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Looking into biodegradable doggy bags

Kyle Magin
Nevada Appeal News Service
Paul Guttman and dog Smudge examine a snow-filled flushable dog poop bag, which breaks down in minutes with the addition of water. The corn starch-based bag biodegrades quickly in nature, said Guttman, who is working on the project with Madonna Dunbar, IVGID's resource conservationist. Jen Schmidt/ Nevada Appeal News Service
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INCLINE VILLAGE – When dogs are outside and they need to go, they go. On the Village Green. On the beach. On your lawn, your neighbor’s lawn, the street, the hiking trails and pretty much everywhere in between.

They go so much, that according to Madonna Dunbar of the Incline Village General Improvement District’s Waste-Not program, dogs drop 14 tons of feces in here each year.

That number is unacceptable, said Dr. Paul Guttman.

“That’s way too much for the basin to absorb each year, and we’re a major dog community, so we need to figure out what to do with all of this,” Guttman said. “The crap gets absorbed into the ground and can run off into the lake, which can lead to algae blooms and damage clarity.”

In a slightly better but unattractive alternative, Guttman said, responsible owners who bag their pooch’s leavings and toss them in the trash run the risk of the feces sitting in a plastic bag for years while the bag biodegrades in a landfill. Guttman said this can lead to the droppings absorbing into the ground and possibly contaminating the water supply.

“Dog feces don’t break down well and they can transmit bacteria and diseases like e-coli and heartworm. Everything about the current method is, excuse the pun, crap,” Guttman said.

Since Beethoven, Hooch, Clifford and Santa’s Little Helper aren’t going to use the cat box or start flushing anytime soon, Guttman has devised another plan to take care of the situation that beats bagging canine poop and throwing it away.

Dr. Paul’s Poop Pails is a solution Guttman has been testing with Dunbar’s help. Dunbar was out of the office and unable to comment for this story.

The concept is simple and workable, Guttman said. It requires biodegradable bags – used to scoop the poop – and large buckets posted at IVGID’s Village Green and Ski Beach in which to drop the filled bags.

The project hinges on a black, corn starch-based bag, which Guttman has been testing using his own dog. He said the bag works well and breaks down easily in nature.

“It’s an extremely inexpensive solution,” Guttman said, adding the bags cost mere cents. “We’re still doing the science, but if we can get people to cooperate I think it can work. Dog owners are generally in close proximity to their animal when they do their business, so it requires just a simple change in habit to pick up and dispose of the waste.”

After the dog has pooped and that poop finds its way into a bag, Guttman said the bag will assist in breaking down the waste in a landfill.

Guttman said he hopes the bags will be available at IVGID sites.

“It’s our social responsibility to do something about this,” Guttman said “It’s just not natural to have that much waste in the basin, and Incline Village people aren’t about to give up their dogs. We just need a way to manage the waste more effectively.”