Monday, January 19, 2009

Biodegradable Doggie Bags

When it comes time to pick up after your beloved pooch, choose a biodegradable bag instead of regular plastic. Otherwise, you are wrapping one of nature's quickest degrading substances in something that takes decades to break down.

The typical dog produces 274 pounds of waste each year, according to the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. That's no small pile of poop. For neatness and sanitary reasons, most towns require owners to pick up after their pets, but what to do with it?

Unfortunately, if you put Lassie's waste in a plastic bag, it takes up to 100 years to decompose. Flushing it down the toilet is inconvenient, and can potentially cause problems in sewer systems because of its high amount of grit. Instead, use sturdy paper, or the biodegradable offerings from several companies. The corn-based BioBags, for example, are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute to break down in a matter of days. They work very well in communities that have aerobic landfills that are churned up. True, biodegradable products don't work near as well in closed, anaerobic landfills, but they certainly won't hurt.

Even better is to compost the biodegradable bags, and their contents, at home or in a local community garden. Experts recommend keeping a separate setup for composting animal waste, and never use the resulting soil on anything edible, in case some pathogens survive the process. The best practice is to ensure optimum temperatures and layering, which you can learn about here.

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