Lee, Katie and I had a discussion a ways back on the use of plastic bags for picking up dog shit. Our chat was along these lines: Given that plastic bags seem to be the easiest way to do pick shit up, and since plastic bags seem to be symptomatic of our “convenience today for a hellish tomorrow” culture, is there such thing as a good plastic bag? Or, putting it another (awkward) way, is there a “less-bad” plastic bag?
We considered re-using those plastic bags that we seem to accumulate through daily living. The cost is agreeable (hidden in the price of groceries for example), but does nothing to address the concern with plastic bags’ longevity. As well, since we shop with re-usable bags now and generally say â€œno thanksâ€ when offered a plastic bag elsewhere in life, we would seemingly have to take a step back to get our supply.
We also considered bio-degradable plastic bags. At the local “green living” store, Grassroots, we could buy 30 Scoopies bags for $4.50 that are supposed to “disappear” in 18 months (whatever that means). That’s about $ 0.15 a bag. But for someone living in an apartment building, without access to a compost bin, these bags would end up going into the garbage. Hidden under dozens of feet of waste, even the most biodegradable stuff in the world wonâ€™t disappear for dozens of years (not enough oxygen down there for microbes to do their thangâ€™).
Right now we’re purchasing 50 small bags for $0.99 at Honest Ed’s, which works out to $0.02 a dump. This is (seemingly) the least-sustainable choice. But hereâ€™s some food for thought from the Smithsonian Magazine that seems to defy common sense and perhaps makes our choice of bags a â€œbetterâ€ one:
According to a biodegradability standard that Mojo helped develop, PLA is said to decompose into carbon dioxide and water in a â€œcontrolled composting environmentâ€ in fewer than 90 days. Whatâ€™s a controlled composting environment? Not your backyard bin, pit or tumbling barrel. Itâ€™s a large facility where compostâ€”essentially, plant scraps being digested by microbes into fertilizerâ€”reaches 140 degrees for ten consecutive days. So, yes, as PLA advocates say, corn plastic is â€œbiodegradable.â€ But in reality very few consumers have access to the sort of composting facilities that can make that happen. NatureWorks has identified 113 such facilities nationwideâ€”some handle industrial food-processing waste or yard trimmings, others are college or prison operationsâ€”but only about a quarter of them accept residential foodscraps collected by municipalities.