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Frequently asked questions (FAQ) - and answers

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Frequently asked questions (FAQ) - and answers

On www.thesustainanablepeople.com you can find all information about this in the menu under “Buy”. We offer suitable solutions and places for all interest groups (retailers, municipalities, companies, consumers) to purchase our products.

When our founder Arne noticed almost 100 dog waste bags in the grass verge along the route while jogging in Hamburg on a distance of approx. 5 km, he was shocked. So the desire arose to solve this plastic waste problem. In the same year, together with a Swiss company he developed bio-based dog waste bags for urban needs that are biodegradable under local temperature conditions. This makes us one of the pioneers in this area worldwide.

Our biodegradable bags are not just an extension of the existing product portfolio. Our company emerged from a study project to combat the plastic problem. The awareness of environmental problems and the need for alternatives that are as sustainable as possible are therefore firmly anchored in the core of our corporate culture.

Dog waste bags have reduced the dog waste problem in many places in recent years, but at the same time a plastic waste problem, since the bags used consist of approx. 90% conventional plastic. Fatal and much more problematic than, for example, with shopping bags: Dog owners understandably like to walk their dog in green spaces or by the water – in other words, where it is particularly painful when the bags get into the environment. Especially in water it is often impossible to get the bags back from the environment. In addition, many dog ​​waste bags are even willfully disposed of.

It would be best if the bags and dog waste do not end up in the environment in the first place – regardless of whether it is conventional plastic or biodegradable material. Therefore, in 2015 we started what is probably the last largest study on the subject of dog waste bags in the environment with the “Poop Bag Map”. This is an interactive map in which users could enter the places where they found dog waste bags in the environment. In the course of this, we also started a large clean-up campaign in a densely populated residential area of ​​Hamburg, in which over 500 dog waste bags could be retrieved from nature.

With this environmental project, we were able to reach over 7 million contacts through reporting in various media and thus essentially help to raise public awareness of the problem. In addition, we were able to enable cities and municipalities with the data obtained to optimize the rubbish bin locations. In the course of this, however, it has also become obvious that this optimization can reduce the environmental input, but cannot completely avoid it and that there is a need for a holistic solution. Keyword: biodegradable dog waste bags!

No! This is not the case with the biodegradable material according to EN 13432, which we use. But be careful: with regard to the degradability, some providers on the market advertise products made from normal plastic such as polyethylene (PE) describing them as “decomposable”, “degradable” or even “biodegradable” if they contain additives such as “d2w” or “epi”, for example. These materials are also called oxo or oxo-degradable. The European Parliament says:

In such plastic materials, “oxo-biodegradable” additives, typically metal salts, are incorporated into conventional plastics. As a result of the oxidation of those additives, the plastic materials fragment into small particles, which remain in the environment. It is thus misleading to refer to such plastic materials as “biodegradable”. Fragmentation transforms visible littering of items such as plastic carrier bags into invisible littering by secondary microplastics. This is not a solution to the waste problem, but rather increases pollution of the environment by those plastic materials.“

The sale of oxo-degradable plastic products is prohibited throughout the EU since July 3rd, 2021 onwards, as can be seen, for example, in a corresponding EU Directive. Oxo Products can be recognized by the fact that they cannot be certified according to EN 13432 and therefore are not allowed to bear a seal such as the Keimling, OK compost or OK compost HOME. Further the material can be recognized by terms such as “oxo”, “epi” or “d2w”.

The term “bio” is used in the field of plastics for materials that are either biobased (contain a proportion of renewable raw materials, regardless of the amount of the proportion), are biodegradable, or meet both criteria. A plastic that is 100 % made from petroleum is therefore also referred to as a bioplastic or bioplastic, just like a plastic that is made from 100 % vegetable components but is not degradable. In contrast to food, the term “bio” in the field of plastics does not mean the ecological production of the renewable raw materials used.

Today’s biodegradable materials based on starch, so-called “starch blends” usually have a share of 10 – 50 % renewable raw materials, the rest is petroleum-based. This also applies to our biodegradable dog waste bags. They are made with 30 % renewable raw materials that currently come from corn. However, these are mainly rejects that are not suitable for human or animal consumption. The rest of the composition is petroleum-based, but has a chemical structure that can be broken down by enzymes and then metabolized by microorganisms to water, CO₂ and biomass – similar to the plant components. Thus the material is completely biodegradable, even under ambient temperatures.

Some manufacturers advertise on the market with statements such as “dog waste bags made from corn starch” or “made entirely from plant materials”. Most of the time, this is consumer deception or at least misleading, as this suggests that the dog waste bags are made entirely from vegetable material. Bags made from 100 % corn starch are hardly possible with the current state of the art. If you see such an offer, ask how much plant there is really in the product.

That depends very much on the environmental factors. In industrial composting:

At temperatures of approx. 60 – 70 °C, according to the European standard EN 13432 (“OK compost”), at least 90 % of the organic material must have been converted into CO₂ after a maximum of 6 months. Our biodegradable dog waste bags do this with ease – even if we made the material almost 8 times as thick, our material still meets the norm. The thicker a material, the longer it takes to break down (similar to a tree trunk compared to a branch).

In home composting (garden compost):

All “OK compost HOME” certified materials also comply with EN 13432, but biodegradation is also tested under home compost conditions at 20 – 30 °C. At least 90 % of the material must be degraded within 12 months. Our bioplastic has also achieved the OK compost HOME certification from TÜV Austria in a thickness of more than 60 µm. The Sustainable People’s biodegradable dog waste bags are 18 µm thick, less than a third of that. This means that dismantling takes place in a fraction of the estimated time. Our dog waste bags could therefore also be safely used as small compostable garbage bags for the kitchen and then composted on the garden compost. However, we also offer compostable garbage bags in various sizes for this purpose. Dog droppings should not be composted as they can contain pathogens and the temperatures on the domestic compost are not sufficient to safely render them harmless.

Outside of composting facilities:

In nature, every place has different decomposition conditions. Even if two bags are only a few meters apart, there are differences in the UV or solar radiation, the humidity, the temperature, but above all in the number and diversity of the microorganisms present, which ultimately take over the majority of the biological degradation. The rate of breakdown also varies accordingly – under good breakdown conditions in the nature of Hamburg, only part of the knot was left after 12 weeks in one of our tests in spring! However, if the bag is under a bridge with little sunlight, moisture and hardly any microorganisms, the organic bag can survive there for years. However, this also applies to other organic material such as twigs or leaves.

In principle, dog waste bags (including ours) should always be disposed of in accordance with local waste disposal regulations. As a rule, this is – due to pathogens that may be contained in dog excrement – via the residual waste with subsequent thermal recycling. Here, too, our bioplastic has a decisive advantage: only as much CO₂ is released from the renewable components as was absorbed in the growth phase – this results in significant CO₂ savings compared to PE bags made from new granulate.

We regularly send our biodegradable dog waste bags to leading certification authorities (TÜV Austria, DIN Certco) in order to have them tested accordingly. TÜV Austria awards the recognized “OK compost HOME” logo. All OK compost HOME certified materials comply with EN 13432, but biodegradation is also tested under home compost conditions at 20 – 30 °C. At least 90 % of the material must be degraded within 12 months. The thicker a material, the longer it takes to break down (similar to a tree trunk compared to a branch). Our TSP bioplastic has also achieved the OK compost HOME certification in a thickness of more than 60 µm. The Sustainable People’s biodegradable dog waste bags are 18 µm thick, less than a third of that. This means that dismantling takes place in a fraction of the estimated time.

We also carry out our own tests on a regular basis: under good decomposition conditions in the nature of Hamburg, only part of the knot was left after only 12 weeks in one of our own tests in spring! However, if the bag is under a bridge with little solar radiation, moisture and hardly any microorganisms, the bag can survive there for years. However, this also applies to other organic material such as twigs or leaves.

When filled, all dog waste bags – regardless of whether they are biodegradable or not – always belong in the residual waste. If all dog owners always adhere to this, this would significantly reduce the negative effects of PE dog waste bags on the environment (through littering) in particular.

We regularly carry out clean-up campaigns, during which we have already found and disposed of thousands of dog waste bags. These include folded, unused bags that were obviously unintentionally released into the environment. In addition, many dog ​​waste bags are even willfully disposed of. It is therefore crucial for us that as many dog ​​waste bags as possible are replaced with degradable material. In order to ensure that biodegradation is also fundamentally possible at ambient temperatures, home compostability is the best indicator from our point of view, since tests are carried out here at 20 – 30 °C (albeit under defined conditions). Compared to industrial compostability (at temperatures above 60 °C) and „oxo“ dog waste bags (approx. 97 – 98% PE + 2% additives such as EPI or d2w), home compostability is therefore a central added value for us.

Bags filled with dog excrement should always be disposed of with the residual waste due to the presence of pathogens. Our bioplastics have a decisive advantage when it comes to disposal via residual waste with subsequent thermal recycling – only as much CO₂ is released from the renewable material components as was absorbed in the growth phase – this results in CO₂ savings compared to PE bags made from new granulate.

Ideally, our biodegradable dog waste bags should be stored in dry rooms, at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.

Please keep in mind that the rate of degradation of the material depends very much on the environmental factors. Under certain conditions (e.g. direct UV or solar radiation, high humidity, heat) the excellent degradability of the material can lead to the degradation process already beginning during storage. Even if properly stored, our biodegradable dog waste bags should be used within one year of purchase.

High-quality materials are used in the manufacture of our biodegradable products: a starch blend made from renewable raw materials and a biodegradable copolymer with a chemical structure that can be broken down by enzymes and then metabolized by microorganisms into water, CO₂ and biomass. Compared to PE, this material costs 3½ to 4 times as much when it comes to purchasing.

In the trade, our biodegradable dog waste bags cost around 1½ to 3 times (RRP) as much as conventional dog waste bags made of PE and therefore appear expensive in a direct comparison. Nevertheless, it is still a low-priced item, so the absolute additional costs per dog waste bag are still low. If not only the acquisition costs are applied to PE dog waste bags, but also the follow-up costs are taken into account, biodegradability appears to be one of the cheapest measures for avoiding plastic. The retrieval of dog waste bags, for example from bodies of water, would result in a multiple of the costs. If, on the other hand, the bags remain in the environment, external costs arise (negative environmental impacts for the general public that are not compensated for), for example through the formation of microplastics or ingestion by animals. In order to ensure a fair comparison of profitability, the follow-up costs must be considered as well as the acquisition costs.

Dog waste bags:

In addition to the biodegradable variant, we also offer dog waste bags from recycled materials. These are produced from 97 % recycled production waste (PE) in a resource-saving manner. This means a significant saving in CO₂ compared to fresh PE made from new granulate. In addition, the use of recyclate compared to new granulate is synonymous with less land use, since there is no oil production.

As long as it is ensured that the bags are always disposed of correctly (in the residual waste), it can be said quite clearly that recycled PE is a good material from an ecological point of view – at least as long as fossil raw materials (e.g. crude oil) are used to generate energy. This is due to the fact that PE burns residue-free to carbon dioxide and water in the waste incineration process and a lot of energy can be gained through the high heating value of PE.

However, we regularly carry out clean-up actions, during which we have already found and disposed of thousands of dog waste bags. These include folded, unused bags that were obviously unintentionally released into the environment. Since this environmental pollution and the willful disposal of filled bags unfortunately still occur far too often, the biodegradable dog waste bags are the first choice in this regard.

Garbage bags:

Our TSP recycled garbags bags, all certified with the Blue Angel, are produced in a resource-saving manner in the EU from at least 90 % post-consumer waste (PE), e.g. from household recyclable material collections. The use of such recycling materials makes an important contribution to the conservation of resources by substituting primary plastics and using plastics that have already been used at least once again in products. In addition, the use of recyclate means significant savings in CO₂ and less land use compared to fresh PE made from new granulate.

In addition, our recycled bin liners are made of a mono material (PE), which makes them very easy to recycle. This means another option for collecting recyclable materials. The film-free packaging is of course also recyclable (in the waste paper).

It is correct that in the production of our recycled dog waste bags (box with 8 rolls) PE is used from recycled production waste (“post production” material) from other applications, for example from the production of mailing bags. In this way, it is the shortest of all conceivable transport routes, thus the minimum process effort and as little material as possible is wasted.

According to the DIN EN ISO 14021 standard, only waste before use (“post production”) and waste after use (“post consumer”) may be considered as recyclate content. In our case, it is waste before use. In other words, material that is separated from the waste stream during the manufacturing process.

The recycling process not only requires special machines, but also the cleanest possible materials in order to rule out damage to the systems and poor quality of the finished products. In addition, post-industrial plastic waste can be collected much more easily than post-consumer waste.

Waste after use, i.e. “post-consumer” materials, is often considered from an ecological point of view, but not always better than post-industrial plastic waste. We speak from own experience, as we have already dealt intensively with the differences in the use of the two types of material. We have already tried to make dog waste bags from “post-consumer” material ourselves. In doing so, however, we had to find out that the production of such dog waste bags is only possible from a material thickness of 35 micrometers for technical reasons. However, this is completely oversized for the application, i.e. the disposal of dog waste. For comparison: our dog waste bags with PE made from recycled production waste have a material thickness of 13-15 micrometers, which makes them particularly tear-resistant and moisture-resistant. The higher the material thickness, the more material is used in production. This then has corresponding effects, since, for example, far fewer bags fit into a box compared to the thinner bags. This also means a much higher logistical effort, since much more material has to be transported per unit produced than when using a thinner material.

In principle, we also prefer the use of post-consumer materials – wherever it is possible and useful. For example, we offer garbage bags and sacks made from this type of recycling material, which is also certified with the Blue Angel. However, if the use of such materials leads to an enormous additional consumption of material – as in the case of dog waste bags – we prefer the use of post-industrial materials.

In fact, recycled paper is basically a good raw material. The use of the material is particularly useful for products in which the existing material, e.g. plastic, can be replaced one-on-one (in terms of quantity) with recycled paper. However, this does not apply to dog waste bags.

Paper is only stable from a certain thickness and only then offers sufficient protection against the dog feces to be disposed of. In addition, recycled paper quickly becomes soaked in wet weather or snow. Because the more often a paper fiber is recycled, the shorter and more unstable it becomes. That is why fresh fibers are often added, but they can only be seen as environmentally friendly as long as they come from sustainable forestry.

The material weight of dog waste bags made of sturdy paper or cardboard, which are available on the market, is approx. 20 grams / piece. This is about 10 times as heavy as a dog waste bag made of bioplastic or recycled plastic (approx. 2 grams / piece) and therefore completely oversized for use, i.e. the disposal of dog waste. The higher the amount of material used, the greater the corresponding effects, since, for example, far fewer units fit into one box compared to the thinner dog waste bags made of bioplastic or recycled PE. This means a much higher logistic effort, since much more material (weight / volume) per unit has to be transported than when using a thinner / lighter material.

In terms of user-friendliness, dog waste bags made of bioplastics or recycled plastic clearly score points over those made of paper / cardboard. Because: they fit in almost any trouser or jacket pocket, no matter how small, do not have to be folded before use and are characterized by a pleasant feel and ease of use.

In our founding phase, we spent a long time working intensively on the various materials that can be used in the manufacture of dog waste bags. In doing so, we came to the clear conclusion that the bioplastic or recycled plastic used for TSP products is the most suitable material in the field of dog waste bags – not only from an ecological point of view.

It all depends! There are various impact indicators that can be used for such an assessment. For example: greenhouse gas potential, non-renewable energy consumption, acidification potential, primary energy consumption, eutrophication potential, land use, ozone formation potential, human toxicity, ozone depletion potential, water consumption. Depending on the material and weighting of the impact indicators, the results are mixed.

As long as it is ensured that the bags are always disposed of correctly (in the residual waste), it can be said quite clearly that recycled PE is a good material from an ecological point of view – at least as long as fossil raw materials (e.g. crude oil) are used to generate energy. This is due to the fact that PE burns residue-free in the waste incineration process to form carbon dioxide and water, and a lot of energy can be obtained thanks to the high heating value value of PE. Further, our recycled dog waste bags are made from 97 % recycled production waste (PE) in a resource-saving manner. This means a significant saving in CO₂ compared to fresh PE made from new granulate. In addition, the use of recycled PE compared to new granulate is synonymous with less land use, since there is no oil production.

However, we regularly carry out clean-up actions in the environment, during which we have already found and disposed of thousands of dog waste bags. These include folded, unused bags that were obviously unintentionally released into the environment. Unfortunately, this pollution, like the willful disposal of filled bags, still occurs far too often. Against this background, from our point of view, the biodegradability of dog waste bags in the open environment is the most important indicator in the overall ecological assessment of the materials. If, however, it is ensured that the bags are always properly disposed of in the residual waste, both variants are definitely a good choice in our opinion!

In many places in Germany, it is forbidden by the authorities to dispose of bin liners made from compostable materials in organic waste. Disposers usually argue that compostable film products do not decompose quickly enough in industrial composting plants. Therefore, such bags are classified as “contaminants” that would affect the quality of the compost to be produced. As a result, the packaging is usually sorted out immediately upon arrival at the plants and sent to the residual waste (= incineration).

The criticism from the disposal companies essentially refers to the rotting time of “max. 12 weeks”. The EN 13432 is the best-known European standard for the compostability of film products. According to this standard, a sufficient level of disintegration should be present after 12 weeks under industrial or semi-industrial composting conditions. From our point of view, however, this period is far too long compared to the real picture of the rotting times in German composting plants (max. 6 weeks) and is therefore no longer contemporary. This is also particularly annoying for us because compostable organic waste bags are also affected by this situation.

Many bioplastics easily meet the European standard for composting in industrial composting plants (EN 13432) – even at around 8 times the strength currently used for bin liners, they would still degrade quickly enough. The thicker a material, the longer it will take to degrade (similar to tree trunk versus a branch). There is also no such thing as “the bioplastic”, but a whole range of materials that degrade at different speeds. For us, there is no question that some of these materials meet the requirements for trouble-free recycling in German industrial composting plants.

For the reasons mentioned above, however, it is currently forbidden in many places in Germany to put such bags in the organic waste bin. In addition, some disposal companies cannot distinguish between biodegradable garbage bags and conventional garbage bags (which unfortunately are put in the organic waste bin time and again), so that in most cases no bags are accepted at all – regardless of whether they are compostable or not.

However, there is a positive development: the certification program “Biowaste Bags DINplus” in which – in addition to DIN EN 13432 – a composting duration of max. 6 weeks is referred to. In the future, this standard should help to increase the acceptance of compostable organic waste bags – which are certified accordingly – in Germany. We are also currently working at full speed on the development of compostable garbage bags, which we will certify according to the “DINplus organic waste bag” standard.

In general, the benefit of using biodegradable biowaste bags is primarily an increased amount of biowaste, since the convenience for consumers results from the joint disposal of biowaste bags and biowaste (hygienic, clean and easy). At the same time, the use of biodegradable garbage bags can reduce the amount of organic waste in the residual waste, so that the potential for valuable organic waste can be better exploited overall. In addition, compostable bin liners are breathable, which can reduce moisture and the build-up of mold and unpleasant odors. As a result, the organic waste – which naturally has a particularly high water content – can release moisture, which also reduces the weight and thus less energy is required for transport.

For deepening this topic we recommend the report published by the Federal Environment Agency in 2018 on the treatment of biodegradable plastics. Different strategies and disposal concepts – especially in Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Sweden – for biodegradable plastics are presented and compared. Despite the large amount of information and in view of the complexity of the topic, the report is very clear and also provides a positive conclusion on bio-waste bags made from biodegradable plastics.

In addition, the planned revisions of the German Biowaste Ordinance („Bioabfallverordnung“) can be read in the decision of the Federal Cabinet of September 22, 2021. It says (own translation of original German text), among other things:

“[…] Finally, the addition of biowaste collection bags made of biodegradable plastics from the separate biowaste collection for composting together with the biowaste is still permitted (column 3, sentence 1 and letter c). The requirements for these collection bags are specified in the revised table line and in some cases also tightened in order to eliminate the problems in practice with the biological treatment of these bags. This means that the ecological advantage of the collection bags, a clean and hygienic collection of organic waste both in the domestic organic waste bin and in the organic bin, can continue to be used. In addition, several large-scale tests in rural and urban areas (Bad Dürkheim, Berlin, Kassel and Munich) with the introduction of biodegradable plastic collection bags together with intensive public relations work by the local waste advisory service have shown that both the amount of organic waste collected has increased and the number of misthrows with conventional plastic bags in the organic waste bin has been significantly reduced. Due to their tear strength and tightness, biodegradable plastic collection bags are suitable for collection and transport, e.g. to the compost bin or to the collection container, in particular of damp and wet organic waste from the kitchen, e.g. B. Cooked leftovers. Paper collection bags are only partially suitable for such organic waste. […]”

Home-compostable organic waste bags from The Sustainable People are ideal for compostable waste from the kitchen and garden. For example: fruit and vegetable residues, tea and coffee grounds (also with filter bags), nut and egg shells, garden and plant waste. Our organic waste bags are even certified in 4-fold strength OK compost HOME and are therefore home-compostable. They also rot on the domestic compost without leaving any pollutants behind. The quality of the resulting compost is guaranteed.

The bioplastic we use has been tried and tested a million times over. It is even possible to transport water with it and at most a thin film of sweat should form, as the bag is breathable. With particularly favorable degradation conditions (microorganisms already present in the bucket, composition of the organic waste, installation location, etc.) and a long period of time in the garbage can, the excellent degradability of the material can lead to degradation already beginning in the bucket and consequently liquid escaping. We use our compostable garbage bags both in the office and at home and have no problems with it even after 5 or 6 days. Nevertheless, the degradation is a biological process, the speed of which varies.

To be on the safe side, we therefore recommend changing the organic waste bag regularly, preferably every 3-4 days. This also helps to prevent fruit fly infestation. We would like to give you the following tips to avoid unpleasant surprises:

– Allow hot waste such as coffee or tea filters to cool and drain before filling

– Do not fill in any liquids and protect the bag from direct sunlight during storage

– Provide adequate ventilation

– Change the organic garbage bag regularly (preferably every 3 – 4 days)

If you have less organic waste, we recommend that you use one of our smaller bag sizes (6 – 8L, 10L or 20L), depending on which size is sufficient for 3 – 4 days for your needs.

By the way, the perfect roommate for our bin liners made of biodegradable material is our 10 liter organic waste bin. This trash can, together with our home-compostable garbage bags, reduces moisture and thus the formation of mold and unpleasant odors. Through the recesses in the bucket and our breathable garbage bags, the organic waste – which naturally has a particularly high proportion of water – can release moisture, which reduces its weight and thus less energy has to be used for transport. The bucket is made from 100 % recycled plastic in the EU and, as it is made entirely of the same material (PP), it is 100 % recyclable. The recesses not only ensure good ventilation, but also reduce the material consumption for manufacturing and make the bucket lighter. Thanks to the integrated bag holder, the garbage bags used cannot slip or fall into the bucket. A safety lock on the sturdy handle also prevents accidental opening and spilling of the bucket while carrying it, even with a lively walk.

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The Sustainable People
Eilbeker Weg 66
22089 Hamburg
+49 (0)40 – 881 973 63
info@thesustainablepeople.com

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