Bag Ban FAQ: What About All That Dog Poop?

We did it! After seven years of hard work and diligence, California is poised to become the first state in the nation to ban single-use plastic grocery bags. The overwhelming response has been one of excitement, but we realize there are some residents who have concerns. Nancy Shrodes, our volunteer coordinator, answers a few typical questions.

How do I pick up my dog’s poop?

Yes, plastic bags are handy for picking up animal waste, but there are alternative and easy ways to continue to be a responsible pet owner! For example, you can bring last week’s newspaper on your walk and use it to pick up poop. You can also re-use the grocery store produce bags or other forms of food packaging like bagel or bread bags.

I line my trash cans with plastic bags from the grocery store. Now what am I going to use?

Line the bottom of your bin with newspaper or other paper, and rinse it out periodically after use. You can also buy heavier-weight plastic bags and REUSE them after dumping waste into your outside bin. 

What about using biodegradable bags?

A “biodegradable” plastic bag is a bit of a misnomer. These bags can only break down under very specific conditions and do NOT break down naturally in our waterways, posing a threat to animal life. Bags on our streets inevitably end up in our rivers and ocean, facilitated by the city’s storm drain system. To fully degrade, these bags require heat and specific bacteria present in industrial composting facilities.

Will I get sick from using a reusable bag?

No! I have been using reusable bags for years and have never gotten sick from them. You can easily avoid any chance of getting sick with easy-care tips. Just use common sense and everyday hygiene. Throw your cloth/fabric tote bags into the wash with your laundry load to clean them. Any of the thick plastic reusable bags should be wiped clean and allowed to dry before you store them. Voilà! You are germ free and the environment is healthier too!

Aren’t there bigger things to worry about than plastic bags?

Yes, the world is filled with many pressing problems. But Heal the Bay has spent a lot of attention to this issue because plastic bags ARE a big problem — blighting neighborhoods, clogging storm drains and harming animals. They are also a powerful symbol of our throwaway culture. This is a gateway issue for us. The healthy debate about bags gets people to think about other wasteful practices in their daily lives, be it using single-use water bottles or taking a drinking straw at the corner restaurant. Little things add up to bigger things. 

Before joining Heal the Bay, Nancy worked on the bag ban campaign for Environment California.