Would banning plastic bags mean more dog poop to step in?

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

5 comments

dog scoops pooThere has been lots of talk lately in a number of cities about banning plastic bags.  You've all heard the sound environmental argument for banning them, so I'm not going to repeat it here.

As with almost every new public policy, there are sometime things we call "unintended consquences".  Could one of those consequences mean we are going to have a lot more dog poop decaying on our city sidewalks and public parks? Now that the snow is melting in my neighbourhood, nearby sidewalks are a virtual minefield of turds, many that have been stepped in by unwitting victims.

I'm hearing the same from many other pedestrians. We're not picking up after pooches nearly enough, and the winter weather made it even worse. The Vancouver Sun's Shelley Fralic talked about this a couple of weeks back.

On any given day, just take a look around you in your city. There are hundreds of dog owners proudly walking around with their golden retrievers, poodles, schmoodles etc...and as a result, there is a lot of poop being deposited in our public realm.

Thankfully most dog owners are responsible, and they do the right thing by taking out that plastic garbage bag and picking up the poop.  But what if cities were to ban plastic garbage bags from their landfills?  What if everyone went organic and only reusable shopping bags were permitted in your city?  I don't need to paint  the picture for you, but I think our streets and parks would get really smelly in a relatively short period of time.

I asked a friend of mine who is a dog owner what he would do if he didn't have a plastic bag to pick up after his little pooch.  He simply stared back at me as though I had lost my mind.  "What do you mean, you need plastic bags to pick up the poop.  There simply isn't another option."  At least an option that's as convenient as plastic shopping bags.

So in preparation for this posting, we sent our crack CityCaucus.com research team out to find out how all that poop will get picked up once plastic bags are banned.  What options will all those dog owners have?  Here's what they've discovered:

  • Ziploc bags:  They're not quite as big as plastic bags but they will do the job.  It's recommended you get the smoked version vs the transparent.  A tad more sanitary we might say.  It's rather doubtful cities will ever ban them. Afterall, how else will we pack our kids lunch?
  • Personal Pooper Scooper:  Dog owners can hire their own personal pooper scoopers.  We found such a service offered in Alberta and they will come right to your house to pick the 'stuff' up for you.  We haven't been able to confirm if they will make outreach visits to your favourite park or seawalk, but it seems like a viable business model to us.
  • Pooper Scooper Rake:  There are many different versions (and colour combinations) of the pooper scooper rake, but essentially it is a large tool that helps you scoop up those doggie droppings.  For those who simply can't live without the latest gadgets, we've heard you even can buy the collapsable version which can be stuffed away in your purse after each use.  This gives a whole new meaning to easy storage.  A new model coming out next year will even allow you to hook it up to your MP3 player.
  • Glad Bags:  Now you might say it's overkill to use a heavy-duty pastic garbage bags to pick up a bit of poop. But the reality is their cheap, they're accessible, and they're sanitary.  Even if they aren't quite as fashionable as having your own personal pooper scooper.

In any event, with cities across the nation slowly beginning to ban plastic bags, we are certain that the issue of picking up after one's pooch is bound to begin making headlines.  Let's hope the development of these new policies is coordinated and doesn't end up being a dogs breakfast.

5 Comments

Bio Degradable bags are used here in Coquitlam available at most parks

Many health food stores and shops sell biodegradable doggy poop bags, but... there are problems with those too.

Namely cost. Right now, people are reusing, one of the "3 Rs" in "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," their plastic shopping bags as bags to pick up doggy poop. When plastic bags are banned, dog owners will not be able to reuse anymore and will have to purchase specialty doggy bags (the biodegradable kind, or otherwise).

There will be a cost for the dog owner that they didn't have to deal with before. And many of them might not warm to the new cost quickly. Which, as you've mused, would mean more doggy poop on Vancouver streets.

But, there is also an environmental cost in banning bags as well. When people stop reusing and start purchasing more, they are obviously producing more waste. Those specialty doggy bags will only be used once, for one purpose. They also come in packaging, which one must think about as well. All that extra packaging will be going into our landfills too.

And, not everyone is going to run out and purchase the biodegradable version of bags specifically marketed for dog poop. There are other bags marketed for dog poop out there on the market as well. Which are quite a bit more environmental unfriendly, when one takes into account the packaging and the lack of reusing a product, than plastic shopping bags.

Now, some might argue that this cost will be off-set by the huge environmental savings in general. Which might be true, but it might also not be true. I have already noticed that at many of the stores which have stopped using plastic bags, their alternative is the paper bag. Of course they encourage everyone to bring reusable cloth bags, but most shoppers aren't doing that. So, instead, they are handing out multiple paper bags to pretty much everyone. I think that the city needs to address this, and other similar, issues and actually look into the factual peer-reviewed data before making any decisions on the subject.

I have used biodegradable plastic bags to pick up after my dogs for quite awhile. As well, I don't simply toss the bag and contents into a garbage receptacle. I flush the contents down the toilet and put the rinsed bag in a garbage receptable. Lots of people don't seem to know that City of Vancouver bylaws prohibit depositing feces (human, canine or feline) in the garbage.

Honestly, NO ONE in Brooklyn, NY ever picks their dog leftovers anyway, if that's the case, I'm sorry to be rude, but either people should stop owning a dog or find some way to pick it up. Use a piece of cardboard, paper towel, paper bag, whatever that actually degrades. Those biodegradable bags are quite expensive, but even when they do get cheaper, I DOUBT anyone is going to care anyway.

Composting dog waste just seems like most environmentally friendly option.

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