Today was a beautiful March day, just outside Boston, with blue skies and sunshine and a blanket of white snow from the last Nor'easter. It was too nice to stay indoors so I went out for a run, mostly along a pretty river that flows into the Mystic Lakes. Along the path, I couldn't help but notice the little presents that await each spring when the snow melts; doggie poop, most of it in plastic bags, nestled in the snow. I've seen these a thousand times, and not just in the snow but all year round, anywhere people walk their dogs. And sometimes I've found them the hard way, as in, just after stepping on them.
Normally when I come across these little treasures, I just register a complaint in my brain and continue on, sometimes vowing to return with a trash picker stick and a garbage bag and do everyone a favor and clean them up. I haven't actually done this yet, although one day I will when I have time. But this time was different, and I found myself questioning why so many doggie poop bags never make it into the garbage, and better yet, why we even have doggie poop bags in the first place? I found myself questioning the sanity of taking something that is as degradable as anything on Earth, doggie poop, and placing it inside something that won't degrade for 1000 years. Let's even forget the sanity of then leaving it by the path for everybody to enjoy.
Now the people who know me are familiar with my battle to recycle plastic bags of all types, and many have enjoyed hours of my company discussing shopping and personal recycling habits and local recycling rules and why they exist. I'm familiar with the recycling intimacies of more people than I care to name, particularly, what they do with their bags. And of course it's all in the name of market research, as I try to understand what type of person, and how many of them exist, that would purchase a product to help them recycle their plastic bags. Dog people almost universally tell me, they wouldn't recycle their bags, because they're using them to put doggie poop in.
When I hear what dog owners do, I wonder to myself, do they put the poop in the bags because they don't have an easy way to recycle the bags anyway, and they need to get rid of the poop, so they are actually killing two birds with one stone? Would they behave differently if bags were much more easily recycled, and would they seek a different way to deal with the poop?
I don't know the answer to any of these questions. But as I push forward to try to get folks to recycle more plastic bags (and more of every recyclable commodity), I think it might be worth finding a better solution for dog walkers than plastic. This seems like the perfect application of non-plastic, biodegradable bags (or paper??) and a horrible application for plastic bags. If, as a society, we could make this shift, the world would be a slightly better place. And if folks wouldn't leave those paper or biodegradable doggie poop bags by the running paths, I'd be eternally grateful.