The number one question at a bag ban outreach event is this: “What do I pick dog poop up with?”  First up, let’s break down where your dog’s business goes a bit.  As a dog owner myself, I feel your pain.  But let’s think about this philosophically for a minute.  First up, hermetically sealing organic waste material in a single use plastic bag to be place inside another plastic bag, then to be landfilled in a oxygen-less environment ain’t doing mom nature no favors.  Here’s an excerpt from Elizabeth Royte’s book, Garbage Land that illuminates what happens to your stuff in a landfill:

“Any organic compound in this top layer of the landfill–  or in the transfer station or the kitchen garbage pai— is fair game for digestion by bacteria, fungi, and insects, which us their enzymes t0 break the large organic compounds into fatty acids, water and carbon dioxide. In this phase of biodegradation, the landfill temperature rises, and weak acid forms within the water, dissolving some of the minerals. When the aerobic microbes die off and oxygen is depleted, the anaerobic team takes over. The first wave of anaerobic bacteria produces enzymes called cellulases, which break organic material into smaller molecules, like sugars and amino or fatty acids. Next actogenci bacteria ferment those products into alcohols and organic acids– including acetic, lactic, and formic acids. The third and final wave of bacteria, the methanogens, converts acetic acid and methanol into underground plumes of methane, carbon dioxide, and water. If the gases escape collection hoses and rise through layers of garbage, as they do in both old-style dumps and new, they feed potential fires an contribute to greenhouse warming.”

And all these byproducts leach out.  Even in new style landfills that are lined, eventually, they break a hole.  If you’re sealing your dog poop in a bag, it’s never going to be exposed to oxygen and thus, by the time the plastic bag is punctured, it’s probably already buried too far for any biodegradation to occur because of the lack of oxygen.

Never mind the whole host of implications landfills raise— dog poop sealed in a plastic bag is probably going to last longer than you, or your dog.  FYI, those ‘biodegradable poop bags’ you bought, aren’t going to biodegrade in this environment, either.  So what’s best?  First up, try for something that isn’t sealed.  Wax paper works well, and believe it or not, so does newspaper— remember, you protect your hand from your own poop with only a layer of paper between you and the offensive surface and most of the time, at least in my experience, I’m successful.  If I walk my dog from my house, I actually pick up after him with a paper product, then flush the ‘up’ down my toilet and compost the paper in my compost bin.

But if you’re on the go?  Easy!  Humans really don’t have a problem being wasteful and almost any park garbage can is likely to have a coffee cup and lid in the top layer– something that isn’t too gross to retrieve (yes, I understand I’m going to be callled a dirty hippie here)—  the coffee cup comes replete with a plastic lid scoop and a receptacle.  Now, if you HAVE to have plastic, seriously, isn’t there ten million things around your house wrapped in some sort of film that you could utilize?  Humans adapted from monkeys, which took time.  So will this.  It’s a brave new world, so, be brave.

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