How do you (a eco-friendly Californian) pick up your dog's poop on walks
December 29, 2020 8:00 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for the cheapest compostable dog poop bags available to buy online* in California. Surely this is a solved problem! What do YOU use?

Difficulty level: In California, compostable bags must be certified.

*Not Amazon
posted by aniola to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Dollar store brown paperbags?
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 8:12 PM on December 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I did a deep dive into this a couple of years ago.

The best document I found was the Performance Evaluation of
Environmentally Degradable Plastic Packaging and Disposable Food Service Ware - Final Report.

Page 9-12 have tables describing various plastic materials. The governing standard is ASTM D6400.

The biggest thing to know is that there are two kinds of compostable: the kind that just disintegrate into microplastics, versus the ones that are made from cornstarch or similar, and decompose fully such that there's no plastics left afterwards.

In retail dog bags, the keyword I look for to be sure I have the truly biodegradable kind, is "Mater-Bi." You can find these as "BioBag" in grocery stores, and they are not super-cheap. They are thin, light green, with a matte surface. They also happen to be the only kind of bag allowed in NYC composting.

If you want cheap, then I know of no real way to avoid amazon, where you can find BioBag in bulk, or off-brand Mater-Bi bags, such as "unni," at somewhat lower prices. You could try alibaba, though, I suppose.

Another route to go is to save all the random plastic bags from various packaging , for example from the grocery, and give them a second use. Just check for holes first!
posted by dum spiro spero at 10:20 PM on December 29, 2020 [10 favorites]

Are you composting the poop yourself? Because as far as I understand, we are not allowed to put pet waste in green bins in most of California, and compostable bags dont actually break down in landfills because they need oxygen to do that.
posted by ananci at 10:27 PM on December 29, 2020 [10 favorites]

Agreed, dog poop does not go into the compost bin, no matter the bag.

Assuming your intention is to lower the overall impact, you can look to page 4 of the aforementioned document. It summarizes performance of various materials in six different testing environments, including municipal solid waste (MSW). Some materials were found to biodegrade in MSW, including Biobag and Ecoflex.
posted by dum spiro spero at 10:37 PM on December 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

compostable bags dont actually break down in landfills because they need oxygen to do that.

I've given this some consideration, while pondering how to responsibly dispose of my cats' byproducts (main products: meows and purrs). Cat waste is even worse for compost than dog waste (what with toxoplasmosis and all). I eventually came to the conclusion that I don't care what happens to the bags while they're in landfill, and if they stay in landfill forever, and are eventually subducted into the earth's mantle, that's great, it doesn't matter what I bag them in. But if there's some kind of leak or erosion into the ocean or something, then I want the bags to degrade, and that's exactly when they would start doing so.

So I prefer biodegradable bags for animal waste even if it's going in landfill. Except I accidentally bought non-biodegradable bags that just are green. Allow me to serve as a warning to others! Read the product description carefully!
posted by aubilenon at 11:13 PM on December 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

What is the point? Do you want to reduce the amount going in landfills? Reduce the CO2 associated with bag creation? Have lower impact if somehow your bags don't end up in the landfill?

If it's the first two, we use Poita or similar bags, which have a liner of toilet paper. The dog feces and paper get flushed down the toilet. The plastic bag is thrown away, for about a hundred times less volume in the trash. Dog physiology is close to humans so this is safe (unlike cat waste, which must never be flushed!) Bio bags are more intensive to create so have a higher impact if they are just going in the landfill.

The lowest impact would be to use a metal scooper and dump the waste straight into the toilet.
posted by flimflam at 8:24 AM on December 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

I re-use produce bags.
posted by latkes at 1:51 PM on December 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

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