Sustainable Poop Disposal For Dogs: It’s A Messy Topic

Are you using biodegradable or compostable poop bags? Depending on whether or not you compost your pup’s poo, these seemingly eco-friendly options may not actually be the best choice. When it comes to proper poop disposal for dogs, the answer is a bit messy.

rolls of dog poop bags in succulent garden

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First Things First – the Topic of Poop Disposal for Dogs is Complicated!

Full disclosure. This was an incredibly HARD post to write. Before I started researching, I knew responsible dog waste disposal wasn’t exactly straightforward. And I knew there was a lot of greenwashing on the market.

But, I definitely didn’t know the full complexity of the situation.

Get my recommendations

Just want to dive right in? I get it. Skip right to the recommendations. Or if you don’t have time to get into all the details right now, save the below handy reference for later.

chart on how to properly dispose of dog poop

Xtra Eco-Tip: Greenwashing refers to when a company uses manipulative marketing to trick people into believing their products and services are environmentally friendly. If the packaging is brown and green with lots of words like “earth”, “nature”, and “eco”, this is your sign to read the label carefully. There is a very real possibility that there is no substance behind the earthly colors and marketing statements.

close up of design on dog poop bag

After hours (yes, hours) of reading articles and scientific papers about poop disposal for dogs, my head was spinning. And I was still left without a clear answer on the most practical, eco-friendly way to ditch the doo. 

There is a lot of controversy and misinformation around this topic. And there are also some small pockets of good info on how to ideally collect and compost dog poop. But the reality is that most dog owners don’t have access to the right kind of compositing facility (either at home or in their neighborhood) to realistically follow this advice.

Spoiler alert – There is not an easy, one-size-fits-all answer on this topic.

So, get ready to get your hands a little dirty (not literally) as we dig into the inconvenient truths about dog poop disposal options, including biodegradable and compostable dog poop bags. But fear not. While there is no perfect solution, there are some better options than others. 

plastic dog poop bags at pet store

The Dirty Truth

Before getting into the options, it’s important to understand the problem. And this problem is a messy one…for multiple reasons.

Dog Poop Data

On average, it is estimated that a dog produces between 150 to 275 lbs (68 – 125 kg) of poop per year. In the US alone, this adds up to 13.5 – 24.7 billion lbs (6.1 – 11.2 billion kg) of waste. In Europe, the numbers are similar.

And this amount of waste translates into a lot of plastic usage. Every year, an astounding 415 billion dog poop bags are estimated to be used globally. That’s equivalent to 0.76 to 1.23 million tons of single-use plastics being employed to contain our pups’ poop.

This massive volume of waste has far-reaching, multifaceted consequences for the environment.

When left unmanaged, dog poop can contaminate soil and surface water, ultimately finding its way into waterways. 

This contamination also introduces excess pathogens, including harmful bacteria, into the environment, posing a threat to other living organisms. 

Furthermore, the nitrogen and phosphates present in dog waste can disrupt the delicate balance of ecosystems, potentially promoting the growth of invasive species that outcompete native plants. 

pug mix dog

The problems don’t end there; the bags used to collect this waste also have their own set of negative consequences.

These plastic bags can linger in the environment for hundreds or even thousands of years. Over time, they can break down into microplastics, posing a threat as they are ingested by animals and contaminate oceans and other bodies of water.

Greenwashing

In the world of dog poop bags, it’s not uncommon to encounter packaging with earthy brown tones and green accents, seemingly suggestive of eco-friendliness.

These products often feature words like “earth,” “eco-friendly,” and “natural” prominently on their packaging. However, appearances can be deceiving, and the reality is many of these products offer no eco-advantage.

numerous labels from dog poop bags

Unfortunately, even poop bag options designated as biodegradable, compostable, and plant-based carry a lot less positive significance than you would think (more on biodegradable vs compostable below).

These terms are used far too liberally and can be deceptive, prompting the FTC (the US Federal Trade Commission) to issue warnings.

Biodegradable vs. Compostable Plastics

All compostable bags are biodegradable but not all biodegradable bags are compostable.

A key difference lies in the stringency of standards and regulations set by globally recognized authorities including ASTM International and European Bioplastics.

Many biodegradable poop bags are marketed as such without passing any kind of official standard. And there are two very different types of plastic under the biodegradable classification.

three different types of dog poop bags in plastic bone shaped dispenser

The first type of biodegradable bag is made from plastic derived from renewable, plant-based materials including cornstarch, sugarcane, and vegetable oils.

And the second, which I only learned about while researching this post, is known as oxo-biodegradable. This type of bag is made from traditional plastics that are chemically enhanced to aid in decomposition.

If you are wondering whether this means that a bigger piece of plastic is just broken down into microplastics that remain in the environment, you are asking yourself the right question.

Poop bags bearing the compostable label (ASTM D6400 or EN 13432) meet the most stringent specifications. These bags are designed to break down naturally, leaving no plastic remnants behind.

compostable certification label astm d6400 and en13432

And from this bit of information, it may seem like compostable bags are the no-brainer, eco-friendly option when it comes to sustainable poop disposal for dogs…

Get Ready for Some Really Inconvenient Truth

Yes, compostable bags are made to decompose entirely, sometimes in just a matter of months. The catch is this only happens under very specific conditions typically only found at industrial pet waste composting facilities or dedicated at-home composting bins.

Neither biodegradable nor compostable bags are made for landfill environments, as landfills are designed for waste isolation rather than degradation. In fact, when placed in landfills, these types of bags and their contents can release harmful greenhouse gases.

Additionally, although compostable bags (and some biodegradable ones) are made from natural materials, it can take a lot of energy to grow these resources and then convert them into plastic. The reality is this type of natural plastic can still come with a large carbon footprint.

So what’s a responsible, planet-loving dog owner to do?

Poop Collection for Dogs – 6 Options

Let’s dive a bit into the options that are available on the market. 

1. Plastic Poop Bags

This is the most common and cheapest option. The bags are typically made from non-renewable petroleum-based materials. 

This type of plastic can take hundreds or even thousands of years to break down in landfills, contributing to their long-term environmental impact. 

Another important consideration is that these mass-produced bags are likely not made by environmentally conscious companies, meaning there is potentially little done during production to reduce their ecological pawprint.

plastic dog poop bags at pet store

2. Recycled Plastic Poop Bags

These bags support the recycling economy. While they ultimately end up sitting in landfills, they differ from standard plastic bags by giving existing plastic a second life rather than introducing new plastic into the environment.

One great option I just recently discovered is from Pet Impact based in the UK. Founded by two vets, this company is taking big steps to help pet parents live more sustainably. They do not greenwash and are actively spreading the word about practical and responsible poop disposal for dogs. Their recycled poop bags are made from at least 50% recycled plastic and 20-25% bio-renewable oyster shell waste.

Earth Rated, a certified B-Corp, also offers bags that are made from 65% post-consumer recycled plastics.

certification for b corporation

Xtra Eco Tip: Look for labels that carry the B Corp Certification. B Corp businesses are certified by B Lab, a non-profit organization, and meet the highest standards of social and environmental impact, accountability, and transparency. And, FYI, the ‘B’ stands for ‘Benefit for all’.

box of recycled plastic dog poop bags

3. Biodegradable Poop Bags

As we’ve already discussed, not all biodegradable bags are created equal. But whether made from plant-based materials or plastic with chemical additives, both types need specific conditions to decompose, conditions not found in a landfill.

When you browse on Amazon or visit a big pet store, you’ll likely encounter various options for biodegradable bags, most of which come with an elevated price tag.

As the term “biodegradable” can be used deceptively by companies not genuinely contributing to a cleaner and more responsible planet, approach this category with caution. Make sure to research the brand and read the packaging carefully to better understand what you are actually buying. 

4. Compostable Poop Bags

Unlike biodegradable bags, to bear this certified label, a compostable bag must adhere to strict standards. They are designed to break down in a composting facility without leaving harmful residues.

But, as discussed, like biodegradable bags, they will not break down quickly and effectively in a landfill.

If you have access to a dog waste compost bin, some brands that offer a certified compostable bag option include Pet Impact, Beyond Green, UNNI, and My AlphaPet.

Another thing to keep in mind – some compostable bags can be on the thin side.

We had a bad experience with the brand Green Elk. I was expecting a lot, as their compostable bags are very expensive. But over 50% of the bags had a hole in the bottom. My husband discovered this the hard way (use your imagination). I reached out to their customer service but, unfortunately, they never responded.

compostable dog poop bag with hole in bottom

5. Poop Paper

An emerging alternative to poop bags, poop paper is typically made from biodegradable and compostable materials, such as recycled paper or plant-based fibers like cornstarch. One company focused on such a solution is Pooch Paper.

Just like compostable bags, poop paper can break down efficiently in composting facilities or home compost systems. But in a landfill, this paper will run into the same issues as biodegradable and compostable bag options.

This probably isn’t the best option if you are out with your pup on a long walk without quick access to a compost bin, as some leakage can occur after a bit of time.

6. Pooper Scoopers

This was THE dog poop disposal option from my childhood. My daily (and, truth be told, much hated) job was to scoop the dog poop in our backyard.

Rather than collecting dog poop in individual bags, a simple tool is used to collect the waste which is then deposited into a larger container.

several different types of dog pooper scoopers on display at store

If you have a backyard, this is a valid option whether or not you have a home-composting bin.

If your dog’s poo will eventually make its way into a landfill, you can collect a bunch of waste in a single bag made from recycled plastic rather than tons of individual poop bags.

And if you have a composting system, the poop can go directly from the scooper to the bin, without the need for a bag at all.

Poop Disposal for Dogs – 4 Options

In order to decide which poop bag option is best for you and your pup, the disposal method you use will be the biggest factor.

1. Trash Can or Dumpster

For most of us, this is the most common option – placing a poop bag into the trash can. This trash will end up in a landfill where biodegradable and composable bags will struggle to break down over time and release harmful greenhouse gases in the process.

If this is your disposal method, consider bags made from recycled materials, and you can even combine this approach with a pooper scooper to reduce bag usage. But no matter what type of bag you use, this option is better than not picking up your pup’s poo at all, which I’ll address a bit later.

2. Home Composting

For this method, you’ll need compostable poop bags or poop paper specifically designed for home composting and a good understanding of proper composting techniques. Alternatively, you can skip the bag and use a pooper scooper.

compostable label on box of dog poop bags

And remember, the common guidance is that compost derived from dog waste should not be used to fertilize food plants due to potential health risks.

3. Local Composting Facilities

Check if there is a local composting facility that accepts pet waste. Unfortunately, many of these facilities do not currently accommodate pet waste due to concerns over pathogens.

If you are fortunate to have this option available, certified compostable bags or paper are a great option.

4. Waste-to-Energy Facilities

In certain areas, dog waste can be processed in waste-to-energy facilities, where it’s utilized to generate electricity. It’s worth checking if this option is available in your locality, as it provides a compelling alternative to landfill disposal.

As with the previous two disposal methods, go with compostable bags or paper if you are able to use such a facility.

And Don’t Forget About the Poop Bag Dispenser!

If you use the bag method and have a poop bag dispenser, chances are it is one in the classic bone shape made out of plastic…plastic that is most likely not from recycled materials.

Fortunately, there are some sustainable alternatives. Look for a dispenser made from recycled plastic.

Or better yet, go for a more unique option like these reclaimed fabric waste dispensers from Hudson Houndstooth based in the US. I never thought I would be so excited about a dog poop dispenser! But they are too cute not to obsess over just a little. Plus this company is dedicated to hand-crafting sustainable accessories for our four-legged friends.

two hand-crafted dog poop bag dispensers made from reclaimed fabric
two hand-crafted dog poop bag dispensers made from reclaimed fabric

Recommendations to Help with Proper Dog Poop Disposal

Check out our growing list of recommendations to help you make this part of pet parenting a little less messy.

Dog Poop Bags

10% Discount
    • 10% off with code GREENPETPROJECT
    • 50% recycled HDPE plastic and 25% natural oyster shell waste, certified by the Global Recycled Standard
    • Supports small business
    • Best for: those that do not have a home or local compost option
    • Availability: United Kingdom
  • 65% post-consumer recycled plastic
  • B-Corp & Leaping Bunny Cruelty-Free Certified
  • Best for: those that don’t have a home or local compost option
10% Discount
  • 10% off with code GREENPETPROJECT
  • 50% recycled HDPE plastic and 25% natural oyster shell waste, certified by the Global Recycled Standard
  • Supports small business
  • Best for: those that do not have a home or local compost option
  • Availability: United Kingdom
  • USDA, EN 13432, & TUV OK HOME Compost certified
  • Best for: those that use a home or local compost

Dog Poop Supplies

  • 100% reclaimed materials salvaged from the fashion industry
  • Numerous colors & patterns
  • Supports small business
  • Availability: United States
  • 100% reclaimed materials salvaged from the fashion industry
  • Numerous colors & patterns
  • Supports small business
  • Availability: United States
  • Sustainably sourced wood
  • Supports small business
  • Availability: United States
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What NOT to Do with the Poo

Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for proper poop disposal for dogs, there are some actions you should avoid.

1. Don’t Leave a Trace

Always pick up your dog’s poo, even if it’s with a plastic bag. In the city, stray dog poop is just plain inconsiderate, creating mess and odors…and possibly ruining some shoes. And in rural or natural settings, dog feces can disrupt the delicate environmental balance.

2. Don’t Flush It…Unless

In some areas, putting your dog’s poop down the toilet may be just fine, but you should confirm this first. Don’t assume your local waste processing center can effectively handle the pathogens commonly found in dog waste.

And if you have a private septic system, this option should be avoided. These systems are not designed to properly handle pet waste.

3. Don’t Put It with the Recycling

Never dispose of poop bags in your regular recycling bins, as this can contaminate the recycling stream.

4. Don’t Mix It with Your Home Garden Compost

Dog waste may contain harmful pathogens that can pose health risks to humans. With that said, there is some debate among experts about mixing dog waste with general compost, and the risk can be minimized with proper techniques.

However, if you are not an expert composter, it’s best to err on the side of caution and compost the poo in a dedicated bin.

5. Don’t Add It to Municipal Yard Waste Bins

Most municipal compost facilities do not accept pet waste due to the potential health hazards associated with it.

6. Don’t Give Up on Sustainable Options

Although there isn’t a nice and simple answer to dog waste management, don’t do nothing. For example, opt for a poop bag made from recycled materials if you don’t have a way to easily compost. Or even use a plastic grocery bag or other plastic packaging that was already destined for the landfill.

Of course, if you do have the means and motivation, go bold and start composting your pup’s poop at home.

Are You Going to Make Any Changes to How You Scoop Your Pup’s Poop?

Between Phoebe, Franklin, and Froda, a lot of piles of poop are produced each day. On a walk, each of my dogs typically poop 3 times…and all at different times. They aren’t always the most eco-minded…

This means we have a lot of poop bags in our lives. I was previously using compostable bags…but I don’t have access to a dog waste composting facility. So after everything I’ve learned when it comes to proper poop disposal for dogs, we are making the switch to recycled plastic poop bags.

And to further minimize our poop bag usage, I use one bag for several poop piles. This is more difficult to do for large dogs, but with the size of my 3, I can use 1 bag for at least 3 poops.

I know carrying around a bag of poop isn’t the most appealing of options, but there are some handy hands-free poop bag carriers available, including this super cute option from Hundson Houndstooth.

wooden dog waste bag holder

Whew, I know that was a lot (my head is still spinning). But don’t give up! Let me know what one practical step you will take towards sustainable dog poop disposal below.

FAQs: Poop Disposal for Dogs

Why is sustainable dog poop disposal important?

Sustainable dog poop disposal helps reduce environmental pollution and protects water sources from contamination. It minimizes the impact of pet waste on ecosystems and promotes a cleaner, healthier environment for humans and animals alike.

What are some eco-friendly methods for disposing of dog poop?

One eco-friendly method is composting dog waste using a designated pet waste composter. If you don’t have one at home, some municipalities offer pet waste composting programs or accept pet waste in green waste bins.

Can I bury dog poop in my backyard as a sustainable disposal method?

While burying dog poop may seem like a natural solution, it can pose risks to groundwater and soil quality. Therefore, this method of disposal is not recommended.

Are there any sustainable alternatives to plastic poop bags?

Yes, there are several sustainable alternatives to traditional plastic poop bags. If you can compost your pet’s waste, look for compostable bags made from plant-based materials like cornstarch or recycled paper. Otherwise, opt for poop bags made from recycled plastic to avoid adding new plastic waste into the environment.

How can I reduce my dog’s waste footprint while walking in public areas?

When walking your dog in public areas, always clean up after your pet and properly dispose of the waste in designated trash bins or pet waste stations. Additionally, consider using environmentally friendly alternatives to regular plastic poop bags, such as bags made from recycled plastic.

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6 thoughts on “Sustainable Poop Disposal For Dogs: It’s A Messy Topic”

  1. This post was right up my alley! I’m a clean and sustainable living blogger, too, and a dog owner and am always wondering what the best option is! Thanks for doing this important work!

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