BBC Radio Scotland Mornings with Stephen Jardine
Live Interview with George Greer, Co-Founder of Project Harmless to talk about the environmental impact of dog waste bags.
What is a Harmless Poop Bag?
Harmless Poop Bag offers a new type of dog waste bag material available to all dog owners. It is uniquely water-reactive and can rapidly disintegrate in landfill or in our rivers and oceans, whilst its formula is 100% non-toxic and microplastic-free, posing no threat to marine life. Once used, it can be placed in any waste bin.
What is Harmless Poop Bag made of?
Harmless Poop Bag is made of the same material as some medical pill capsules which dissolve in stomach and are commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry. Project Harmless repurposed the material and engineered it to be strong enough for its purpose of waste collection, but fragile enough to disintegrate rapidly in the presence of water, particularly with agitation, such as in rainfall and the movement of rivers.
What makes Harmless Poop Bag unique and harmless?
All conventional dog waste bags, including conventional compostable and biodegradable bags, are designed to be water resilient. Harmless Poop Bag is the opposite, incorporating water-reactive material in order to guarantee harmless disintegration.
Approximately 10% of all general waste plastic worldwide ends up in our rivers and oceans. As a result, an estimated 100 million marine animals die each year from contact with plastic in the oceans. If a Harmless Poop Bag ends up in our waters, it will rapidly disintegrate in our seas and oceans.
Unlike conventional bags, it will not ensnare marine life. In addition, if ingested by marine life, the non-toxic and micro-plastic free material will safely pass through the systems of most marine animals, and will not endanger marine life or the human food chain.
In conclusion, unlike all other dog waste bags which are designed to be water-resistant and robust, Harmless Poop Bags are designed to leave the Earth as soon as possible after use without harming it in the process.
In conclusion, unlike all other dog waste bags which are designed to be water-resistant and robust, Harmless Poop Bags are designed to leave the Earth ASAP after use without harming it in the process.
I am using degradable / recycled dog waste bags, as they are low cost and effective, should I stop using them?
Yes, they represent the vast majority of dog waste bags used today and tend to be the lowest cost, however, they are creating an eco-disaster for the planet. It is normal for such bags to take over 500 years to degrade, and in the process they release toxins and micro-plastics. If they end up in our rivers and oceans their shape will retain integrity for many decades, potentially ensnaring marine life and as they degrade their micro-plastics enter the marine and consequently the human food chain.
We believe governments everywhere need to examine the impact of these single used plastic products and seriously consider legislating to ban the sale of such products.
I am using biodegradable dog waste bags, aren’t they better than degradable?
Yes, but whilst conventional biodegradable bags are much better than conventional degradable bags, many require oxygen to biodegrade.
The University of Plymouth did a study in 2019 in which all biodegradable bags tested were still functional after 3 years in water and soil. Many of these bags do not biodegrade in our oceans and are impossible to biodegrade in landfill.
If one of these bags ends up in our oceans, it will retain its shape for a number of years and could ensnare or be eaten by marine life with fatal consequences.
I am using plant-based (cornstarch) compostable bags, are they better than Harmless Poop Bag?
Plant-based (cornstarch) compostable bags are usually made from Polylactic Acid (PLA) using cornstarch. They require high heat to be fully decomposed.
They may break down into their constituent parts (carbon dioxide and water) within three months in a “controlled composting environment,” that is, an industrial composting facility heated to 140 F and fed a steady diet of digestive microbes.
However, a used Polylactic Acid (PLA) dog waste bag made using cornstarch should be composted in a dedicated home dog waste compost bin as the resulting compost should only be used on non-edible plants (given the potential of toxins from the dog waste). However, not many dog owners have a dedicated home dog waste compost bin. And according to the latest study from UCL, many of these bags don't fully break down in home compost bins.
The vast majority of "plant-based compostable" dog waste bags end up in landfill. There is no light and little oxygen available in landfill, thus, it is probable that such bags will take decades to fully decompose.
In addition, these bags release significant amount of methane when they break down because of they are made of corn, an organic material.
Harmless Poop Bag is free of Polylactic Acid and can disintegrate and biodegrade in landfill.
If a Harmless Poop Bag ends up in the open environment, including our rivers and oceans, it will quickly disintegrate.
Is there a risk Harmless Poop Bag will breakdown whilst still holding it?
Harmless Poop Bags have been designed to maintain integrity until disposed. Our bags have been tested in various locations across Scotland, including Glasgow, Perth, and Edinburgh by our team and supporters.
However, we still encourage dog owners to dispose of used bags as soon as possible, which they can do in any public waste bin (see "where can I dispose of used Harmless Poop Bags").
Where can I dispose of used Harmless Poop Bags?
It used to be the case that you had to use specific marked public bins for dog waste. This is no longer the case in the UK and Harmless Poop Bags can be disposed of in any public waste bin. However, do watch out for any local exclusions to this rule.
How large is the dog waste bag issue?
In the UK alone there are over 12 million dogs. Assuming all dog owners use a dog waste bag 2 times a day the number already adds up to 24 million in a day! That's over 168 million in a week, over 8.5 billion used waste bags in a year.
Considering the vast majority of dog waste bags will not degrade for over 500 years. If only 5% to 10% of those waste bags enter our environment, including our waters, that's 850 million used waste bags in a year. The vast majority of which will not degrade in water for hundreds of years, and as they degrade will release toxins and form microplastics which are harmful to both marine life and the human food chain.
Our seas and oceans are borderless and this number is only for the UK. 10% of general waste plastic is estimated to enter our rivers and oceans worldwide killing an estimated 100 million marine animals per year. Dog waste bags are an important contributor to this growing human made disaster, but have been significantly under-appreciated by national governments to date.
Do Harmless Poop Bags come on a roll?
Harmless Poop Bags are thicker than normal dog waste bags to cater for their water-reactive properties. In other words, they are designed to fulfil their purpose without leaking or bursting.
This means they are too thick to place on rolls, however, that's why we offer an attractive waterproof storage tin, so they can be located at the front or back door, or in the car, without looking out of place, and convenient to take a couple of bags every time you take your dog out.
We are hoping to offer specially designed travel pouches for Harmless Poop Bags in coming months, we thank you for your patience.
Why are Harmless Poop Bags expensive compared to conventional degradable and biodegradable products?
"Degradable" bags are low cost, however, they are destroying our environment. There is no other way to describe a product which will not degrade for 500 years and will release toxins and microplastics in the process! We believe governments everywhere need to examine the impact of these single used plastic products with a view to controlling their availability.
"Biodegradable" bags are better, but will still remain and present a risk to the environment many years after their original use.
Harmless Poop Bags require an expensive manufacturing process, many times higher cost than any other types of dog waste bags including plant-based compostable products. Despite this our pricing is generally competitive with plant-based compostable bags using Polylactic Acid (PLA) from corn-starch. Once all product positives and negatives are assessed, we believe Harmless Poop Bag is superior to all other types of waste bags.
We also believe that pricing should be considered in context. Our weekly cost for 1 dog is £2 per week, similar to one sit-in or takeaway coffee. Not a significant price to pay to help our planet and marine life.