Plastic Free July 2020: Day 30 – Pet Food


This is *still* a pretty big struggle in my life.

Hi, my name is Madi and I’m a dog-a-holic.


I love all animals, really. But at the moment, I have an insane amount of dogs.

For dog and cat owners, we basically have three options for pet food: bagged food, canned food, or make it yourself.

And although the most zero waste option is to probably cook your own dog food, I don’t. There’s just too much debate over which diet is healthiest for our pets: raw, grain-free, legume-free, even vegetarian/vegan. I’d rather buy a food from a company I feel comfortable with, that uses ingredients I think are safe.

But we’re not here to debate pet diets. We’re here to talk about packaging.

So if you’re buying commercial dog food, that gives us two options really: canned or bag. Some foods like Fresh Pet come in long plastic tubes, these tubes must go to landfill.

Canned food: 

By the early 1900s, commercial canned dog food was already available. Initially, canned dog food was made from horse meat, but after public outcry, companies switched  to other meats like chicken and beef, prior to the outbreak of WWII.

These cans are recyclable in most places. The food itself can be expensive, but when you’re in between a rock and a hard place, at least the cans won’t go to landfill if recycled properly.

Today, canned dog food, like most canned foods, come with a plastic lining. Unlike human canned food which often comes with BPA-Free labels, pet food does not. Just something to keep in mind.

But canned food can be expensive.

Back to WWII: as rationing took over, dog food was no longer considered essential. Companies had to figure out a way to make dried dog food more shelf stable.

Bagged Food:

In 1956, the first dry kibble was produced through extrusion which made dry food a bit more shelf stable – similar to how cereal is often made. By 1964, The Pet Food Institute (pet food lobbyists) launched a series of ad campaigns declaring commercially prepared dog food as the best and most nutritious option for pets. It’s not.

Not surprisingly, these bags are not recyclable in most cities. But, Terracycle is an option. Of course, sending things to Terracycle can be expensive. Back when dog parks were popular (pre-COVID) it was easy to get a group of dog-owners to pitch in on a Terracycle box and have everyone send their empty bags back at once. Not so much these days.

Some Brands Offer Bag-Return Programs:

Wellness Brand Dog Food (including Wellness Core, Holistic Select, and Complete Health) as well as Royal Canin, and Earthborn Holistic offer a bag-return program with Terracycle.

In the U.K., the Mars brand has a Terracycle return program as well.


Zero Waste Dog Treats:


Barkie Recipe:

Pre-heat oven to 350F


  • 2 cups of baked, pureed sweet potatoes (pumpkin works too!)
  • 2 cups of white rice flour
  • 2 eggs


  • 1/2 to 1 cup of organic oats


Mix well. If dough is too day, add warm water 1 tablespoon at a time. The batter will be much lighter (dare I say fluffier?) than brownie batter.

Spread onto a 13″ x 9″ pan greased with canola oil. Bake at 350F for 50-60 minutes. Stick a fork into the center of the batter, if it comes out clean, the barkies are done!

Let cool, then cut into squares.

*These biscuits and barkies DO NOT store well at room temperature. Refrigerate and they will last for about 10 days. Freeze and they will last 1-2 months. 

My dogs LOVE eating the treats straight out of the freezer on a hot summer day. It’s a nice, cool, healthy treat.

More Dog Treat Recipes:

Healthy 1-Ingredient Dog Treats!

Gogo Biscuits


Read More: How to be a sustainable pet parent



Sources: The History of Commercial Pet Food: A Great American Marketing Story

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