While picking up doggy deposits might not be particularly popular, the little bags the City of Salmon Arm provides for the job certainly are.
The city is spending $17,000 to $20,000 per year on the white plastic poop bags found in dispensers in city parks and other public places, says Rob Niewenhuizen, director of public works and engineering.
At an average wholesale price of five cents each, in 2018 that amounted to 340,000 little bags per year – or, if they were divided between the 17,000-plus people who live in Salmon Arm, dog owners or not, that’s 20 bags each.
“They’re not always used by people with dogs,” says Niewenhuizen. “They’re used for water balloons, they’re played with – we find them around.”
Not to mention, some dog owners simply ignore their dog’s droppings.
“It’s a fairly large cost, and we still find a lot of dog feces in our parks.”
City council plans to ban plastic bags in Salmon Arm beginning July 1 to coincide with the start of organic curbside pick-up.
Resident Jacki Dodds wrote to council to express her appreciation for the plan, but she also asked that the biodegradable doggy doo bags currently in use be replaced with compostable ones.
The difference is that biodegradable bags must go in the landfill where they break down more slowly – in about three to six months according to some estimates – than compostable ones, but more quickly than other plastics which can take hundreds of years.
Several Internet sites state that the biodegradable plastics in question are made from petrochemicals but contain additives which enhance their breakdown in the landfill, while the compostables are made from renewable raw materials like cornstarch. They break down completely without leaving toxic residue.
Niewenhuizen says staff have contacted a couple of compostable bag manufacturers and the prices are similar to the bags already in use. The expense would be replacing the 30 or so dispensers at $150 each.
Also, the compostable bags are best disposed of in a commercial composting program.
“We’re still determining with our compostable program if we allow dog waste with our food waste…”
Niewenhiuzen said staff will likely compile a report to address the unknowns in switching to compostable bags. What won’t be known, however, is if the public will continue to consume them in the hundreds of thousands.