When you scoop your dog’s poop, don’t forget to bin it!
BACK IN the 1990s, the Irish environment was littered with unsightly white plastic shopping bags. It used to be common to see these bags drifting around the streets like tumbleweed, or caught in bushes like tattered, unsightly flags. In 2002, the Irish government introduced a tax on shopping bags, forcing shops to charge for their use. Within weeks, there was a 94% drop in their use, and discarded bags are now rarely spotted on Ireland's roadways and hedgerows.
In the twenty-teens, there's a new environmental contaminant that is increasingly common: the discarded poop bag. These are often seen in public parks, dangling from fencing or tree branches. They are a particularly disgusting form of pollution: not only are they unsightly, but they also contain a foul substance. They used to be a rare occurrence but unfortunately, it's becoming almost “normal” to see them in your line of view if you stroll around local parks and gardens.
The abandoned poop bags are the result of a half-done job. Dog owners now accept that they have an obligation to pick the poop up after their dogs have done their business. It's well known that dog poop carries a potential risk to human health (as well as being a disgusting environmental contaminant), and local authorities have regulations in place, obligating owners to pick up after their pets.
If somebody is spotted allowing their dog to foul a footpath without stopping to clean away the mess, they are liable to be collared by the local litter warden, resulting in a fine and a possible court appearance. Even if an official isn't around to enforce the law, passers-by often intervene to let people know that they need to scoop that poop. Most dog owners have learned that it just isn't worth the risk of doing nothing.
The most common way to pick up the mess is to use a scented plastic sac, of the type designed to hold soiled nappies from babies. These may be orange, blue, green or brown; they are all equally visually unappealing.
The problem is that once the poop has been scooped into the nappy sac, the job has only been half-done. The dog owner now continues their stroll, with the dog on the leash in one hand, and the full nappy sac in the other. This can be awkward. One hand is often needed for other activities (your mobile phone may ring, you may want to light a cigarette or you may even just want to scratch the back of your neck.) And it's just “not very nice” carrying a full nappy sac for the duration of your walk. What to do?
Many people decide to temporarily park the offending object beside the path. The plan is to pick it up later, on the way home, and then to put it into the bin. Unfortunately, despite their best intentions, people get distracted. Perhaps they go home a different way. Perhaps they are in a hurry. Maybe they genuinely forget about the discarded bag.
And yes, perhaps they deliberately avoid picking up that nappy sac because they just don't want to do it. Whatever the reason, the consequences remain the same: a dangling, unsightly nappy sac.
There's no doubt that this form of littering is a crime, but it's a difficult one to stop. If someone is challenged when caught in the act of placing a bag beside the path, they'll always explain that it's only a temporary situation: of course they'll collect the bag later on. And how do you catch someone in the act of “not picking up the bag”?
What's the answer? Perhaps the simplest way of fixing this would be to let it be known that it is just not acceptable to temporarily abandon litter in the environment. If litter wardens and passers-by start to give out to people who do this, dog walkers will soon learn that they have to find an alternative.
As a dog walker myself, I can understand the dilemma. When you have a full nappy sac, you don't want to carry it and you can't put it in your pocket. You just want to remove it from your person as rapidly as possible.. So what can you do?
There are a few alternatives. You can buy special zip-up neoprene containers, designed to carry full nappy sacs (see www.dickybag.com). These have a clip so that you can click them on to your dog leash or your belt, and they are airtight, so that no trace of scent leaks out if you do need to put the full container into your bag or your pocket.
Local authorities can help too, by providing more litter bins, or even specific poopbins such as they have in places like the promenade in Bray. If dog owners have somewhere handy to get rid of the offending objects properly, they are much more likely to do so.
The best answer may be for dog owners to avoid the issue completely. A friend has trained his dog to use his own back garden for pooping, so that any mess can be cleaned up and put into the bin before heading off on a walk in a public place.
If action is not taken to solve the problem of dangling poop sacs, there's a risk that dogs may be banned from using public parks completely. If you're a dog owner, please take responsibility for your pet's waste: don't just scoop that poop - make sure that you bin it too.
Abandoned poop bags are the result of a half-done job.