How You Can Make Playing Fetch More Sustainable

Start with recyclable toys made from ocean-bound plastic.

woman and dog and west paw toy

West Paw

Dogs are awesome companions, but they aren’t the best stewards of the environment. 

The environmental impact of their food is huge. A 2017 study concluded meat consumption by dogs and cats creates the equivalent of about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. That has around the same climate impact as driving 13.6 million cars for a year.

And of course, there’s dog poop. Because of nutrient-rich diets, dog poop can throw the ecosystem out of whack. It can also contain pathogens that can pollute waterways and the earth. Their poop can pollute the ground and waterways and affect the ecosystem.

And other waste they create—like puppy pads and broken toys—can pile up in landfills for years.

But a new collection of dog toys at least hopes to make playtime a little more eco-friendly.

West Paw has launched a line of toys and mealtime accessories made with a material they call Seaflex. It’s a mix of reclaimed and recycled plastic combined with the company’s trademark Zogoflex material. Zogoflex is a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE). It’s made in the United States, is BPA- and phthalate-free, and is 100% recyclable.

The new products are created in collaboration with Oceanworks, a company that collects ocean-bound plastic from coastal areas in Central America for repurposing into sustainable items. The items are guaranteed to meet guidelines for ocean origin authenticity, supply chain transparency, and social and environmental compliance.

Oceanworks defines ocean-bound plastic as material collected within 31 miles from the shoreline in communities with no formal waste management system. Researcher and marine debris expert Jenna Jambeck defined the parameters of ocean-bound plastics in a 2015 study published in the journal Science.

“Our goal has always been to minimize our organization’s environmental impact and maximize future generations’ ability to live, work, and play in our shared natural environment, with equal access to clean air, clean water, and natural resources,” Spencer Williams, West Paw, CEO and owner, tells Treehugger.

“We developed Seaflex over several years in partnership with our suppliers leveraging our proprietary zero-waste Zogoflex material and blending it with reclaimed and recycled ocean-bound plastic—ultimately keeping it from winding up in our oceans and waterways.” 

The line includes toys, bowls, and placemats. They are made of 12.5% recycled plastic combined with Zogoflex. The products are free of BPA, phthalates, and latex and are FDA compliant. They are recyclable through West Paw’s Join the Loop program.

Mail them in and the company will sanitize them, grind them up, and turn them into new toys. The material (and toys) can be recycled over and over again.

“With our year one forecast our goal is to save the equivalent of 26,000 plastic milk jugs from entering the ocean,” Williams says. 

But Are They Tough?

The toys come in three shapes and each of those comes in three swirled colors and different sizes. 

The bone-shaped toy called Drifty has bulb-like ends for chewing but is shaped like a stick or bone, making it easy to throw for fetch. There’s a round disc-like Sailz that’s easy to toss like a Frisbee. The hole in the middle helps dogs nab it and hold it on the fly. And wishbone-shaped Snorkl is a bendy toy for tug.

All three toys come in emerald green, dark hibiscus pink, and surf blue. All say they are for moderate chewers. A rowdy team of border collies and Australian shepherds tested these for Treehugger and had fun playing a serious game of keep away. They seem durable and challenging.

In addition to toys, there are also bowls and placemats made out of the same material. Everything is dishwasher-safe if they get too drool-covered and West Paw will refund or replace anything your dog doesn’t love.

“When we decided to use ocean-bound plastics our main concerns were to ensure the ocean bound plastic material was, not only safe for pets but will stand up to the durability of our other thermoplastic elastomer products, specifically our Zogoflex dog toys,” Williams says.

“We offer a range of toys for varying chew and play styles and are extremely confident in the durability of Seaflex. And we back it up with a guarantee. If a customer isn't happy with the performance of Seaflex (or any of our products) we make it right.”

View Article Sources
  1. Okin, Gregory S. "Environmental Impacts of Food Consumption by Dogs and Cats." PLOS ONE, vol. 12, no. 8, 2017, p. e0181301, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0181301

  2. "Do You Scoop The Poop?" EPA.

  3. "West Paw Introduces Pet Products Made From Ocean-Bound Plastic and Zero-Waste Zogoflex." Pets Plus, 2021.

  4. "Oceanbound." OceanWorks.

  5. Jambeck, J. R., et al. "Plastic Waste Inputs From Land into the Ocean." Science, vol. 347, no. 6223, 2015, pp. 768-771, doi:10.1126/science.1260352