any dispenser that they would fit in.  And we found the instructions on how to close the bags hard to follow.  Each bag comes with hole in the top center, but it is unclear how to use it.  Bags by Doggie Walk Bags come with long tie handles that some users might prefer, but we liked the simple squared-off design of the Bags on Board bags. We did like that BioBags offered larger bags for larger dogs.

3. Price

There is a wide range of prices for biodegradable dog waste bags, and they are hard to compare because quantities in a package also vary.  Our summary chart compares prices per 100 bags. Again, we see no reason to pay a premium for biodegradable bags unless your town will compost them for you.

What Are Some Earth-Friendly Alternatives for Dog Waste?

For those who cannot send dog waste to a municipal composting facility, it is possible to flush dog waste down the toilet using flushable dog waste bags.  Dog waste can also be composted at home using worms, in a practice known as worm composting or vermicomposting.  Earthworms such as redworms (Eisenia fetida) are known to be partial to dog waste and other organic waste.  Finally, it is easy to find bags that are at least made of recycled plastic.
BioBags Web site, visited 2/25/2011.
City of San Francisco Web site, visited 2/28/2011.


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