“Saving our planet one pup at a time!”

By Madison Pincombe
November 13, 2020
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Credit: Courtesy of Pooch Paper

Did you know that every single year 500 million plastic bags used to pick up dog waste end up in landfills just in the United States? Additionally, there are an estimated 22 billion pounds of dog poop dropped each year in the U.S. alone.

The prevalence of single-use plastic bags for dog waste is exactly the problem Pooch Paper hopes to solve. With founder Tracy Rosensteel’s recent appearance on Shark Tank, the company is ready to continue saving the Earth one sheet at a time.

Shop now: Pooch Paper, $13 for 50 sheets; amazon.com

It All Started With a Sandwich

Living in Manhattan, Rosensteel says she saw trash bins on every street corner filled with single-use dog waste bags by the end of each day. This problem has bothered her ever since she brought her French bulldog (nicknamed “Indy”) home. 

Rosensteel started researching eco-friendly dog bags but found that eco-friendly alternatives are often worse for the environment than a regular plastic bag. The two main eco-friendly options are oxo-biodegradable and plant-based plastic. Both options meet sustainability requirements in terms of how much time it takes the plastic to break down and at what temperature the plastic is compostable, but they still result in microplastics that enter our air, water, and food supply.

“There just had to be a better way to pick up after a pet,” Rosensteel says.

Credit: Courtesy of Tracy Rosensteel

One day in 2018 while they were out on a walk, Indy had to go to the bathroom but Rosensteel was out of plastic bags. Having just finished a sandwich, Rosensteel decided to use the paper wrapper to pick up after her dog. “That was when the lightbulb went on; we could use paper,” she says.

From Concept to Company

Rosensteel doesn’t come from a product development background—she actually has 22 years of experience on Wall Street—so extensive research formed the foundation of Pooch Paper. Her priorities were creating an eco-friendly product, partnering with companies that have a sustainable practice leveraging renewable energy, and keeping jobs in the U.S.

In 2018, Rosensteel officially began the process of filing for a patent for her idea. She made samples of Pooch Paper and brought them to the Global Pet Expo in 2019, where she says the product was met with overwhelming interest.

Pooch Paper is made in the U.S. from recycled non-chlorine bleach paper fiber. Unlike other doggy-doo bags, it’s 100 percent biodegradable and compostable (in either an industrial grade municipality composter or your background garden). The manufacturing process uses renewable energy sources, and the paper plant they work with is carbon neutral and accredited for sustainable forestry. Both sides of the paper feature a grease-resistant coating that’s added during the pulp drying process of the paper itself, so there are no harmful chemicals.

Pet owners may notice that Pooch Paper is designed as a sheet and doesn’t feature handles like traditional dog waste bags. Rosensteel actually tested a paper bag design in the research and development process. “When you use that bag in the same fashion that you currently use a plastic bag, it rips every time,” Rosensteel says. Not wanting to add any plastic or polymers to the paper, she realized she was just going to have to change the way that people pick up their dog’s poo.

Pooch Paper currently sells 12”x12” sheets and a Pooch Pouch that can be clipped onto your dog’s leash to carry the sheets on walks. (You can slide your keys or credit cards in the pouch as well). Worried the current size isn’t big enough to pick up after your dog? Don’t fret: The company plans to launch larger 14” x 14” sheets in a few weeks. These will be available in a retail box but will also be found in some park districts and multi-tenant buildings nationwide.

Swimming with Sharks

Since the inception of Pooch Paper, Rosensteel says her friends have encouraged her to take the product to Shark Tank, the popular ABC show that offers budding entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their idea in front of a panel of potential investors. She’d been considering it for a while when she officially got the chance earlier this year.

While still balancing her day job and continuing to grow the Pooch Paper brand, Rosensteel says she prepared for her big pitch for five months ahead of filming. Her official appearance on Shark Tank (season 12, episode 2) aired on Oct. 23—and it was worth the wait.

Rosensteel received an offer from Kevin O’Leary, with the Shark investing $250,000 in the company in exchange for a royalty of $1 per unit sold in perpetuity. 

The Future of Pooch Paper

Since the Shark Tank episode aired, Rosensteel says Pooch Paper has seen their consumer traffic grow online, as well as inquiries from municipalities interested in Pooch Paper’s dispenser-based units. “It’s been great exposure,” she says. 

Expansion is on the horizon for Pooch Paper. The products are already sold in 1,061 Target stores nationwide, on Chewy, Amazon, and Orvis, and will soon go live on Walmart.com. Pooch Paper aims to replace the plastic bag stations in dog parks by expanding sales to cities and parks departments across the country and begin selling the product in other countries.

But that’s not all for Rosensteel. The entrepreneur has other pet products currently in the works outside of the paper itself, including a clip that allows people to take a used piece of Pooch Paper and attach to their leash so they don’t have to hold it during a long walk. Rosensteel says she’d also like to eventually create an eco-friendly replacement to the plastic-based pee pads that are used for some dogs who potty train indoors.

With so much success already under their belt, we can’t wait to see what’s next for Pooch Paper!