There are about 51 million pets in the UK, which means hundreds of millions of squeaky toys, animal treats and even clothing. We all love to make our pets happy, reward them (sometimes a little too much), and dress them up to make them as close to us humans as possible. However, many of these pet products are made of plastic or come in plastic packaging which, as we all know, is highly detrimental for the planet.
From feeding and entertaining, to carrying and cleaning up after them, your pet can end up racking up mounds of plastic waste, which doesn’t get recycled and sticks around in the environment, posing a threat to wildlife.
Don’t despair! Our buddies at Friends of the Earth have compiled a fool proof guide of how we can best reduce the plastic pawprint of our pets.
Avoid plastic food pouches.
Wet food for dogs and cats is a bit messy. Single servings wrapped in plastic-aluminium pouches have become so popular that billions of them are ending up in landfill each year. According to an article in The Times, fewer than 1 in 20,000 food pouches are recycled, making them more of a burden than single-use coffee cups. Buying paper-wrapped dried food in bulk is a better option.
Make your own luxury pet food.
Surely the quickest way to more cuddles, kisses and lap naps!
Butcher’s off-cuts… greengrocer veggies… boxed porridge oats… No matter which animal you’re catering for, there are lots of plastic-free options. You can even up your environmental score by selecting organic ingredients and minimising the meat in your pet’s diet. There are plenty of tips and recipes online. Our favourite is bunny gardening for beginners , which teaches you how to grow most of your pet rabbit’s favourite foods.
Remember to consult your vet before making any drastic changes to their diet, just to be sure.
Buy eco-friendly pet toys.
Some pets have more toys than children, many of which are made of plastic. However, there are a range of environmentally friendly pet toys out there.
Look out for toys made from hemp, bamboo and wood from sustainably managed forests. Hemp and bamboo are often labelled as environmentally friendly – you can find stuff like hemp dog bones, canvas squeaker toys and sisal-wrapped scratching posts. Sisal is a natural plant fibre like hemp.
Thinking of getting a rodent? Go for a wooden exercise wheel for your hamster or gerbil. And do you really want to be hunting for tiny poops that have escaped while Hammy’s been running around in his plastic prison ball? Instead, get the kids to make a playpen from cardboard boxes – that way, you know exactly where to find the poop!
Make your own cat or dog bed.
Why waste your money on items liable to come wrapped in plastic or contain hidden plastic? Be original and use an old suitcase, worn pillows and a used bed sheet. It’ll even smell of you, which your pet will love!
Get a non-plastic pet hair remover.
As much as we love our pets, we don’t want to be wearing them around the office or on a night out round town. However, many rollers that remove pet hair come with plastic-coated sheets that we end up chucking in the bin. Thankfully there is an answer: a reusable lint brush. You can even get a plastic-free one ! A damp cloth also works pretty well, if you’re really stuck…
Don’t get fleeced by ‘eco labels’!
Recycling old plastic bottles into fleece jumpers and pet supplies has got to be eco, right? Not so. People doing sciency things have discovered extremely small pieces of plastic in our oceans. Apparently, these bits have come from – you guessed it – products made from recycled plastic. Meaning this stuff is finding its way into the ocean anyway. Worse still, it draws in toxins like a sponge, which marine animals then ingest.
Take the lead on plastic-free accessories.
Let your best friend lead you down the right path, literally, with an environmentally friendly hemp collar and dog lead . Hemp is strong, washable and antimicrobial. It’s the eco warrior of the plant world – great for soil, naturally resistant to most pests, and less water needy than other crops.
Hungry for more? Dish up your pet’s favourite food in a bamboo and rice husk bowls . You can also get glass water bottles for animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, and rodents!
Biodegradable poop bags – good or bad?
Brits are more crazy about dogs than any other pet. 26% of households have one. There are approximately 9 million pet dogs in the UK, producing 1,000 tonnes of poo a day. That’s the equivalent of 666 Toyota Prius’ pooped out every 24 hours!
So should you buy biodegradable and compostable poo bags? The easy answer is yes! They’re immediately more environmentally friendly because they’re made from plant starch instead of climate-changing petroleum, and these plant-based poop bags come packaged in a recycled-paper box.
However, biodegradable bags need oxygen and light to break down and, unfortunately, the vast majority of poop bags end up in landfill where there is no light and very little oxygen. Basically, they’ll mummify and, like regular plastic, stick around for absolutely ages.
Sadly, there isn’t a perfect solution right now. As well as smelling bad, dog faeces can contain nasty parasites, which has led to warnings against both composting it and flushing it down the toilet.
Don’t shop, adopt!
Bonding with an animal at a rescue centre and taking it home with you – don’t tell me that doesn’t make your heart all warm and fuzzy. Adopting means that you’re lowering the demand for breeding new pets. Fewer pets mean fewer resources like food, toys and shelter. And that means less plastic waste! Simples!