There is nothing like watching your dog play happily with its new toy. Whether it’s a rope, a bone, or a cuddly animal, their entertainment from a toy is priceless. Unfortunately, many of these dog toys are made from plastic. Plastic is versatile and therefore has potential for so many different purposes. When it was invented, people celebrated its usefulness but its detrimental impact on the environment slipped under the rug.
The invention of plastic was an amazing change to the toy industry as the material could be hard, bendy, stretchy or soft and create a myriad of different toys for children and dogs alike. Now, as people realize how bad plastic is for the planet, alternative eco-friendly dog toys are being produced which have a small environmental impact and are healthier for our dogs too. There are some annual micr0-movements to gain awareness on the downsides of plastics while rewarding those companies that are properly utilizing plastics with minimal impact.
Plastic and the Planet
It seems like everything is made out of plastic – from clothing to chewing gum – it’s no wonder this period is called the ‘Plastic Age’. We depend on the non-biodegradable material for everything now, including toys and accessories for our dogs. More and more plastic is being produced every day, but where is it all going? Most of the plastic we use is single-use – research predicts that up to 50% is made for single-use purposes. This means that all this plastic is guaranteed to end up in a landfill.
There are many issues with landfills. They are ugly and take up precious space on our earth but that’s not the biggest problem. Most of the materials that end up in landfill contain harmful chemicals. These toxins leak into the soil and groundwater, poisoning the surrounding wildlife and their habitats.
It’s not just the wildlife on the earth that is harmed by our overuse of plastic, but that in the ocean too. In less developed countries, there is often no organized system that ensures responsible plastic disposal. Instead, plastic waste ends up in unregulated sites, or just thrown in rivers or other bodies of water which is then sent out to sea. The waste is then pulled into the centre of the oceans by the currents – this is why a shocking 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic are gathered at the centre of the north Pacific Ocean. These pieces of plastic eventually break into microplastic which ends up being swallowed by marine life.
When toys are not disposed of correctly, they become part of the problem. With dog toys, in particular, they are broken down into tiny pieces when they are vigorously chewed. It doesn’t matter whether you litter parts of dog toys when on a walk, or you place the broken toy in the bin and therefore in a landfill – it ultimately ends up amongst nature. This is why it’s important to think carefully about what toys you are buying – the small changes make a big difference.
How Plastic is Impacting Your Dog’s Health
It’s not just the planet that plastic is damaging. Because dogs love a good chew when playing with their toys, plastic is consequently swallowed. This means that your dog is ingesting harmful chemicals like bisphenol A, which has been linked to reproductive problems in animals.
If the toy you are giving your pup is hard, it can damage your pet’s teeth and gums when chewed. The sharp spikes that your dog’s teeth create also damages their throat if swallowed. Soft toys often contain a woolly plastic filling. This, when swallowed, can cause digestive issues.
Luckily there have been some incredible inventions for sustainable swaps in the pet toy industry. There are now other materials that eco-friendly dog toys are made of which are great for the planet and healthy for your dog (and for other consumer goods).
Recycling plastic to be used as something else is excellent for attributing to sustainable plastic disposal. Only 9% of plastic is recycled – why not help this and choose a sustainable dog toy made of recycled plastic. Choosing this option means toys have the strength and durability of plastic, whilst at the same time making use of what is already there.
The next option would be hemp. Hemp is environmentally friendly because of the nature of the plant. It absorbs more carbon dioxide than other plants and grows in abundance. This means that no unnatural farms are needed to produce it – you are not creating monoculture by mass cultivation of this plant. Other benefits of using this plant for sustainable toys are that it is tough enough to withstand heavy tugging from your dog and its threads are shorter than cotton, so safer if swallowed.
Natural rubber can be sustainably tapped from the tree. Choosing this material gives your pup a strong toy that is incredibly durable, whilst being safe as the material is natural instead of synthetic. Its springy yet strong quality makes it the perfect chewy toy for a sustainable dog owner.
Choosing your dog’s toys consciously is a great step to becoming a responsible dog owner – one that looks after the planet as well as their dog’s health. There are many other ways to think about the environment when caring for your dog – like choosing eco-friendly dog poo bags, or sustainable accessories. And when it comes to health, there are great dog food options out there so that your pup lives its best life.
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