Dogs produce millions of tons of waste each year. Hygienic environmentally- responsible disposal is no longer an option. Here’s why, and how you can be part of the solution.
We’ve all stepped in dog poop at one time or another, whether it’s on the street, in a park or even on our own lawns. As we scrape it off our shoes, we mutter a few choice words about people who are too lazy or irresponsible to pick up after their animals.
Dog waste that’s improperly disposed of is more than just a disgusting nuisance. It’s unhealthy for people and other dogs, and it’s also bad for the environment. Curbing your dog (aka picking up his poop) is an ordinance in most cities now, although a lot of people still don’t do it – and that makes all dog lovers look bad.
Reasons to scoop poop
• The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified pet waste as a dangerous pollutant. And this doesn’t come from folks jumping on the “green” bandwagon; this classification was made nearly 20 years ago.
• The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that pet waste can spread parasites – including salmonella, tapeworms, roundworms and hookworms.
• Un-scooped poop can be washed into storm drains and wind up in distant rivers and streams.
• Dog poop is a team player and likes to get together with harmful bacteria like E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria. These can cause intestinal illness including cramps and diarrhea, and even kidney disorders.
Safe and clean pickup
• Always pick up your dog’s waste, even if it’s in your own yard or in a wild area where people don’t often walk. Use a scoop, as it keeps your hands safely away from the waste. Pooper scoopers come in portable sizes that are perfect for walks, or opt for a scooper with a long handle for your yard.
• Instead of using plastic bags, which don’t break down in landfill, you can purchase biodegradable poop bags such as BioBag (biobag.ca) in which to dispose of the waste. These are eco-friendly and easy to use. Biodegradable waste bags are made from renewable sources like corn, contain no chemical additives, and decompose naturally when exposed to the earth.
• Another option is to hire a company that will come to your house and pick up the poop in your yard. Poop scooping companies are a safe alternative because they disinfect all their equipment, shoes and tools after each visit. That way your lawn will be clean and ready for outdoor activities.
• Once picked up, the bagged waste can be placed in the garbage, or you can separate the waste from the bag, flush it down the toilet, then dispose of the biodegradable bag. Or, believe it or not, you can compost it.
Garbage in, garbage out
Dogs that eat poor quality diets full of synthetic additives, and/or that take a lot of medications, will produce waste containing chemical toxins, thereby adding to environmental pollution. One way to help the planet (and your dog!) is to feed him a natural whole-foods diet and keep his immune system healthy enough that he doesn’t need drugs.
Composting dog poop?
When I first started researching this topic, I assumed like most people that composting dog waste was a dangerous idea. However, after digging further and speaking with people in other countries (I lived abroad for many years where composting and recycling is taken more seriously than it is here), I found there are many sources, including the Department of Agriculture, that confirm composting dog poop is a realistic option – if it’s done properly.
Do not just start dumping your dog’s waste into your compost bin – you need to use a method that will safely and reliably destroy all the pathogens in the feces. It takes time: the finished compost needs to cure for up to a year before you use it. Even then, to stay on the safe side, compost that includes dog waste should not be put on gardens growing vegetables, fruits or herbs. However, it makes an effective and safe fertilizer for lawns and flower gardens.
• The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service offers an extensive do-it-yourself guide to safely composting dog poop.
ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/AK/Publications/dogwastecomposting2.pdf to access it.
• Cityfarmer.org (Canada’s Office of Urban Agriculture) also provides step-by-step instructions on how you can compost your dog’s poop.
• Doggie Dooley is an in-ground animal waste toilet that allows you to dispose of dog poop safely. It basically uses an ecofriendly non-toxic powder (full of bacteria and enzymes) that turns the waste into a liquid that the ground can absorb.
• Some worm farms sell worms specifically for the purpose of eating dog poop in a yard composter. The waste must be mixed with other compostable materials like dried leaves in order to make it more attractive to the worms, and to add carbon that helps the waste break down.
• If you use biodegradable bags to pick up your dog’s waste, these may also be added to the compost because they will break down naturally. BioBag states that microorganisms will eat the dog waste in the biodegradable bag when in compost and exposed to air.
Picking up your dog’s waste and disposing of it in a safe and eco-responsible way plays several important roles. It keeps your yard and neighborhood healthy, it lightens the load on landfills, and it helps people look more kindly on dog lovers everywhere.