Most North American newspaper columnists will tell you nothing triggers a more venomous reaction from readers than a perceived attack on pet owners. Exposing the negative impacts caused by millions of fluffy felines and our stick-fetching friends is what can be referred to as a hot button issue.
Therefore, it is with some trepidation that I write about how dog owners are killing our environment — one poopy plastic bag at a time.
One of those dog owners just happens to be a friend of the family. This person regularly tells me how they dutifully recycle their food waste, ride their bike to work, and wash their clothes in cold water.
However, when it is time for Fido to do his business, they throw on a raincoat and step outdoors with plastic bags in hand. For about 20 minutes each day, their environmental conscience goes on vacation.
When dogs are finished making a special deposit in one of our local parks, bylaw-abiding owners casually bend over and scoop up the poop with a plastic bag. After it’s nicely tied up in a bundle, many appear to walk around proudly with the package, as if to say “Hey, look at me, I cleaned up after my dog. Not bad, eh?”
Cleaning up after your dog has used a children’s park as its porta-potty is the least you should do. However, why use disposable plastic bags to do it?
According to the organization PlanetSave, “scientists estimate it can take up to 1,000 years for a plastic bag to disintegrate completely, releasing toxins and damaging the environment as they decay.”
If your pooch does his business at least once a day, that means a minimum of 365 plastic bags are thrown into the landfill each year. So why do so few dog owners appear guilty or grimace when asked if they would consider using a recyclable container to pick up the waste?
That is because when it comes to the environment, there are times when convenience trumps concern. Picking up the nasty stuff with a disposable plastic bag is just so much easier than dragging out a set of barbecue tongs and a reusable container.
Taking care of man’s best friend can be a rewarding experience. Dogs are loving, caring animals that bring joy to many of their owners.
But the next time one of them tells you they consider themselves an environmentalist, ask them if they are prepared to ditch the plastic in favour of something a tad more eco-friendly?