Plastic Free July Day 14: Dog Food

dog food

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(Back to the challenge summary)

This blog post was written by our partner Zero Waste California. Hope this will help you in your plastic-free journey! 

Why are dog food bags so hard to recycle?

Similar to long-shelf life packaging in the grocery store, the cartons that sometimes contain soy milk, almond milk, even juice, pet food bags are very difficult to recycle, and most communities do not have the facilities to process them. Why? Because the bags are lined with a layer of paper AND plastic, and separating the two materials requires specific equipment.

So, how do we feed our fur babies while still being as sustainable as we can?

dog food zero waste plastic free

Check the Packaging Carefully

Some zero waste websites have said that specific brands of dog food have compostable packaging. I did not find this to be the case with any of the brands they listed, or on any other dog food bags I could find. The specific brand mentioned repeatedly on one site very clearly states, “#7 recyclable where facilities are available. BPA FREE” right on the front of the bag. Although #7 symbols can sometimes indicate compostability, it’s very unclear.


It is also an option, but this also comes with challenges, especially if this is something you plan on doing long term. In other words, a home cooked me here and there probably isn’t a big deal, but dogs have very specific dietary needs. What may seem like normal meal proportions for you, might not be balanced for your pet. Dogs require a lot of protein, and get a lot of their nutrients through meats. Most name brand dog foods ensure that amount in their daily feeding guidelines. I’ve seen a lot of malnourished dogs come into the vet with the most well-intentioned owners wondering what went wrong, they were feeding their dog chicken and rice, and their dog was not putting on weight. Well, of course not, there’s no fat in those substances. Balance is VERY important. However, if this is something you are committed to, talk to your dog’s veterinarian. Foods are breed specific. Like humans, dogs have allergies and intolerances, too. Get the vet’s opinion on what foods in what proportions would make a well-balanced dinner for your pup.

*Note* Any quick transition to a new food can cause GI upset in dogs, so make sure to transition slowly, adding a bit of the new food each day, until the original food has been swapped out.

*Remember* It's always a good idea to check with your vet before making any major changes in your pets diet.

So, I recommend this

Find your favorite brand of dog food, a quality brand with ingredients you are comfortable with. Next, send that company a letter encouraging them to switch to more sustainable packaging. In the interim, buy the largest bag possible that you can safely store: less packaging = less waste.  Finally, collect the empty bags, maybe over the period of a year, and send them to a company that CAN recycle them, like Terracycle.

Zero Waste Pro Tip

Start a collection with other patrons at your local dog park and inspire others to consider their waste habits.

Dog Treats

dog treat food

Now we’re talking! Treats/cookies/biscuits/nomnoms WHATEVER you want to call them, are definitely something you can make at home and reward your four-legged buddy with. Here is my favorite dog-approved, vet-tech approved recipe that is gentle on their tummies.

Gogo Biscuits (Named after my dog, Gogo Gadget)

dog zero waste california

Gogo biscuits are an easy way to make some delicious treats. The batter is very difficult to use a cookie cutter on, so rolling this biscuit like balls proved to be the best way to cook the biscuits.

They look like this:

homemade dog treats zero waste

Preheat oven to 350F


  • 2 cups of white rice flour (brown rice is hard for their tummies to process)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of cooked, pureed pumpkin (substitute: cooked, mashed sweet potato)

Optional: ½ cup of 100% organic salt-free creamy peanut butter

Mix until combined, batter will be light and airy, if too dry, at some water, about 1 tablespoon at a time.

dog treats recipe plastic free

Line baking sheet with compostable parchment paper or lightly grease pan with canola oil. Pat some rice flour on your hands and roll dough into gumball-sized circles and flatten them slightly on the baking sheet.

Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes.

Let them cool on baking sheet before trying to move them, they will fall apart if they are not cool. Store at room temperature for a week or in the fridge for a month. You can also freeze them for several months, and give to your bigger dogs as a chilly snack in the summer.

Want an even easier dog treat recipe?

dog treat zero waste recipe

I decided to use a different cooking technique, this time with pureed sweet potatoes. Instead of forming biscuit balls, I poured the batter into a 13" x 9" pan (greased with canola oil) and they came out looking like blondies! So, I call them barkies! 

Pre-heat oven to 350F


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

Optional: 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.

Bulk Treats?!

store dog treats zero waste

Yes, they exist! Surprisingly, farmer’s markets and local pet boutiques usually have a package-free treat section that you can spoil your dog with. Also, many Pet Food Express stores and Petcos have bulk treat bins where you can fill your own bags with mix-n-match cookies, just make sure to bring your own reusable bag! And make sure to check the ingredients of each item to make sure they meet your and your dog’s standards!

What about doo-doo?

This category really does NOT belong in the kitchen, but it is important. So, I’ll link to it here: Zero Waste: Dog Poop

What about Dog Shampoo-poo?

dog shampoo bars zero waste

I found this plastic-free dog shampoo bar "soapy tails" at Whole Foods, it works and smells great on my flufflepuffs! I am in the process of developing my own zero waste dog shampoo, but in the interim, this works like a charm, and the $8 bar will last for at least 15 baths on a 15-20lb dog. Bargain!

Join the conversation!