Sunday, March 21, 2010

Compostable Bags - How much is too much?

On a side note, I'm going to try to title every post with some over-used catchphrase because I think people like that....or something.

(I was hoping to save my compostable bag post for a time when I learned more about them, but I had an experience yesterday that needs attention)

One of my ECO-goals is to go back to buying biodegradable bags instead of plastic shopping bags for scooping my cat litter. (And also using these for the trash can as well). Aside from being more eco-friendly, they also never have holes in them like 90% of grocery bags seem to. I was originally using BioBags that you can buy at Safeway, Sunflower Farmer's Market, McGuckins and other supermarkets or home-improvement stores.  These are slightly expensive at around $5.00-$7.00 for 30, though that is expected.  These come in a cardboard box, which can be recycled.

Recently, I have noticed how many bags my boyfriend (we'll call him M.a.t.h - Man around the House) uses for picking up his dog's waste so I decided to check the Whole Pets store in my area (a store that specializes in all natural/sustainable/eco and pet-friendly food and accessories) to see if they had biodegradable bags in the little rolls.  I thought these would also be good for the cat litter, so we could kill two animals' poop with 1 kind of bag (as they say).   Well, whole pets does sell several different brands of these bags and I opted with Bags on Board.  They were more expensive than I would like at $14.99 for 120 bags (8 rolls) so I also bought a package of Pooch Pickup, 30ct for $3.99 that weren't in the rolls so were slightly cheaper.   

When I opened up the box of Pooch Pickup here is what I found. YES! The BIODEGRADABLE bags were packaged in a presumably NON-BIODEGRADABLE plastic zip-bag. Why? It's not like these bags are food that will go stale if they're not sealed properly. What's the point in making biodegradable bags then store them in regular plastic?  Why couldn't they have made the bag holding the bags biodegradable? Or, why not just skip that whole step and store them in cardboard? At least that's recyclable.  Then as I started to think about it, the Bag on Board that I bought were also encased in plastic. I guess, maybe, if they are trying to let the consumer SEE what the product is, and since biodegradable products are not as strong as plastic products, then I can sort of understand the reason for the Bag on Board plastic. I guess the reasoning is "Well you're throwing away one plastic bag, but you're saving 120 plastic bags." Even so, I am thinking about writing the Pooch Pickup company and letting them know that they are going against their advertisement by using plastic at all.

Interesting factoid: In doing research for this article I learned something very interesting about biodegradable bags. The Bag on Board and Pooch Pickup brands are actually two different kinds of biodegradble. I found an article on The Compost Bin that breaks it down (pun intended) in great detail, but I will sum up here. There are 2 kinds of "biodegradable" bags. One - Pooch Pickup/BioBags- is made of corn starch (no petrol products) and breaks down in around 180 days and is ok to throw in the compost. The other - Bag on Board - is an additive-based plastic bag which has a chemical that causes it to break down in 6 mos-2 years (vs. ~100 yrs or whatever) but release CO2 into the environment while doing so. The former seem to be the "good" kind whose only drawbacks are that they are not as strong or rugged as plastic and they may reduce the amount for consumption of the foods they're made from (corn/potatoes). The latter seem to be known as the "bad" kind because they're still made of plastic.

HOWEVER.....thanks to, you can get 880 PURPLE bags on rolls for $23.93.  And the 120ct that I bought at Whole Pets for $14.99 goes for $7 on Amazon. Whereas, on (not kidding about the name, check out the link!) you can get 480 BioBag dog bags for $82.99!!! Yikes. And double yikes. Especially when you have to pick up every single mess your dog makes individually.  My M.a.t.h. says he uses about 2/day  which equals 60 bags a month! That's 1/2 of the Bag on Board package (~$7), 2 Pooch Pickup boxes or 3 BioBag rolls, so roughly $8-$14.25/mo or $84-$171/year just on dog bags. Throw in use for cat litter boxes and you've got another 3-5 bags/week. That's A LOT of bags. Who has that kind of money?

Well, after reading the reviews on Amazon, I went ahead and bought the 880 purple bags.  I figure that on my budget it's better to do this (for now) than not do anything.  Also after reading the reviews, I think more people need to be made aware of the difference between "biodegradable" and "compostable" because I would think that the Bag On Board bags WOULD NOT be good for a compost bin. (Though, I'm sure very few people put dog poo in their compost. Yuck.) I still believe that everyone should use these bags at least, and the starch ones if you feel you can afford it, because every little bit helps.

I will, however, stick with BioBags when I start buying trash can bags and also if/when I start composting.  For dog and cat bags, though, the number of bags + the price + the still lessened impact on the environment still make these bags a win for me. And who knows? Maybe someday I'll be able to afford not only the corn starch bags but also an assistant who will pick up the poop for me. A girl can dream. ;-)


  1. Sha-poopie!

  2. Ok Dear. I'm sold. And they just happen to be the same color your hair was for many years!!! I LOVE IT!