The stinky truth—the 411 on dog poop
The dirtiest dilemma dog owners face is what to do with their pup's poop. In the U.S. alone, 22.9 trillion pounds of poop is generated by its 84 million dogs annually—a staggering percentage of which is left on the ground—according to the Doody-Free Water Project, which donates pet waste bags to parks.
Dog poop poses a risk to human and environmental health. Because it carries bacteria and pathogens, pet feces can contaminate bodies of water and marine life if not disposed of properly. “Unpleasant surprises” left on lawns and in parks create a health hazard for the humans that use them.
Here are the most eco-friendly ways to dispose of pet waste
1. Pick it up
The easiest and most effective way to curb environmental contamination is to scoop the poop! Contrary to popular belief, rain does not simply wash away poop left on the ground. Instead, dog waste is carried into storm drains and drainage ditches and is swept untreated into lakes, rivers and streams, where pathogens can end up harming human drinking water supplies. The high nitrogen content depletes oxygen in the water, which has devastating effects on fish and other marine wildlife. In many cities, it’s against the law not to pick it up.
2. Collection services
There are many dog waste companies that will collect the poop in your yard for a small monthly fee. It also diverts the poop from the landfill: most services will transport the poop to a local waste treatment facility. Search “dog waste collection” online to find one near you. These services are a good option for pet owners with limited mobility or apartment and townhouse complexes that can share the cost.
3. Flush it
Flushing allows pet poop to be properly treated at a local waste treatment facility or sewage plant, and eliminates the potential for it to contaminate soil and water sources. Many municipalities prefer this option. Use caution if you flush the baggies: even ones that claim to be flushable can cause clogs in your home plumbing and in city sewers.
Generally speaking, compostable bags can’t be flushed because they need heat to break down. The David Suzuki Foundation warns pet owners to be wary of “degradable” bags because they contain formulated polythene, which leave small pieces of plastic in the water when they fragment.
4. Compost it
You can easily convert dog waste into organic fertilizer by composting it along with your green waste. Some cities accept pet waste in compostable bags along with food and green waste in municipal compost environments, so check your local bylaws.
5. Throw it out
Depending on your local city bylaws, you can throw small amounts of pet waste into your household garbage. Because it can pose an environmental hazard in landfills and release methane gas, this should be used as a final option after flushing and composting. The most eco-friendly way to throw out poop is in a biodegradable or compostable bag—regular grocery bags take exponentially longer to break down, which halts the composting process altogether.
6. Green bag it
Opt for a green bag whenever possible for collection. Choose a compostable or biodegradable bag over regular plastic bags. Even a paper bag, preferably made from post-consumer materials, will break down much faster.
GREAT GREEN POOP BAGS
There are many great biodegradable and compostable pet waste bags on the market that are made from renewable and plant-based materials, like vegetable starches. These bags break down when exposed to heat, oxygen and mechanical stresses. Here’s what to look for when you’re buying:
- Plant-based: Look for starches created from non-GMO crops, like tapioca and corn.
- Core: Many bag rolls contain a solid core. Look for ones made from recyclable cardboard instead of plastic.
- Scented versus unscented: Bags scented with synthetic fragrances can contain toxic chemicals that are released as the bag decomposes. Look for unscented, or companies that use natural fragrances, like lavender.
- Packaging: Look for products sold with minimal packaging made from post-consumer materials.
- Dispensers: Poop bags often come in plastic dispensers. Look for ones that are #5 plastic that can be added to your home recycling bin, or sent back to the company for recycling.
Fun facts about dog poop
- 340 grams: How much waste a typical dog produces per day, according to an Environmental Protection Agency study on water pollution
- 684: Pounds of poo a single 100-pound dog will generate in one year, according to pet waste calculator from FlushDoggy.com
- 50,000: Pounds of pet waste generated every single day in Seattle, Washington
- 97,000: Tonnes of dog feces that end up in regional parks in the Vancouver, Canada area each year, according to Metro Vancouver
- 62 million: Pounds of poop the Doody-Free Water Project says is created by U.S. dogs each year
- 730: Number of extra bags in the landfill each year if you throw dog poop out twice a day
- 10 to 1,000: Years it takes for a conventional plastic bag to break down in a landfill
- 23 million: Fecal coliform bacteria in a single gram of pet waste, which is the size of a pea