When it comes to poo bags, which is better: bio-degradable, degradable
or compostable? Did you know that millions of dog poo bags take
100s of years to fully decompose? Is there anything we can do to help
the environment while we pick up after our dogs?
We interviewed Adios Plastics, a company who have their finger on
the pulse of how we can change the world, one poo bag at a time!
What made you decide to start Adios Plastic?
I’ve always been involved in the business world since a very young age, buying and selling all different products. I have a passion for the outdoors and I love being around nature and wildlife. More recently, my wife and I have been making various changes to try and dramatically reduce our own plastic waste. Since programs like Blue Planet aired, a lot more people are aware of the damage that plastic is doing to the Oceans and the environment. When you put all of this together, launching a business selling plastic-free dog poo bags made perfect sense. When I saw the amount of “greenwashing” that other brands are guilty of, I knew I had to launch a brand that was 100% environmentally friendly, and totally transparent. I wanted to make the best environmentally friendly dog poo bag out there.
How difficult was it to begin your journey of plastic-free poo bags?
I would say it was fairly difficult. It was time-consuming dealing with all different suppliers trying to separate the facts from the fiction and make sure that you are getting the very best for your money. I spent weeks and weeks going over colours, logos and branding. I had help from close friends and my wife, so this made a huge difference. Asking people for advice who were better in certain areas than me was a massive help.
What would you say to potential customers who might think the price of plastic-free bags is higher than they might like to pay?
Of course, price plays an important factor in almost all purchases, but the price is also relative because using conventional plastic bags is causing enormous environmental problems. Destroying the planet with single use plastic is not cheap, it’s just expensive by a different measure. First-Of-Its-Kind research published earlier this year showed that industries such as fisheries, aquaculture and recreational activities are all “negatively affected” by plastic pollution, with an estimated one to five per cent decline in benefits, amounting to $2.5 trillion in marine ecosystem value. This estimate does not include the impact of pollution on tourism, transport or on human health. When we explain our mission to customers and what our bags are made from, they will generally support the mission and are happy to pay the higher prices. Instead of being greenwashed by other companies, they are glad to be buying a genuinely better product from a company fighting against plastic waste. We donate a portion of sales to Charities that help clean up our Oceans, our packaging is all sustainably sourced and made in the UK and the product is made from all-natural materials.
Poo Bags can be narrowed down into 3 types: Degradable, Biodegradable and Compostable. Which should I be buying that is best for our environment?
It’s just as important how you dispose of the bags to what bags you are buying. The best for the environment is to buy compostable dog poo bags and then compost them at home or at an industrial facility. (speak to your local councils to see what the facilities they offer). There are many poo bags on the market that are sold as being “biodegradable” when actually all they do is breakdown into microplastic which then takes 100s of years to breakdown any further. The bags contain as “additive” which helps them breakdown fast. But nowhere on the packaging does it claim how much faster this is, and the science behind this is not widely supported (evidence which is coming to light now and was recently shown in a news article on the BBC).
If a normal plastic bag takes 1000 years to breakdown, and a “biodegradable” one with this additive inside is quicker, how long is quicker? 500 years? 300 years? Even when the bag does eventually breakdown, it will only break down into microplastic. This microplastic is then ingested by marine wildlife, contributing to the death of 100,000 marine animals per year. The microplastic enters the food chain at the lowest level, getting eaten by smaller species and then continuing to make its way up the food chain until it is consumed by humans. The effects of microplastic in the human digestive system are not yet known and research is ongoing.
In summary, biodegradable bags made from plastic only help speed up the degrading process, the bag will never completely breakdown.
All plastic is degradable, from the plastic wrapping on your fruit to the carrier bags you get in the supermarket (although many are now switching to paper bags or compostable ones).
Degradable doesn’t mean it’s better for the environment, but the way some companies plaster this over their packaging makes it look like it must be. Degradable bags are the cheapest you can buy and are the worst for the environment.
If you want to be zero waste and live a more sustainable life that will help the environment then switch to compostable bags made from cornstarch. Home compost these bags and use the compost on your garden flowers. Please note, when dog poo is home composted, you cannot reach temperatures high enough to guarantee to have killed off pathogens in the poo so do not use the compost on anything you plan to eat, and keep compost pile away from children and animals.
What do you use in your materials if there are no plastics in the bags?
The bags are made from cornstarch and other natural materials which are certified compostable and 100% biodegradable.
Can these bags also be used as nappy sacks?
Yes. They are strong enough and large enough to hold nappies. Many customers have come to us asking this same question. It’s a great idea, however, please understand that you will not be able to compost the contents afterwards.
Are the bags just as strong as regular poo bags?
In most cases, they are stronger. The bags are 20 microns thick. To give you an idea, the cheapest bags on the market are about 12-15 microns thick, and some of the well-known brands go up to 18-19 microns thick. There are a couple of brands also at 20 microns. It was the thickest I was able to make them while still keeping costs and physical size of the rolls under control.
Should I dispose of these poo bags differently to regular poo bags?
Ideally, yes. As mentioned previously, it is best to home compost the bags. You need to compost them seperate to your regular garden compost. This compost heap needs to be kept away from all children and animals. Get a separate compost bin for all you dog waste. When composted properly the substances will breakdown in 3 - 6 months. This compost can then be used on all non-edible plants. A dog poo wormery is also a great idea and very popular amongst our customers. The bags and the contents can both be placed into the wormery. You should keep your wormery is a dry place such as the garden shed and again keep out of reach of children and animals.
Statistically how much plastic do you think could be reduced if all dog owners switched to plastic-free poo bags?
There are roughly 9 million dogs in the UK. But not every dog owner using poo bags, there are many working dogs in Britain out in the fields were cleaning up after them may not be necessary. There are also many dog owners who use the “stick and flick” option when walking their dog in the woods or countryside. So, not everyone will be using poo bags. Let’s assume that out of 9 million dogs, 40% have there poop scooped with dog poo bags. That's about 3.6 million dogs. the average dog from my experience goes through 2 bags a day. That is 7.2 million bags per day being used. My bags weigh around 3.7 grams. But they are thicker than most plastic bags, let’s assume that the average plastic dog poo bags is 3 grams in weight. So if every single dog owner switched to cornstarch bags today, we could save 7.2 million x 3 grams of plastic per day. This equals to 21 million grams per day of plastic (or 21,000KG, or 21 tonnes)
But of course, many dog owners already use cornstarch bags and compost them, not everyone is using plastic bags. We are at 21 tonnes of plastic per day from my very conservative calculations. Let’s deduct some off of that for all dogs who are currently using cornstarch bags. I think a 10% deduction is very fair. So that drops it from 21 to around 18.9 tonnes of plastic per day that could be saved if we just switch to more sustainable bags. Calculated across the period of 1 year, this amounts to nearly:
7 THOUSAND TONNES OF PLASTIC PER YEAR
When we launched Adios Plastic, we actually made a video that explained how much plastic we could save. The amount of dog waste produced each year can fill a line of lorries stretched from London to Manchester one after another.
Do you have plans for other pet-related plastic-free products in the future?
Yes. Watch this space.