What’s in a poo bag? Well, the obvious answer is poo and maybe some grass, a leaf and a stick or two, but in my experience there’s a lot more to it than that. From size, material, handles/handleless, thickness, roll/pack, cost… there’s a lot more to poo bags than you might think.
As a dog walker I can get through over 20 poo bags a day and over a hundred every week. This means that I bulk buy poo bags, often in their thousands. I have written this blog because I am eco-conscious but also because I have a background in chemistry, which has helped me to assess the environmental impact of the bags and to look at the more scientific side of things. I have spent time researching poo bags and trialling them. Hopefully, you will find this blog enlightening, and if not, potentially amusing.
Roll or pack?
Personally, I prefer rolls as I can easily tell how many poo bags I am carrying, most companies sell poo bags in rolls of 15 so I pack a couple of rolls in the morning and I’m good to go. With a pack of poo bags you inevitably end up taking the bags out of the original packaging so you don’t end up taking hundreds out with you. You stuff them into your bag or coat pockets, then at the moment when you most need a bag, you pull what you think is one bag out of your pocket and the whole lot come tumbling out, probably into a big steaming pile of poo. Now you’ve got to collect/save what bags you can and pick up the poo. In my case there’s usually 4 dogs to hold onto, who are busy wrapping their leads around my legs and a good gust of pesky wind to sweep the bags in all directions. You can now vividly imagine why I only buy poo bags on rolls.
Handles or handleless?
To me handles are neither here nor there. I use handleless bags because it is easy enough to tie a bag without handles by creasing the top of the bag and tying the corners together. I then carry the bag by the tied knot.
No matter how big your dog is, a larger bag means you are less likely to have a poop accident (my own definition: a rather rare but distressing event where you somehow end up with poo on your hand despite using a bag). In my experience, poop accidents are more likely to happen when poos are particularly slimy/wet, poos are in more difficult to reach places so you have to attempt pick up more than once or if the bag is particularly thin and tears. As someone who walks multiple dogs at once. I ensure I am not juggling more than one poo bag at a time by picking up each consecutive poo and then the bag before and tying the bag. I rarely run out of room to do this inside the bags but the bigger the bag, the better.
Within reason, a thicker bag is always better. However like with handles and larger bags, thicker bags means that the bag is made from more material and therefore has a greater negative environmental impact. More material means a higher production cost in terms of energy regardless of how environmentally friendly the material being used is.
Possibly the biggest factor for many when buying poo bags. Supermarkets and shops sell hundreds of poo bags at the lowest price possible in order to be competitive. My research has shown that some people even use nappy bags as they are often cheaper than poo bags. Some of the supermarket bought bags and nappy bags are extremely thin and tear easily.
Material of the bags and their packaging
Most poo bags are made out of plastic but as we are all becoming more eco-aware there is a greater demand for degradable and biodegradable poo bags. It is also worth considering the packaging of the poo bags. When buying a pack of poo bags they usually come in a plastic packet. Whereas, rolls usually come in a cardboard box and each roll will have a core which the bags are wrapped around. As a rookie dog walker, I bought 5000 bags from eBay, they were described as degradable and cheaper than some of the other degradable poo bags on the market. Rather pleased with my find I bought the bags but was disgusted to discover that the core, which the bags are wrapped around, of each roll was made out of plastic. I recycled the cores but never made the same mistake again when purchasing bags.
World-wide problem – the bad
The average dog poos 3 times a day and the average dog lives 11 or 12 years, breed dependent of course. So if we imagine your dog does 3 poos a day and lives 10 years, that’s nearly 11,000 poos in your dog’s lifetime. Imagine if you’re using plastic poo bags to pick up every poo. Those bags will never degrade. They will sit in landfill forever or be burnt releasing harmful gases into the atmosphere. The current best estimation of the number of dogs on the planet is 900 million. If every owner on the planet picked up every poo with a plastic bag, again using 3 poos as the average number a day and 10 years as the average lifespan of a dog, that would mean 9.9 trillion (9,900,000,000,000) poos in plastic bags hanging around forever. Now, we all know that not every owner picks up their dog’s poo and not every dog has an owner but the numbers are still shocking!
My favourite poo bags and why – the good
After those depressing calculations, I will tell you about the poo bags I use everyday and why. I use Beco Degradable Poop bags, they are big, strong and completely break down once thrown away. They come in rolls of 15 and have a recycled cardboard core (the centre the bags are wrapped around) which is also 100% recyclable. Win win! They come in a thin, but totally fit for purpose, cardboard box with an open window on the front of the box so you can see what you’re purchasing. I love that they didn’t see a need to put an unnecessary plastic window in the boxes. The bags themselves are big but not too big and have handy printing on them so you know which way up to open the bags. There’s nothing worse than standing around on a cold rainy day trying to open a poo bag and then realising you’ve been trying to open the wrong end. They are thicker than a lot of poo bags on the market and I’ve never torn one or put my fingers through one yet. Hoorah! My current favourite bag is made from plastic (I know shock horror) but the plastic, PET Recyclable Plastic, is mixed with D2W Degrading Agent. D2W accelerates the speed at which degradable poop bags break down which means they will only be around for between 2 to 5 years and not forever. After reading this, my first concern was microplastics but amazingly this process doesn’t produce them or any toxic residues. They also come in a mint scented variety to hide those poopy smells.
My second favourite is Beco Compostable Poop Bags. They are more expensive but are plant based and truly biodegradable. These bags are made from cornstarch and can be composted at home, or disposed of as usual. They completely biodegrade back to their natural elements and have a fantastically low carbon footprint. Unfortunately I don’t have a compost bin but if I did these would be my go to bag.
I hope you all found this blog informative and if not slightly comical, how can it not be, we’re talking about poo. I’m equally amazed and amused that I can write so much about my experience of poo bags. We’re all at different points in our eco journeys, you may never have considered what’s in a poo bag before or maybe you are reading this blog because you have. If you’re interested in how the new degradable and biodegradable bags work there is a lot of information out there but feel free to ask me questions too, I have done some extensive reading on the topic. This technology really is a game changer not just for poo bags but for all the throwaway plastics in our lives.