Barbara Geier: The fight against dog mess
Are you a dog owner? If so, are you one of those who pick up dog poop in a plastic bag and then leave that bag somewhere on the pavement or even neatly put it next to a bin? This is something I often see in London and it really baffles me. Where’s the logic? But anyhow, the problem is universal, including in Germany where cities and local authorities first reacted to the growing amount of dog poop on pavements by advising owners to pick up behind their beloved pet and, as a consequence, are now faced with the problem of pollution caused by dog poop bags.
They are almost always made of plastic, hence are non-biodegradable and even the environmentally friendly Germans are no strangers to simply disposing of unpleasant items somewhere in their surroundings. The head of operations for city cleaning in Wilhelmshaven in northern Germany, for instance, remarked in a recent newspaper article that about 20 per cent of all bags are just left somewhere, for example tied to railings, thrown in the bushes or, in the case of this city on the North Sea coast, in the sea.
Now, this is just one city and one example. However, a bit of research shows that the issue is quite clearly a country-wide one and on people’s mind and then you soon come across something which can be filed under ‘Only in Germany’ where we like a systematic, theoretic, academic, organised, call-it-what-you-will approach. A student from Hamburg wrote his masters thesis in international business and marketing on the topic of environmental pollution caused by dog poop bags. In this context, he set up a website, called www.poopmap.de (Also in English), for people to upload images of discarded poop bags. Using GPS codes, the location where the plastic culprit was spotted and the corresponding image are then displayed on a map.
Within a short period of time, hundreds of people took part in the project, particularly in Hamburg. Fast forward to today and thousands of uploaded pics and this guy, Arne Krämer, is now not only an ‘expert for dog poop bags’ but also managing director of a company called Sustainable People GmbH, selling biodegradable bags. Based on figures on Arne’s charmingly named website, about 285 million dog poop bags are per year handed out by German cities and municipalities.
I don’t think that Arne has quite cracked the market yet, if you consider that environmentally friendly options are bound to be more expensive than conventional plastic bags. However, given that, in the end, Germans like to think long term and an investment in more expensive bags needs to be weighed against the follow-up cost caused by the plastic pollution, he might be on to something. If you ask yourself why on earth the topic ended up on his mind in the first place: he was annoyed about the amount of dog poop bags he kept on seeing on his regular jogging route. Plus, one day, when out fishing, he pulled out a dog poop bag instead of the expected fish. Indeed, enough reason to turn outrage into action.
TEXT & PHOTO: BARABRA GEIER
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Discover Germany Magazine.’
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