Princeton Council considering ban on plastic dog waste pick-up bags

Plastic bags of dog poop left on a sidewalk. Photo: Brian Yurasits via Unsplash

by Renard V. Fuchs

According to a press advisory issued on Thursday evening, the Princeton Council will hold a mid-April work session to consider a ban on the use of plastic dog waste pick-up bags and a program that would allow DNA testing of abandoned dog waste for enforcement purposes.

For the DNA program, dog owners would have to submit dog saliva samples when they renew their dog licenses. The ban on plastic waste bags is described as a “sustainability measure to complement the upcoming ban on single-use carryout plastic bags,” according to the press release. The DNA measure is billed as a measure to deter dog poop scofflaws. Both initiatives were recommended to the council by Sustainable Princeton, a non-governmental advocacy group, and are supported by the Princeton Health Commission (PHC), the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC), and the Animal Control Advisory Commission.

Council Member Mia Sacks is listed as council liaison to Sustainable Princeton. Sacks explained by phone that the proposed plastic waste ban is a “logical follow-up to the ban on single-use plastic bags.” As soon as single-use plastic is not available, she said, “people will be picking up dog waste with Town Topics and New York Times bags as well as with cheaper pick-up bags and all these will all go into the massive stream of plastic pollution we are trying to cut back on with the single-use ban.” Sacks said that under the plan, dog owners would receive light-weight high-tech poop scoopers when they register their dogs but at a discount. Sustainable Princeton has offered the town a challenge grant using state money matched by a private donor that will subsidize the cost. Sacks said she did not know who the donor was. Asked where dog owners would put the waste if receptacles are not nearby, Sacks said she is working on that detail and has been in conversation with a group called AAPAWS (Association of Pet Animal Waste Specialists) for guidance.

Eve Niedergang, council liaison to the Princeton Environmental Commission, said she supports the measures because “the proliferation of plastic, whether or not it contains groceries or dog waste threatens our quality of life and our environment.” She views the plastic waste bag ban as a “net positive” for the town and the environment. The “dog waste scoops can be used over and over again,” she said, and “the company we are consulting with assures us that dog owners will enjoy them.” Asked where dog owners would deposit the waste if they were not near a trash receptacle, Niedergang said she assumed that question was being handled by Princeton Sewer Committee.

The town website does not list the membership of the Princeton Sewer Committee.

Letitia Fraga, Council President and liaison to the Princeton Board of Health (BOH) said “uncollected dog waste is a problem that has grown in Princeton over the pandemic” and “threatens pubic health.” “Pet waste contains bacteria and parasites and should not be left on the ground.” Fraga, a dog owner, said she loves dogs, but “too many people don’t pick up after their dogs if no one is looking.” She said responsible dog owners should welcome a DNA program which “has been tried in Italy and works well there.” “When law-abiding owners see abandoned dog waste they can collect a sample, turn it in, and if the dog’s DNA is in our database the owner will be notified and warned that there will be a fine if it happens again.” Fraga said she assumed the Public Works Department would work out the details of where owners would deposit waste from the new poop scoops.

Council Member Michelle Lambros, responding to a text, said: “I did not know about this until a few minutes ago. I do not know the private donor who is helping fund the challenge grant. I do believe that all of Princeton, including our merchants, will be pleased that the town is taking a leadership role in strategies to keep our sidewalks and parks free of pet waste.”

Leighton Newlin, who joined council this year, said “I am deferring to my new colleagues on this. I still have a lot to learn about our priorities.”

Council Member David Cohen said he was “out of the loop on dog poop and poop scoops” and intended to stay there as long possible. Reached at PFARS, Mayor Freda stressed that Princeton operates under a Borough form of government and that Council members were spearheading the proposals. He said he was looking forward to hearing more at the work session and promised to make sure that the town website is updated to list the members of the Princeton Sewer Committee.

This is the annual April Fool’s spoof article, submitted by a reader. The spoof April Fool’s day story is back by popular demand after a two-year break due to the pandemic. Apologies to those readers who don’t find the posting of such articles funny or appropriate.


  1. Damn it, Planet Princeton! I was just about to post about my eco-friendly poop bags!!!

  2. In NYC horses have a form of panties to collect their dropping as they walk along. Instead of expensive pooper scoopers dogs could be outfitted with disposable diapers similar to horse panties. These could be terrific fashion statements.

    1. There are all sorts of disposable diapers for dogs on the market. Of course, the owner has to be willing to clean the resulting mess up themself.

    2. How exactly will this work when dogs constantly sit, roll around, run etc.? Horses are pretty much upright most of the time.

  3. Thank you Planet Princeton and Reynard V. Fuchs for bringing attention to this important issue. While the contents of dog waste bags can be classified as an emission they don’t contribute very much to our community’s greenhouse gas inventory. They can, however, be considered an environmental hazard.
    Please note: We will not be providing any upcycling opportunities for single-use plastic dog waste bags, filled or unfilled, at this time. ????

  4. Wow… This is the dumbest idea I’ve heard in a while.

    Aside from the safety issue that arises from owners not having both hands available to control their dogs since one is now committed solely to carrying some post-modern poorer scooper… There’s also the logistics of dogs pooping multiple times on the same walk and the frequent enough issue of doggie diarrhea.

    Instead of poorly thought out dystopian ideas from ridiculous people who feel that progress is running as far and fast as they can past more common sense solutions in favor of convoluted nonsense… How about you just provide ‘take a bag’ kiosks and fill them with eco-friendly bags.

    My town does that, and as someone without kids who’s paying 7k property taxes on a one bedroom condo, utilizing that feature is the only scenario where I ever feel that I’m getting something directly back from my property tax dollars.

    And seriously…. What’s next? Banning toilet paper and forcing businesses to install high efficiency bidets? Restricting planes to flying below 50 mph to conserve fuel? Requiring nascar tracks to add a bike lane? Installing solar panels in our sewers?

    I believe in progress and environmental initiatives that actually factor in reality. This isn’t that.

    We need to see more things like solar covered parking lots, investment in better quality mass transit, and requiring law enforcement to actual enforce the laws we have against crap like illegal dumping and coal-rolling… And less stuff like this.

    1. It’s hard for me to tell if you’re being satirical or not, but at the end of this article is a disclaimer stating that it is an “April Fool’s” spoof article.

  5. Saddest thing about this story is that one can believe each of the local pols said what they are quoted as saying.

  6. a spoof but it Princeton it could be a reality with a new Task Force. What are the Projected costs of developing, maintaining a dog park including fencing, mowing. Dog people leave poop along the grass along sidewalks. Who will enforce anything at a park. And who will foot the bill. Dogs are animals and they bite. Fact. It’s safer for everyone for them to be leashed in public. we have dogs.

  7. I carry a container with a scoop in the lid to collect dog poo on walks. Can save up to 5 or 6 bags on a long beach trip. The handle protrudes but is sealed so you have a clean handle and soiled sco0p stays in the container. I carry in a light weight pack on my back so still hands free for two dogs!

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