Hiking or simply walking with your dog is one of life’s great pleasures. But picking up the inevitable poop? Not the fun part, but a small price to pay as a responsible partner of your furry friend.
You always carry pick-up bags and never fail to stoop and scoop. Commendable! You’re keeping walkways, landscape and watersheds clean. But when you pick up your doggie deposit and toss it in the nearest bin, do you ever have a fleeting feeling that this is not the most environmentally friendly disposal option, asks Rose Seemann.
All garbage not separated for recycling is hauled to sanitary landfills where it is preserved for generations. When sealed up in this plastic-lined bin without air or moisture, organics don’t rot and cycle back to the earth as they would in nature.
In addition to occupying precious landfill space, organic waste slowly emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. That’s why the push is on to compost food scraps and garden clippings or use them as an energy source. But what about your dog's poop? Surely there’s not enough of it for concern.
Ah – but if we’re aiming for sustainability, there surely is! According to the RSPCA, the U.K. is home to 8.5 million dogs and an equal number of cats. The dogs alone produce more than a million tonnes of waste per year, enough to fill 10 average soccer fields three meters deep.
While country dogs are free to distribute their droppings widely like scat, their city cousins’ poop is concentrated around spaces shared by humans. With nearly 800,000 dogs in the capital, London spends £9.5m annually on sending their waste to landfill.
Most urban dog waste ends up shrouded in plastic bags. Don’t fall for the hype that compostable or biodegradable bags will help its contents turn to soil like apples and autumn leaves. Landfills seal off all the elements necessary for degradation in the 21st century. And every tonne of excrement locked underground produces 450kg of greenhouse gases that are piped into the atmosphere.
While local jurisdictions are inching their way toward a zero waste economy, communities are not likely to turn their attention to mitigating dog poop trash anytime soon. So if you’re looking for green do-it-yourself choices, what do you do with the doo?
Well, simply flushing works. There are, of course, drawbacks, such as the need to carry waste to the nearest toilet. But with a bit of research, you can find flushable bags that dissolve on the way to the treatment plant. If you decide to go this route, here are a few tips:
- Try not to overfill the bag or you’ll bung up the plumbing. If you own a Baskerville Hound, you might need to use two bags.
- Flushable bags can begin dissolving on long walks. Take along a waterproof container for transport.
- Don’t flush into residential septic tanks not connected to a septic sewage system. Dog hair will clog underground emitters that release waste water into the soil.
Another easy solution is burial. Select a spot away from sensitive areas such as streams, wetlands, wells, tender new plants and vegetable gardens. Stay away from foundations, walls or fences that might be affected by unstable moist soil.
Dig your hole or trench at least 20 cm deep so that the waste will not mix with cover topsoil, attract wild animals or be disturbed by people or pets. Allow the buried material to rest for six months, then plant grass, flowers of shrubs above the site. Manure contains ammonia and salt, so make sure new roots are surrounded by good topsoil and positioned to grow down toward the canine cache.
Another option is burying dog poop sparsely in small, deep holes in soil around well-established ornamental woody plants and along the perimeter of tree canopies. Be careful not to disturb the roots. These pockets of fertilizer will decompose, eliminating the harshness of raw manure so that the nutrients can be taken up by plant roots.
Have you considered adding dog poop to your compost pile? Many health authorities discourage the practice, but if you have the basics of composting down to a knack, consider dog poop as an effective nitrogen (green) source. Just don’t add it to a working batch that will be used in edible gardens.
Whether raw or casually composted, carnivore manure can contain stubborn pathogens that pose health hazards if they directly contaminate harvested fruits or vegetables. So it’s important to use it as a soil amendment only around ornamental plants.
If you normally compost to enrich an edible garden, you can create a second pile to accommodate dog poop. Be sure to use separate tools to avoid cross contamination. For step-by-step instructions, search online for “USDA: Dog Waste Composting,” which documents the process used at dog sled yards in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Installing a doggie septic bin is a good option for dog owners with limited outdoor space. Simply cut out the bottom of an old plastic garbage can and drill a dozen or so drainage holes in the sides. Select a spot away from water sources, walls and foundations. Then dig a hole deep enough to bury the can to an inch below the rim.
Toss in some rocks or gravel for drainage and place a lid on top. Now you’re ready to start scooping poop into your bin. Each week sprinkle in some water and septic starter available at hardware stores. The waste will degrade, shrink in mass, enter into the subsoil and leave a residue. You can either remove the can and bury the residue or use the material to fertilize non-edible plants. Visit cityfarmer.org/petwaste.html for a guide and videos.
Finally, you can feed dog poop to worms. Yes, they will turn it into rich vermicompost if their menu does not include more tantalisng entrees. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can start a dedicated worm farm in your basement or even under your sink. But describing all the steps for this more complicated process would, at this point, be like (uh) opening a can of worms. But if this solution is appealing, a few online searches will set you on your way.
Jill Diamond from Earth Essentials says: "Increasingly popular, the Dog Poo Wormery is the perfect answer to getting rid of the do poo, it really does not smell, it is so easy to manage, just life the lid and put in the poo, with or without using compostable bags. Being on wheels you can move it where ever you wish. Once it is full just remove the worm castings from the access point leaving the worms in the wormery to continue their amazing work. The worm casting look and smell just like clean, fresh, soil and can put straight into the garden! Natures perfect answer to dog waste!"
In addition to these suggestions, there are many commercial dog waste recycling systems that will make it easy to green up your pooch where it will have the most impact: at the tail end.
Have you tried this at home? Let us know how you got on and share your top tips for fellow dog owners by commenting below, we'd love to hear from you!