Unleashed, Sakari and Nikait made a run for it. Joanne Arland’s Siberian huskies are regulars at Lowell Park, which has a fenced off-leash area.
Not long after arriving at the Everett park, Arland had a job to do. She was there to clean up after Sakari — poop bag in hand. “Read the rules,” the Everett woman said Monday. “It’s a big fine if you don’t.”
A sign at Lowell Park warns of a $250 fine if dog waste isn’t picked up. A dispensary is stocked with black opaque plastic bags. Those bags, supplied to the city by BagSpot, aren’t labeled biodegradable due to strict Federal Trade Commission requirements, company owner Ruth Springer said Tuesday.
Arland brought her own bags. “I buy biodegradable bags from Amazon,” she said.
Plastic bags are a hot topic these days. Many local communities — first Edmonds, and most recently Snohomish and Everett — have approved restrictions on retailers’ single-use plastic carryout bags. Now the Legislature is considering a statewide ban. The Everett ban will take effect Sept. 30. In Snohomish, it’s Jan. 1, 2020.
On March 5, the Senate passed a bill — SB 5323 — that would require an 8-cent per bag tax for each recycled-content large paper or plastic carryout bag provided. The bill was sent to a House committee, and the legislative process continues.
Living in Everett, I know the ban is coming. Still, I sometimes use plastic grocery bags to pick up after my dog.
The latest reminder that I’ll need to break that habit — and buy some bags — comes from QFC. The grocery chain, part of the Kroger Co., has announced that as of next Monday it won’t offer single-use plastic carryout bags.
Elaign Fawcett, at Lowell Park with her black lab, Oreo, and her husky, Oden, buys biodegradable bags for dog waste but uses grocery bags for her trash at home.
Everett’s Nick Garcia was walking Balto, a boxer-pitbull-mastiff mix, at Grand Avenue Park on Tuesday. In his pocket were biodegradable pet-waste bags. He buys 64 rolls of the bags, a three-month supply, for about $16 on Amazon.
Sam McKeeman, who was out with his 13-year-old schnauzer, Kai, used the black bags supplied at the park. To line trash cans at home, he said he uses plastic grocery bags.
Pet poop disposal is a complex issue.
Snohomish County’s Surface Water Management Division, on a webpage devoted to the topic, says it’s best to “Scoop the poop, bag it and put it in the trash!” Animal waste contains pathogens which can sicken people and pets, harm fish and contaminate water.
The county discourages putting pet waste in yard-waste bins or compost piles, which aren’t hot enough to destroy harmful organisms. Flushing is impractical and overloads septic systems. And burying waste or using anaerobic digesters can contaminate soil and streams.
Valerie Normand, a county surface water management spokeswoman, said anything but bagging and putting dog poop in the trash is “a bad idea.” Bacteria in dog waste can overwhelm microbes needed to break down human waste in septic systems, which are common in unincorporated Snohomish County.
“Until we have a better strategy than putting it in a landfill, that’s the best way. A landfill is contained and lined,” Normand said.
Online, it’s not hard to find “green” tips that suggest flushing or composting dog poop — neither a best practice. And then there’s the bag brouhaha — what does biodegradable actually mean?
In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission issued revised “Green Guides” related to environmental claims. “Items destined for landfills, incinerators or recycling facilities will not degrade within a year, so unqualified biodegradable claims for them shouldn’t be made,” the FTC says.
“Plant-based plastics, if trapped in a layer in a landfill, are not going to necessarily break down,” Normand said.
Springer, who owns the St. Louis-based BagSpot company, heeds the FTC and doesn’t market her product as biodegradable. Her company’s bags, originally made from corn starch and plastic, are now high-density polyethylene. Although a certain percentage of the plastic is recycled, Springer also said it’s too costly to prove it’s enough to qualify for a “recycled plastic” label.
“Business owners get caught in the center,” Springer said. “People are unwilling to pay the price.”
Normand said education is needed — especially as those plastic grocery bags appear to be going the way of the dinosaur.
“It’s a worthy goal to reduce the role of petroleum-based plastics,” she said. “People want to do the right thing. But there’s a lot of confusing information out there.”