Dog waste is a sustainability nightmare in most municipalities! Compostable bags are arguably even worse than regular plastic bags when used improperly, and that’s largely due to how misleading compostable bags are. Because biodegrading requires oxygen, and landfills suffocate waste. (Read more about the landfill breakdown process HERE)
So what is a pet-lover to do?
If you live a little off the grid, you can actually compost your dog’s waste. Though I definitely would NOT mix the dog waste with your regular compost, it needs to be an entirely separate entity. But if you have the room, this is very possible. Here’s a super thorough how-to guide from NRCS.USDA.gov explaining the benefits and process of composting dog waste:
For the rest of us who don’t have this option, what is the next best thing?
Unfortunately, this is a real problem in the Bay Area. Many good-hearted people have invested in plant-based, compostable doggy-poop bags. But unless these bags are going into the composter mentioned above, this is unfortunately not doing any good.
Compostable bag or plastic bag, dog poop in the trash ends up in the same landfill as all the other trash. There is no person at the dump site sorting through the trash and separating the dog poop bags from the municipal garbage, to compost in some giant poop facility.
A compostable bag full of poop is probably never going to break down in a landfill. Just like the plastic bag full of poop will probably never break down in a landfill. Decomposition requires oxygen, and every day, landfills are covered with a lay of topsoil to prevent trash from blowing away, containing odors, and to keep pests out of the landfill. See Diagram:
Some Possible Solutions:
That’s right, I said it. Flush your dog poop.
Solid waste is broken down in the bay area in a very specific way, and though you can’t do this with cat feces (unless it is COMPLETELY litter free),
but, dog poop can be flushed!
With small dogs, this is pretty easy. Pick it up in some toilet paper, or even a leaf, and flush away. However, I have a labrador that takes dino-sized doodies, and that has proven to be a bit more challenging, but still doable. I use the poop scoop once or twice a day to transport the turds and flush when I get back to the house.
Here’s what the EPA says:
Flush it down the toilet. The water in your toilet goes to a sewage treatment plant that removes most pollutants before the water reaches a river or stream. To prevent plumbing problems, don’t flush debris or litter or cat litter. Cat feces may be flushed but used litter should be put in a securely closed bag in the trash. – EPA.gov
And don’t worry, this information was from 2002 before the EPA was completely corrupted.
And again, “If you have the space, you can compost the waste.”
I love to rhyme, if I have the time.
How to: Compost Dog Waste
Photo Credit: https://envirowagg.com/
And just for extra fun, here’s the USDA’s tips on composting dog waste and includes various bin designs to best suit different backyards and properties.
(Just please don’t leave your dogs leashed up like the ones in the photo, that’s heartbreaking)