The Lowdown on Pick-Up
Legislation that punishes pet parents who don’t pick up after their animals and the need for easy waste-management solutions are increasing demand for products that make cleanup hassle free.
From cuddles on the couch to playtime at the park, pet parenthood is wonderful. Yet in addition to all the perks of doting on furry family members, there is also a lot of dirty work involved. An important issue for many consumers is choosing the appropriate products for pet waste disposal. As many local governments, building management companies and homeowner associations continue to impose strict fines for failing to properly dispose of pet waste, manufacturers are stepping in to help pet parents pick up.
Waste management isn’t the most glamorous activity of pet care, but manufacturers who have a history of providing quality products have established the efficacy of their products. In addition to user-friendly designs, consumers want products that will reduce the possibility of skin-to-waste contact.
“Mutt Mitt, since 1989, is the oldest supplier of dog waste bags and the only patented dog waste pick-up solution,” says Zero Waste general manager Tony Gilas. “Its unique design incorporates a second ply around the bottom of the bag, creating a ‘heat shield’ and an extra layer of protection. [The] Mutt Mitt features a side seam instead of a bottom seam, eliminating the chance of a bottom seam breaking, causing contact with dog waste.”
Looking beyond the initial task of creating quality pick-up products, manufacturers are developing solutions that serve pet parents with different needs. Through providing products that address the concerns of pet parents who have limited mobility or are injured, manufacturers can expand their reach.
“MidWest Homes for Pets has had a presence in waste management for 18 years, having introduced our Handy Doody Waste Rake in 1999,” says Tara Whitehead, director of marketing and communications. “The Handy Doody is a mainstay in the market because of its durability and simplicity. There are no moving parts or components that will break. It cleans quickly and easily with a spray of water, and it is simple to use…and perfect for people who lack dexterity in their hands.”
Many pet parents have relied upon single-use plastic grocery bags for waste pick-up, but this trend will surely decline as different regions of the country implement bans on these products. In California, a ban on single-use plastic grocery bags passed on the ballot in November 2016, forcing pet parents who relied on these products as pick-up options to find alternatives, as Gretchen George, president of PetRageous Designs, explains.
“Certainly, plastic bags were once used for waste pick-up, and now there are less and less one-time use bags available for people to save for this purpose,” she says. “So, yes there is a correlation between the plastic bag bans and the need for more environmentally friendly alternatives like degradable waste bags. [Our bags] are longer than some bags, making them more user friendly at the time of waste pick-up. They are also 100 percent degradable.”
At the center of the bans on single-use plastic grocery bags is environmental conscientiousness and concern surrounding the damage that these products cause to the ecosystem. Within the pick-up product sector, variety might not seem to be an option, yet many manufacturers have designed waste management solutions to suit different lifestyles and environmental concerns. Tanitta Rungwattanajinda, product manager of Royal Pet Incorporated, reveals that her clientele has been choosing EDI-additive bags that will easily degrade in a landfill, and she anticipates a sales boost resulting from the bans and has noticed a strong demand for pick-up scoopers.
“We have high demands for the pooper-scooper section as much as the pick-up bags section,” she says. “Generally, owners with yards prefer pooper-scoopers to pick-up bags for the convenience. A lot of it depends on where the consumer lives and their preferences. Retailers should keep in mind that consumers prefer several choices—tray and rake, spring action, metal versus plastic—to fit either from a functionality standpoint and/or a budget standpoint.”
Law-abiding Pet Parents
Bans on single-use plastic grocery bags aren’t the only legal issues surrounding pet waste management. For many communities, pet parents who don’t pick up after their animals cause sanitation problems that are now regulated by local legislation. Reflecting on the 29-year-old business that he started with his wife, Laura, Doggie Walk Bags, Inc. president Chris Crosson, recalls the transition within the culture that led to the growth of the pet-waste bag segment.
“Cleaning up after one’s pet has dramatically changed over the years. Today, not only is it socially unacceptable not to clean up after your pet, it is against the law in most areas.” For Crosson, the disgust that some pet parents feel when faced with the task of picking up after an animal is no excuse for leaving behind a mess. “When someone tells me they don’t pick up after their dog because it makes them feel sick, I have the product for them. The Dog Bag It pick up tool allows you to do a better job of pick up, no touch, no feel and the tool stays clean.”
With the growth of the pet waste management sector, consumers are afforded different options for cleanup to meet the needs of any lifestyle. Gone are the days when pet parents could avoid picking up after their animals. Though many destinations such as shopping malls and restaurants are increasingly affording access to animals, there is still a responsibility when allowing pets to accompany humans. Cleaning up after pets isn’t only a personal preference, it is a health and sanitation issue, which is monitored by landlords, building management, homeowners and law enforcement.
“As more and more municipalities, private and public lands and businesses become pet friendly, the demand for waste pick up products will continue to grow,” George says. “The sensible thing to do is to pick up after your pet. As our pets become more involved in our lives outside of the home, having the products to support that lifestyle change is imperative.”
The greater enforcement of regulations on pet parents who don’t pick up animal waste will lead manufacturers to develop solutions that will create ease for consumers. Every consumer wants products that are strong, but some are also concerned with the environmental impact of the materials used during manufacturing.
“The waste management category is certainly not shrinking or ever going away,” Whitehead says. “As more people are conscientious of not leaving a dirty ‘footprint’ in the yards of their neighbors, parks and other public land, pet parents require a tool for waste management.”
Retailers must also consider the growing demand of service animals and consumers who have limited mobility. To meet these needs, retailers must work with manufacturers to stock pick-up products beyond the bag to provide easy solutions for clients who have physical limitations that prevent bending down to clean up waste. As there is no excuse for any pet parent to leave waste behind, retailers also have a responsibility to ensure all customers are able to find pick-up solutions to meet their specific needs.