Do you take your dog to parks where they provide bags so you don’t have to bring your own?
Almost 90 million dogs live in the U.S. and the population keeps growing. With each dog generating an average of three-quarters of a pound of poop each day—producing over 12 million tons of poop each year—just in the U.S!
Last week, my blog discussed the health and environmental problems caused by not scooping up dog poop. This week is about what to do after you pick up your best friends waste.
Is Dog Poop a Waste or a Resource?
Most people think of dog poop as a waste to be disposed of and not thought about again.
So if it is a waste, we…
- Use the cheapest or most convenient plastic bag we can find, such as grocery bags and newspaper bags. Why spend money on a poop bag when we have so many that need to be “recycled?” I’ll admit I have used newspaper bags a lot.
- Toss the bag in a garbage can that ends up in a landfill, where it may never really degrade. I’ve done this often too.
Types of Poop Bags
Some of us dog owners use environmentally friendly biodegradable or compostable poop bags, but are they really? It depends on what you buy and where you dispose of it. The term “biodegradable” is a somewhat loose term and the manufacturer should have data supporting that the bag, and the poop actually degrades within a year or less.
Types of poop bags include:
- Petroleum-based bags – Even if the plastic breaks down, they use petroleum which is a non-renewable resource.
- Corn based bags – Corn-based bags usually meet the D6400 ASTM standard for biodegradable and compostable under certain conditions.
- Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) bags. PVA bags are flushable and dissolve in water.
Once the poop bag is disposed in the regular trash, it ends up in a landfill unless your community uses incineration. Landfills have a liner to prevent it from contaminating groundwater. Each day the trash is compressed and covered with six inches of soil, reducing contact with air to limit smells and vermin. Once the landfill is full, a clay cap encapsulates it into an air tight environment. Decomposition in this anaerobic environment is very slow, so the poop bag (no matter which type you used) and the poop degrade slowly. Regular plastic bags may take hundreds of years or more to decompose.
So even if you use an eco-friendly poop bag, if it ends up in a landfill, it decomposes very slowly.
Flushing the dog poop down the toilet is another option – but getting it inside to the toilet is a bit awkward. PVA bags help with disposal. Homes with septic systems or old pipes should not use PVA bags. In severe droughts, the extra use of water for more flushing may be prohibited.
How can Dog Poop be a Resource?
Poop can be a resource through:
- Composting–poop is natural, so composting will help fertilize your lawn and flower beds.
- Most websites state that dog poop should not be composted if it is used in vegetable gardens, due to the potential for viruses and bacteria to transfer into the veggies and get you sick. Composting with frequent turn overs and occasional watering will get hot enough to kill the bacteria. My husband’s compost pile steams when he turns it over in the winter. We have used dog poop in our compost that goes on the vegetable garden for more than three decades with no ill effects. The trick is to actively compost and not just leave the pile to rot without turning it.
- Use a commercial compost facility, since they are required to keep the compost at high temperatures to kill pathogens. Check with your nearby facility, since some will not take dog waste.
- Dog poop composting bins have also gained in popularity.
- Pet waste digester which works as a miniature septic system, producing liquid that is absorbed into the ground.
- Bury it.
- Generating methane—poop that breaks down anaerobically produces methane gas that can generate electricity. Landfills produce methane that is often used to heat or power nearby buildings, but a few innovative companies are experimenting with anaerobic digesters at dog parks to generate small amounts of electricity for lights or other purposes.
So dog waste is more complicated and there are more options now than ever before.
I use what we call a “poop bucket” to pick up my dogs waste and then place it in the compost pile. Bringing the bucket inside for a minute and dumping its contents down the toilet is another option.
But when I am walking both Chipper and Buffy by myself, it is awkward to hold two leashes and a poop bucket, so then I need to use bags. Until I did the research for this article I didn’t realize there were so many types of poop bags and digesters. Since I live in an old house that already has a sewage pipe problem, I don’t want to try the PVA bags. But I think I will try the corn-based bags and throw them in our compost pile to see how fast they degrade.
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Visit these websites for more information and information about various products.
The BlogPaws Zero Waste Initiative inspired me to write this blog.
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