My town recently switched to biodegradable plastic dog waste bags. Stands of them dot most trails and roadsides, along with bear-proof wastebaskets for disposal. The bags inside these wastebaskets are plastic – presumably not biodegradable.
What happens to a biodegradable plastic bag when it’s sealed inside a traditional plastic bag? For that matter, what happens to a biodegradable garbage bag inside a landfill?
You think you are doing everything right. You choose the compostable garbage bag, paying extra for the green alternative, and even putting up with the flimsiness and breakability factor. You expect that now, your waste will return its nutrients to the earth and continue the cycle of life. You envision more trees growing; the water automatically becoming clearer because of your positive garbage disposal choices.
Then you read an article, the Landfill Diaries for example, or No Impact Man, and learn that nothing (I repeat: nothing) biodegrades inside a landfill. Environmental experts hermetically seal off landfills to reduce carbon monoxide emissions from compostable materials biodegrading inside plastic.
That means – the composting process is halted. Without organic matter and heat, nothing breaks down. We are creating huge preserved masses of garbage, without thought for the future.
New York Times notable book Garbage Land asks the question, Is it Hopeless? The answer – Heck No. The book offers ten practical ways to reduce your garbage footprint.
And according to Phetched.com, it is estimated that in a year the approx 74 million dogs in the US would eliminate enough solid waste to fill 1100 football fields from end zone to end zone… five feet deep. (That’s approximately 10 million tons.)
The solution my town has in place for dog waste is not sustainable. The most practical solution I can think of is: pick it up with old newspaper or leaves and dispose in a composting bin. Telluride’s annual Bluegrass Festival composts a huge majority of its waste. It might be time for this practice to continue all year.