An Introduction to Pet Waste Disposal
How to Dispose of Your Pet's Waste With the Planet in Mind
Scooping up after your dog is a normal part of any walk, and cat litter duty is every feline owner’s worst job, but have you ever thought about the cumulative impact of the pet waste from our furry friends? Believe it or not, the combined poop of all cats and dogs in the US adds up to 10 million tons of waste piled up, flushed, and composted every year! In this article we will touch upon the various environmental impacts of pets' waste and how to start disposing of your pets waste with the earth in mind.
While most cities and towns encourage pet owners to properly dispose of their pet waste, some creative municipalities are finding ways to turn it into an energy source. Now that’s poo power! Dog and cat feces that are improperly disposed of, on the other hand, create many serious environmental hazards:
- Greenhouse gas emissions: As animal feces decomposes in an anaerobic environment (like a landfill), it releases methane gas, a greenhouse gas 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. If this gas were harnessed, one ton of animal waste could produce 50 gallons-worth of diesel-equivalent energy which is enough to power some homes for two weeks!
- Water pollution: While leaving your dog poop in the park may seem perfectly natural, it can actually contribute to water pollution. Many water-borne diseases that harm both humans and wildlife are carried in animal feces. Toxoplasmosis, for instance, a protozoa found in cat feces that can wash into streams, rivers, and oceans through septic systems, sewage pipes, yards, and landfills, can infect birds, rodents, shellfish, and sea otters, causing illness and even death in these creatures. Other harmful bacteria include E. Coli, fecal coliform, salmonella, and giardia.
- Solid waste: Cat litter really adds up, too - over 2 million tones of clay cat litter is tossed into landfills in the US every year.
- Plastic trash: Most of us dispose of our animal companions’ feces in plastic bags - doggie bags for our canines, and litter liners for that cat litter. We know that plastic bag waste is a major problem, but it compounds poop issues - wrapping animal waste in plastic serves to mummify the waste, preserving it until the plastic bag breaks down (which can take hundreds of years).
How to avoid the spread of feces-borne diseases
It’s clear that we need to take our pets’ waste seriously in order to prevent the environmental destruction linked to this issue. There are some simple things you can do to make a big impact on your pet waste problem, most important of which is to avoid the spread of diseases through your pet’s feces. The presence of disease-causing bacteria makes safe disposal of your pet’s waste imperative, and as such, there are a few “don’ts” you should pay attention to:
- Don’t leave your poop on the lawn at home or in public spaces
- Don’t leave dog poop on concrete surfaces or near sewage or septic systems
- Don’t flush your pet waste
In other words, be careful to avoid any actions that might allow diseases to spread from your pet’s waste into your local water systems, rivers, lakes, oceans, and groundwater.
Choosing eco-friendly solutions to your pet waste disposal issues
Whether you’re looking for green pet waste disposal solutions for your cat, dog, or pet rabbit, here are some options that will help to minimize the impact you’ll have on the planet:
- Eco cat litters: Choose an eco-friendly cat litter option that’s biodegradable and free of clay or silica. Our article on environmentally friendly cat litters has plenty of information on this subject.
- Biodegradable pet bags: Made from corn and other plant-based plastics that easily break down in commercial composting systems, biodegradable poop bags pose less of a solid waste problem than conventional plastic bags. Some options include BioBag Dog Waste Bags, Poop Bags, and Kyjen Pooch Pick-Up Bags, Spike Business Bags.
- High quality food: If you want to reduce the need for poop bags, scoopers, composters, and other pet waste disposal tools, think seriously about feeding your pet the highest quality pet food possible. This reduce their poop output and make them healthier in the process!
- Dog outhouse: Another fun way to contain your dog poop and create a way to handle it in an eco-friendly manner is to make your own doggie outhouse. You choose a designated area, construct a little “outhouse” using gravel, scented mulches, and a house-like structure if you like, and then train your pooch to use the area.
Composting your pet waste
Waste from any animal can contain pathogens that are difficult if not impossible to kill in a compost pile. While composting feces is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, if you plan to use your compost to grow food crops, it is recommended that you compost these materials in a separate compost system.
That said, there are many resources now available for the safe composting of your pet’s waste. For instance, here are some pet waste composters and pet waste digester systems (which uses enzymes to break down pet poop into benign residue) developed specifically to handle your cat or dog feces:
- Clean Air Gardening Pet Waste Composter
- Doggie Dooley In-Ground Waste Digester Systems and Pet Waste Toilets
- NatureMill Pet-Friendly Automatic Composter
- Tumbleweed Pet Poo Converter
And if you’re a do-it-yourself kind of person, there are resources online for making your own dog waste composter or doggie toilet. Check out these free guides to DIY poo solutions:
1 POWERED BY POOCHES / Rather than let pet dung go to waste, experts explore its energy potential. (2006, February 21). Retrieved September 8, 2010, from SFGate.com: http://articles.sfgate.com/2006-02-21/news/17282562_1_animal-waste-methane-norcal-waste
2 Lovgren, S. (2006, March 21). Here's the Scoop: San Francisco to Turn Dog Poop Into Biofuel. Retrieved September 8, 2010, from National Geographie News: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/03/0321_060321_dog_power_2.html
3, 4 Making Your Pet Green. (2004, October 1). Retrieved September 1, 2010, from National Wildlife Federation: http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/National-Wildlife/Green-Living/Archives/2004/Making-Your-Pet-Green.aspx