Plastic free dog ownership

One of the reasons we are being overwhelmed by plastic pollution is that plastic offers us cheap and easy solutions to problems that sometimes we didn’t even know we had. It’s Plastic Free July: time, perhaps, we dog owners contemplated some changes.

We could change the way we feed our dogs. What’s wrong with tinned dog food? Is a mixture of meat by-products and unfit-for-human-consumption cereals going to be improved by putting it in plastic sachets? Buy tinned dog food, open the tins with an old fashioned tin-opener, wash the empty tin and put it into the recycling bin. If you are a fanatic (like me) you can take the label off the tin first and recycle it separately.
Your dog will find dried dog food poured from paper sacks or cardboard boxes into an old casserole dish no less palatable than the stuff that comes in a handy plastic carrier, eaten from a plastic bowl with DOG written on the side.

Eco-friendly tin cans and can opener

We could go back to an old fashioned wicker dog basket with a woollen blanket liner. A fleece-lined, polyester-filled dog bed sheds microplastic fibres every time you shake it, and when you wash it, the microplastics are swilled into the rivers and down to the oceans.

We could read the labels on our dog’s raincoat: more polyester stuffing and man-made fibres? You can buy a waxed cotton raincoat for your dog and sweaters knitted from 100% recycled wool. If the internet is telling you to buy him a polyester prom tuxedo, ignore it, no matter how cute you think he will look.

[1] Waxed cotton raincoat [2] polyester tuxedo

We don’t have to buy our pet plastic toys: sticks, knots tied in hessian rope, cardboard boxes, old shoes and odd socks, and a lawn sprinkler will do just as well. Make a rabbit out of worn-out denim jeans and stuff it with the sleeves of somebody’s woollen jumper, long past mending. Leave out the squeaker; they are made of plastic.

Here comes the difficult one: poo bags. Everybody who had ever owned a dog knows that the cheapest poo bags, by far, are supermarket own-brand, plastic nappy sacks. Eco-friendly, compostable, purpose built poo bags are SO much more expensive – but it’s Plastic Free July and we have to make the sacrifice for the sake of the reserve.

[1] Oxo-biodegradable plastic releases microplastics into the environment, [2] bioplastics are broken down by composting, [3] there is an ongoing attempt to develop an internationally recognised logo for bioplastics.

Be careful, though, there are poo bag manufacturers out to make their profit by confusing you. Oxo-biodegradable plastics are not really biodegradable; they are plastics made from non-biomass sources and they break down through natural processes into smaller and smaller pieces, releasing microplastics into the environment. Putting a green leaf on your logo does not make you an eco-warrior.
What you are looking for are bioplastics. Bioplastics are plastics produced from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, straw, woodchips or sawdust. These are compostable plastics that will break down entirely in the right conditions.

At some point during Plastic Free July, we will return to the science behind the production of bioplastic poo bags, and the legislation that seems happy to permit manufacturers to misinform us on this vital subject. In the meantime, buy poo bags carefully, read all the product information and don’t be fooled into thinking that saving the planet will be easy.

4 thoughts on “Plastic free dog ownership

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    1. Me too. I have been doing some worrying research for the follow-up post: the legislation seems to be full of loopholes and it’s very difficult to find out what is recyclable, what is compostable and what really does or does not contain oil-derived plastics.

  1. Some really easy gains here towards reducing plastic use, thank you. It’s quite surprising to see the number of discarded dog toys that are left behind, and they all seem to be plastic!

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