by Mel Lee-Smith
Perhaps the only drawback of being a pet parent is dealing with poo. Every dog owner has been tempted to leave behind an, erm, "present" in the park — but picking up after your pooch at all times, even at home, is vital for many reasons. (We'll discuss the specific environmental hazards of doggy doo later in this article.)
Unfortunately, the waste our woofers leave behind is taking a big toll on the planet. Whether you bag it up in nondegradable plastic bags and toss it in the trash, bury it in the grass, or play dumb and pretend you didn't see it, Fido's feces is an environmental pollutant containing billions of harmful bacteria that can make us sick and pollute our clean water sources.
If you're curious about how to dispose of your pup's poo in a sustainable way, you've come to the "pawfect" place! Read on to discover how it's become a widespread environmental danger and what you can do to help combat the pup poo problem.
Everything You Need to Know About Zero Waste Dog Poop Disposal
There's a lot of conflicting information on doggy waste disposal. Some sources, including the Environmental Protection Agency, say it's fine to flush it down the toilet. Meanwhile, other sources claim that flushing dog waste isn't always safe and uses water.
Is it okay to flush dog poop? This will depend on the wastewater treatment processes where you live. Generally speaking, the only things you should flush are human waste and toilet paper. Though some "flushable" doggy waste bags claim to dissolve in water, every city's wastewater treatment processes are different. We recommend contacting your city's wastewater authorities, or just stay safe and avoid flushing altogether.
Using biodegradable and compostable waste bags is commendable, but unless you dispose of them properly, you might as well be using plastic. Biodegradable and compostable materials don't degrade in a landfill environment. Trash is compacted tightly, which blocks out the air and microbes needed for the degradation process.
Does dog poop biodegrade?
Every pet parent has wondered, "Will dog poop biodegrade in the grass?" It seems natural to think it would since it's an organic substance — but there's a catch. (Quite a few catches, actually!)
Did you know that dog poo is considered an environmental hazard by the Environmental Protection Agency? Dog waste is actually the third leading cause of water pollution in the U.S.! That's because it contains nutrients and pathogens that spread disease and contaminate the water supply. Roundworms, tapeworms, E. coli, Parvovirus, and salmonellosis are just a few of the diseases and viruses that can spread from the bacteria in Fido's feces. Poo that's left within 200 feet of a water source can also spur the growth of algae and weeds, turning otherwise clean water unusable for swimming and fishing.
Next time you're out on a walk with your woofer, remember to pick up after your pup! Our natural environment, in its current state, can only safely accommodate two dogs per square mile. Some of the most densely populated cities contain more than 100 dogs per square mile. That's why it's important to educate yourself on zero waste dog poop disposal methods and do your part to reduce your canine's carbon pawprint.
Everything You Need to Know about Composting Your Dog's Waste
One of the easiest ways to dispose of your dog's waste sustainably is through compost. While it is "pawssible" to compost your canine's waste, it's imperative that you do your homework and prepare to put in the effort. Because dog waste contains harmful parasites, like Toxoplasma gondii, you don't want to just lump it in with the household compost heap and hope for the best.
For starters, the temperatures of most household compost piles aren't high enough to kill off harmful bacteria. To compost canine waste successfully, you'll need to maintain a constant temperature of between 140 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum period of five days. It's best to mix the dog waste with a carbon-rich form of organic waste, like sawdust or plant matter. This feeds the microbes which drive the degradation process.
How to Compost Dog Poo: a Step-by-Step Guide
What you'll need:
- One part carbon-rich organic matter to two parts dog waste
- A compost bin
- A compost thermometer
- A covering to keep the heat in (optional)
Step 1: Mix one part organic matter (such as grass clippings, plant matter, or sawdust) with two parts dog waste in a compost bin.
Step 2: If required, cover the heap to retain heat and place in a sunlit area. Do you have to use a compost cover? That depends largely on the weather. Because a high temperature is required to kill off bacteria, it might be a good idea to use a cover if you live in a cold or rainy area. On the other paw, covering your compost heap can also cause excess moisture. Use your best judgment and check the heap frequently.
Step 3: Each week, turn the mixture thoroughly and check the temperature with the thermometer. Ensure the mixture doesn't become too moist.
Step 4: Within four to six weeks, your compost should be the right consistency. The temperature will cool naturally, which indicates the degradation process is complete.
How do I use composted dog poop?
To prevent the spread of parasites and disease, never use composted waste material to fertilize edible plants. The safest way to use your composted canine waste is for decorative flowers and other plants. You can also mix the composted manure with other types of compost to boost its fertilizing power.
Can I place compostable doggy bags in the compost heap?
The short answer is yes — but it never hurts to read the fine print on the label. Bags made of cornstarch are usually a safe bet, but make sure they're not mixed with plastic or they won't break down.
What if I don't have space to compost my dog's poo?
If you live in a small apartment, you might be out of luck when it comes to compost. You may be able to compost food waste on a small scale in an apartment, but it's best to keep composted waste outdoors because of all that icky bacteria. If you'd really like to dispose of your dog's waste sustainably, enquire about dog waste disposal measures in your city.
Don't have space for a big compost bin in the backyard? You can find ready-made dog compost kits online and at some pet stores. Be sure to read the instructions carefully.
Are there other ways I can use canine compost?
If you're passionate about reducing your pup's carbon pawprint, you may want to spread the word about your composting endeavors to your dog-loving friends. You could even start up a colorful garden in your neighborhood. Not only will you do your bit to help the planet, but you'll also gain a new hobby (and maybe even some friends!) in the process.
Consider yourself somewhat of an environmental activist? Why not start up a pet waste outreach initiative in your area? Spread the word about the dangers of improper pet waste disposal and build a community of eco-conscious dog owners committed to fighting climate change. You might just be one person, but one person is all it takes to make a "pawsitive" impact!
And there you have it — everything you didn't know you needed to know about zero waste dog poo disposal! Looking for more ideas on how to live zero waste with a dog? We've got you covered with a whole series on sustainability. You'll find everything from zero waste dog treat ideas to making your own zero waste dog toys.