If you do any hiking on the Sunshine Coast, you will have noticed bags of dog deposits hanging in trees and bushes or placed on rocks. It seems to be getting worse and is a pet (pun intended) peeve of mine.
I couldn’t figure out why people were doing it. Surely there can’t be that many passive aggressive lazy people walking dogs on the Coast. Now I think I have the answer and I hope this week’s article will help educate the perpetrators and reduce the amount of dog-poo-Christmas trees we see on in the forests, parks and trails this summer.
A lack of understanding
The general misconception is that because the bags are “biodegradable”, they are fine to fill with doggy do and lob up a tree.
Biodegradable plastic has compounds added to it which are supposed to enable bacteria to break them down. There’s also bioplastic, which is a plastic that’s made from a renewable source of biomass, like corn, vegetable oils, peas, or even microorganisms. The most common form of bioplastic is polylactide acid or PLA and is made out of corn. Unfortunately, in order for PLA to biodegrade, it needs a certain kind of bacteria at just the right temperature. Water and sun exposure also factor into the time it takes to break down.
Some believe the concept of “biodegradable plastics” is an oxymoron and a recent study from Michigan State University found absolutely no difference between regular plastic bags and additive-treated plastic bags and bottles as we know them.
If the environment is right however, the best-case scenario is that these bags will break down within six months.
Why bother picking up?
All dog owners should be picking up their dog’s deposits but, for the sake of comparison, let’s look at what happens to dog poop if it is just left in the forest. Say you forgot your “biodegradable” bag and just used a leaf or stick to flick it off the trail.
If you were to do this (which is still not cool, you should be picking up after your dog) it would take about a week for the rain, slugs and insects of the forest to “take care” of it for you.
Is it actually an offence?
The short answer is yes. As a dog-owner you’re expected to poop and scoop and discard in your own bin or in dog waste bins provided the town or district. If anybody is spotted hanging their dog mess from trees, they are risking a fine, even though the mess is bagged. It’s classed as littering, as you’re knowingly discarding bagged waste.
Dog owners should always clean up after their dogs and dispose of the waste appropriately and the vast majority do, however a small minority who do not can give all dog owners a bad name.
If you see someone decorating the forest with their furry friend’s special present, or you have noticed this becoming a problem on a beach/trail/park that you frequent, you are encouraged to contact the bylaw enforcement officers responsible for the area in question.
Sechelt Bylaw Enforcement 604-885-1986
Gibsons Bylaw Enforcement 604-886-2274
SCRD Bylaw Enforcement 604-885-6817
Tony Browton is an award-winning Realtor who lives and works on BC’s Sunshine Coast.
His weekly blog can be found here http://www.truebluerealty.ca/blog