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Eco-friendly dog poop disposal: what is the greenest way?

Sustainable dispose of pet waste & how to compost it

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Whereas there is no single answer on how to dispose of dog poop in an eco-friendly way, composting seems to be the most sustainable option!

Everyone knows that picking up dog poop is a necessary part of owning a dog. And as a dog owner, I’ve been guilty in the past of using a plastic bag to scoop up their poop.

But does dog waste harm the environment? Well, the short answer is yes.

This topic has been debated for several years by numerous industry experts. And composting your dog’s poop makes for a great fertilizer for lawn and potting plants.

Eco-friendly dog poop disposal: what is the greenest way?

Read on to find out why disposing of your dog’s poop matters, and the pros and cons of composting it. But what if you can’t compost your dog’s poop? We’ll also be discussing some simple, alternative methods too!

Let’s get started.

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Why Does It Matter?

To show the scale of this issue, according to Statista, over 63 million households have at least one dog in the U.S. 

As a result, 22.9 trillion pounds of feces are produced every year by dogs. In fact, on average, a 75-pound pup will produce 500 pounds of feces a year. [1,2]

As a dog parent myself, I’ve been guilty of using plastic bags. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

Eco-friendly dog poop disposal: what is the greenest way?

Landfills are being filled at an alarming rate. Yet, plastic waste is something that as dog owners, we can control. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S created 146.1 million tonnes of waste which ended up in landfills in 2018. [3]

This is not the only reason why, as dog lovers, we should address how we dispose of our furry friends’ feces.

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Bacteria, Parasites & Water Sources

Dog poop can contain harmful pathogens and bacteria. These can contaminate natural water sources and marine life if it isn’t disposed of correctly. 

And while these pathogens and bacteria can be harmful to marine life, they also pose a risk to humans too. 

Here are some examples of bacteria that can be transmitted to humans through dog feces.

  • Campylobacter: A bacteria that spreads into a human’s bloodstream and can result in life-threatening infections. Common symptoms of infection include cramping, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever.
  • E. Coli: A fecal coliform that lives in the intestines of numerous animals. This bacteria is particularly dangerous for vulnerable animals and humans and can result in death by attacking weakened immune systems. 
  • Yersinia enterocolitica: A cause of Yersiniosis, this bacterium causes intestinal infection for humans. It thrives in cold water environments, unlike other forms of bacteria, and can be commonly found in ponds, puddles, and lakes.
Eco-friendly dog poop disposal: what is the greenest way?
Photo Credit: Anna Kester from Pexels

Dangerous parasites can also be found in dog feces which can be harmful to humans. Here are some examples:

  • Cyclospora cayetanensis: A coccidian parasite that causes cyclospora from the consumption of infected water, it is a diarrheal disease. It is not considered life-threatening.
  • Cryptosporidium and Giardia: These microscopic parasites are normally found in water sources. They primarily cause intestinal diseases such as “beaver fever”, cryptosporidiosis, and giardiasis.
  • Roundworm (incl. Hookworm and Whipworm): These larvae attack and target the essential organs of a human body such as the brain, heart, liver, and lungs. These parasites are commonly found to cause blindness.
  • Tapeworms: Parasites that infect through the pores of a human’s skin or by ingestion. They attach to the intestines and steal essential nutrients and vitamins from their host.
  • Toxoplasma gondii: Found throughout the world, they do predominantly infect cats. However, humans with decreased immune systems are particularly vulnerable to these parasites.

You can see the vast amount of parasites and bacteria in dog poop. And unfortunately, this wastage can sometimes end up in our water sources. 

In 1991, the EPA labeled pet waste as a non-point pollutant, similar to insecticides and herbicides.

Non-point source pollution is primarily caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving through or over the ground. This attracts natural or human-made pollutants which eventually end up in water sources like rivers, lakes, wetlands, groundwater, or coastal waters. [4]

The EPA later clarified the extent of this issue. They confirmed that roughly two to three days’ worth of waste from 100 dogs would be able to close a bay and all watershed locations within 20 miles.

Dog waste also contains high nitrogen.

If dog waste enters our sewage systems and ends up in water sources, this can severely impact marine life because it depletes their oxygen. 

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Can You Compost Dog Poop?

Dog poop is compostable, provided it receives special treatment to eliminate pathogens and bacteria. Otherwise, this can cause serious harm to humans, as well as plant life. 

While there are arguments for and against composting dog waste, several scientific studies have identified that it can be done safely in the right conditions and environments.

Reports like the Comparative Analysis of Dog Waste Processing Methods for Metro Vancouver verified this. 

This report identified that dog feces can be turned into compost safely, without any harmful pathogens.

Eco-friendly dog poop disposal: what is the greenest way?
Photo Credit: Humphrey Muleba from Pexels

Notably, the highlights from the report were that:

  • Composting dog waste needs the right temperatures to eliminate pathogens. Industry standards currently state 55 C is needed for a minimum of three days, whereas the United States Department of Agriculture recommended 60 C.
  • It is not recommended to use this compost in edible gardens.
  • Compost made out of dog waste should only be used for landscaping.
  • Commercial and industrial treatment facilities are best equipped for eliminating pathogens in dog waste.

Below is how long on average it takes to eliminate some of the pathogens contained in dog feces when composting.

Pathogen Temperature & Time Until Removed
Roundworm > 47°C, 10 days

+ 55°C, 1-3 hours

Tapeworm  > 60°C, 5 mins
Giardia > 55°C, 3 days
Cryptosporidium 37°C, 10 days

47°C, 4 days

55°C, 2 days

* Information according to Comparative Analysis of Dog Waste Processing Methods – Metro Vancouver

However, while these findings help identify how quickly pathogens can be eliminated from feces, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Each situation is different. This report merely highlights the need to be careful when you’re making compost out of dog poop. It is always best to be cautious.

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Can I turn dog poop into compost in my backyard?

The report we previously discussed highlighted that industrial facilities are best equipped to deal with dog waste in an environmentally friendly way.

However, you can safely turn your pup’s poop into compost in your backyard too. 

In early 1991, the Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservations District conducted a study with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Originally it was to find out whether dog waste can be successfully composted in colder climates.

The report found that the volume of dog waste was reduced by 50 percent by composting it. Not only this, but they also uncovered that compost made out of dog poop was a particularly effective ingredient for revegetation, growing the lawn, and potting.

However, the USDA reiterated that to destroy pathogens and bacteria, the optimal temperature for composting should be 145 F over several days. [5]

Compost made out of feces should always be separate from any other compost too. It should only be used for landscape or ornamental purposes. 

Eco-friendly dog poop disposal: what is the greenest way?
Photo Credit: Brixiv from Pexels

There are also many eco-friendly products you can use to compost dog poop.

  • Compost Bins – These can be purchased from numerous retailers and garden centers. Some industry experts recommend that you turn your compost every five times for three days. This helps eliminate any hazardous materials such as bacteria.
  • Compost Pit – Generally, it is best to dig a pit about one meter into the ground. The put should also be approximately one meter wide too, with a cover. 
  • Anaerobic Digesters – These act similarly to composters. However, they are primarily designed for breaking down complicated organic matter such as pet feces or animal manure. Anaerobic digesters are sealed tighter compared to composters and contain microbial materials that break down waste, producing biogas.

It is best to avoid using compost made out of dog poop on anything edible.  Try to avoid using this type of compost near any water sources like streams or groundwater. 

I previously discussed the detrimental effects dog feces can have on humans.

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Alternative Eco-Friendly Ways To Dispose of Dog Poop

Due to space constraints, mobility, or living arrangements, composting might not be an option for you.

Luckily, there are several things you can try to be more eco-friendly as a dog parent and dispose of their poop.

Use Biodegradable Bags

Plastic bags are a massive problem for the environment. In fact, picking up dog poo three times a day using plastic bags can result in 1,000 entering landfills.

Several studies have shown that some plastic bags can take approximately 1000 years to fully decompose.

And unfortunately, not all dog poop bags that claim to be biodegradable are. The FTC warned that 20 manufacturers were misleading consumers by mislabeling their products. [6]

If you’re in the market for biodegradable trash bags, there are many tools you can use to avoid falling victim to misleading product information.

Eco-friendly dog poop disposal: what is the greenest way?
Photo Credit: Bruno Cervera from Pexels

The ASTM and USDA have created specific guidelines and recommendations for manufacturers to adhere to. These standards normally require a bag to decompose within a specified period and certain environmental conditions.

Local laws in California require that biodegradable bags meet similar standards. You can find out more information about the ASTM and USDA standards here.

The two most commonly found categories of dog poop bags are petroleum-based and corn-based. 

While corn-based poop bags are the most expensive option on the market, they adhere to the higher standards we previously discussed. 

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Flushable Dog Poop Bags

The EPA considers flushing dog poop down the toilet to be the most eco-friendly way to dispose of it. Likewise, the FDA also makes the same recommendation.

However, some wastewater treatment facilities do not have the necessary chemicals or tools to effectively eliminate the pathogens contained in dog feces. The EPA still reiterates that dog poop is no different from human wastage.

It is best to avoid flushing plastic bags down the toilet. This can end up clogging up your toilet and cause blockages in your household wastage system. 

Look out for any decomposable bag that is made out of polythene. This material creates small fragments of plastic that are then ingested by marine animals. 

If you’re in the market for a flushable dog poop bag, try to find one that uses decomposable materials like PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol). Similar to toilet paper, this material will break down in water completely.

Some experts recommend that you avoid tying a knot in a flushable poop bag because it can lock in the air. This prevents the process of decomposition. Always consider your local laws and home sewage system to prevent blockages. 

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Collection Services

Some environmentally conscious states have begun to offer solutions for eco-friendly dog parents.

These companies will safely process and dispose of your dogs’ feces for a small monthly fee. Typically, they will send the poop to a local wastage facility to eliminate dangerous pathogens and bacteria.

By using these types of services, it helps limit the volume of pet waste that ends up in landfills. 

Final Thoughts

With the environment in a precarious position and our loveable dogs depending on us to take care of them, it is time for us as dog parents to try our best to be more eco-friendly. 

Composting your pet’s feces is widely considered the best way you can help reduce pollution while also creating healthy fertilizer for plants at home. 

If you’re interested in other ways to be more eco-friendly as a dog parent, there are plenty of easy projects you can try.

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James Fuller

James started HonestWhiskers.com with a promise to provide only the best quality information for you and your furry friend. He has partnered with industry experts like vets and pet nutritionists so that you can trust the advice you receive from them.

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