After You Scoop—Where Do You Drop the Poop?

Do you throw your dog’s waste in the nearest trash can? I actually plan my dog walks to go past several garbage cans so that I don’t have to carry the poop bag very far. Do you do this? Dogs going for a walk

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:

Compost pile and poop bucket
My compost pile and poop bucket.
  • 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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44 thoughts on “After You Scoop—Where Do You Drop the Poop?

  1. I think I remember reading somewhere that dog waste shouldn’t be flushed into the public septic system because the system can’t treat certain bacteria. Is this true?
    Dexter weighs less than 30 pounds, so he doesn’t generate a lot of waste and the bags are easy to carry on walks. I end up throwing the used bags into my kitchen trash. I bought several dozen rolls and will look at compostable or biodegradable bags next purchase.

    • I don’t see how dog waste would be handled by a septic system different from human waste. I did read that the flushable poop bags shouldn’t be used in septic systems, so if you used a bucket to collect the waste or toilet paper and then flushed it, then it should be safe for septic systems. The flushable poop bags could potentially clog some pipes or not break down. Since I wrote the article I have been using compostable bags since I also used to throw them in the trash – adding it to landfills. Now, at least during the warm weather, the poop and the bags are in the compost pile.

  2. This is a lot of interesting information. I’ve never considered dog waste to be compostable because dogs don’t eat a vegetarian diet like cows and horses which is what I’ve always known compost manures to be largely made up of. I don’t know if I would trust dog poop as a compost, I’d need to read a lot more about it. I throw my dogs’ poop bags in the municipal trash cans along the way on walks. I never throw them in someone’s private trash can, I think that’s very rude especially if the can has been emptied and the next trash pickup isn’t for another 3-4 days! Our trash collectors will actually not pick up small bags at the bottom of the can, everything must be put in larger trash bags or it will sit there at the bottom of the can ’til the cows come home! (Pardon the pun). I’d like to try bags that are more environmentally friendly.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    • Yes dog poop can be composted. We actually found this out decades ago, before I had a dog. We had a big pile of leaves that was hardly decomposing. Then I took care of my sister’s dog for a week and threw his waste on the pile. Within a short time, that pile of leaves, that had been there for over a year, started to turn to dirt. Compost needs additional minerals and bacteria not found in plants. That’s why you need to mix old compost with new plant material to get the decomposition started.

  3. We try to make sure we grab environmentally friendly poo bags as much as possible. Some of the parks here offer them as well, especially the ones in the city! Great topic, I don’t think we think about what’s holding the poo enough!

  4. I didn’t realize it was compostable. I will have to consider that. Right now we use the bags that claim to be environmentally friendly, but truthfully, they feel like plastic, so I’m a little suspicious about that.

    • Some bags are made of biodegradable plastic, but it may still take years to degrade, and they may not degrade in a landfill. A lot of biodegradable plastic degrades from UV radiation from sunlight – which isn’t going to happen once it is buried.

  5. Honesty time….
    Our Lyla is little, thus little poop. The fenced part of the back yard is hers. She has a huge back yard for her size since we have plenty of land. We just leave the poop there, on the ground. Back to the earth, it goes.
    Now, if we did not have this land for her we would compost. We did that at our old home.
    Now my young adult daughter has a pup and I know they scoop and use plastic bags. I am going to show her your post so she can be more environmentally friendly as that is of major importance to our family. I just never thought about poo bags before since we do not use them. Great article thank you!

  6. This is a great post. I’ve been thinking a lot about this myself. I’d like to find a good option. I’m not sure it would be reasonable for me to bring inside the house and dump in the toilet. I’d love to look into using it in my tiny garden, but my dog is on daily medications… hmmm food for thought. Thanks!

    • Bringing it in the house has the “ick” factor. But if you produce vegetables from your garden, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to bury the poop in the garden. You may want to find out if there is someplace close by where it could be composted.

  7. I admit, I never thought about how dog owners dispose of their dog’s poop. I use poop bags when I scoop the litter box because the garbage is in another room. I’m going to look into using some that are more environmentally friendly.

  8. That’s a great idea about anaerobic digesters. How cool if you could use them to run lights at dog parks? We’ve used all different kinds of bags over the years. I do try to buy the “biodegradable” ones, but honestly not having much knowledge about biodegradable materials, I guess it’s not making a huge difference, especially if they end up in a land fill. We did buy a small dog septic tank type system a while back on amazon. You’re supposed to dig a deep hole and install it in your yard. Then we tried to plant a tree and found out just how hard this southern red clay really is. So it still sits in your garage. Someday…

    • A poop digester seems like a great idea, but may not be practical in all types of soil. Probably soils that drain well work best. I think it would be really cool to use dog poop to power lights. My local dog park could use some lights.

  9. Very interesting post again this week. I was talking about last week’s post with my husband. I like to use the poop bags by MyNetPets because they are water soluble and degradable. Plus, they are thick enough that I can walk both dogs and not get my hands dirty.

  10. Not for nothing but I’m glad this is one issue I haven’t had to deal with since having had cats in my life. Regardless, this is good information to help other dog owners for first timers!

  11. In your last blog, you talked about the negative effect that dog poop has on lakes and streams. Why is it okay to flush the dog poop down the toilet?

    • Hi Maria, Thanks for your question.
      Water from the toilet goes to a sewage treatment plant where it is the waste is digested with aerobic bacteria and filtered, so it is cleaned to some extent. Then the treated water gets discharged into a river and decomposes further. Treated wastewater should never go into a lake since even treated water has high phosphorus levels which causes algae blooms in lakes. High phosphorus is less of a problem for rivers since the water is moving and stays aerated, which prevents the heavy growth of algae. I test nutrients in lakes and streams as part of my consulting work.

  12. Sometimes you have to do “what you can”. In my case I live in a very urban space. On the 9th floor. And don’t have a garden or green space but rather a large balcony and HUGE park across the street. So I get the bio poop bags and here – in the National capital Region of Canada – we have what is called a “brown” bin where food waste is collected (recycling is a blue bin). Poop in bio bags are allowed in that bin. So that’s what I do.

  13. Here we have “green bins” that are picked up on a weekly basis with our garbage and recycling. Along with our kitchen compost, we can deposit pet waste and my kitty litter into out bins to be disposed of.

  14. Crikey! All that poop and so many disposal issues. It owuld help if it as a legal requirement for bags to be made from materials thst break down but people always want ti cheap or they will use a plan plastic bag.

    Won wonder the environment is at risk. We do need to be more conscious of things like this, and how we can put things right.

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