Sharing life with a dog can add considerable pleasure to your daily routine. Regular walks, kisses, and snuggles abound, but so does poop. So much poop, really. In fact, an estimated 208 pounds per year per dog! One of the biggest challenges of responsible dog ownership is how to dispose of all this waste in an eco-friendly, socially conscious way. That trial and the dog’s unfortunate shorter lifespans are the only downsides I’ve experienced from my dog-loving lifestyle.
Simply picking up your pup’s poop so it doesn’t sit around and seep into groundwater is beneficial for the environment at large, regardless of your chosen method. However, some approaches offer more environmental benefits than others. Exploring all the options for dog poop disposal is a worthwhile journey considering the sheer amount of waste our beloved fur babies are producing.
Tried and True Grocery Bags
The most used form of picking up dog poop is certainly the ubiquitous plastic grocery bag option. Unfortunately, while this method does rid the grass of poop and reuses a plastic bag, it pretty much just encapsulates organic matter in an enduring plastic. As we all know, this plastic will remain on our planet long after we are gone, making it a less than an ideal choice from a green standpoint. Thankfully, there are some other options.
Biodegradable Poop Bags
The pet industry has done some heavy lifting for us in the form of biodegradable plastic poop bags. I personally have rolls of these in various coat pockets and attached to all my leashes. Many of these options are plant-based and claim to break down far faster than traditional plastic bags. That may be true under specific environmental conditions but typical landfills cause trash to become so compressed that the necessary conditions can’t exist. Thus, even with these more earth-friendly poop bags, our dog’s poop will likely still end up mummified alongside the grocery bag-wrapped poop forever.
Dog waste can be composted but NOT in the backyard compost heap used on your prize veggie patch. Composting dog poop takes some special setup, but once it is in place, it can be a breeze and certainly helps the environment. The process involves a specific dog composting bin that gets buried in your yard. The main caveat is that it must be placed far from any edible plants and not be near a natural water source. So not every yard will have appropriate space for this option. Once installed, though, you simply toss in the poo with some digester enzymes and time takes care of the business for you. If your yard fits the bill, this option can be an easy, sustainable fix for all your dog poop woes.
Do It Yourself Dog Waste Composting
If you feel like trying your hand at a DIY project, you can build your own dog compost bin. The idea is much the same as the bought and installed version but instead uses a trashcan of your own with holes drilled in the sides and bottom. While this might seem more appealing than buying and installing a pre-fab dog waste disposal composter, it will still require the trashcan to be buried in the yard with gravel in the bottom of the hole to aid drainage. Additionally, you will still need to use digester enzyme, but overall, this option could work and provide a much larger receptacle for your dog’s waste.
Burying Dog’s Poop
Burying dog poop is a similar process to the composting option and is viable if you have the land to accommodate it. The process requires a hole to be dug at least 12 inches deep to keep any microbes from making it to the surface, and still keeping it away from gardens and water sources is paramount.
A downside to this technique is the need to dig several holes in the yard as they become full. This method also doesn’t eliminate risk to watersheds from your doggy discharge, though much-reduced danger from leaving poop lying on the ground. Also, studies have shown that roundworms and other pests can live in affected soil for years which can pose a threat to other pets and humans.
For these reasons, it is important that only healthy dog poop is ever disposed of in this manner. Anytime a dog is ill, the poop should not be composted or buried for the risk of spreading disease.
Vermicomposting, or composting with worms, is a growing trend in the gardening world. This form of composting is relatively easy and doesn’t require all the temperature monitoring and turning or raking of traditional methods, nor are the digester enzymes of in-ground composts needed. But it does require proper setup and some initial money investment.
Vermicomposting is definitely a green disposal option for dog waste, but with the caveat of never using the byproduct on plants that will be consumed. However, compost and “worm tea” are wonderful fertilizers for non-edible plants in your yard. Bear in mind that only healthy dog poop should be used and any de-worming meds you give your pup could harm the worms so precautions should be taken. Additionally, vermicompost setups should be in a temperature-controlled environment or risk losing the worms.
Humans have learned time and again to rid our surroundings of waste or risk disease outbreaks. As such, the humble but essential toilet was designed and has withstood the test of time. So, can we be using this same method for our dog’s waste? Short answer – maybe.
There is some debate around if waste treatment plants are effective at removing pathogens from animal waste, and local ordinances vary widely. In the UK and Australia, for example, flushing any animal waste is not allowed. But in the US, the EPA has supported the idea of flushing dog waste as long as it is not a septic system and is not contained in plastic.
Flushing our dog’s poop along with our own may just be the most readily available green option. But it doesn’t eliminate the hurdle of transporting the poop from our yards and into the toilet. Using a plastic bag or glove would still require the disposal of that and carrying dog poop in toilet paper seems challenging at best.
Flushable poop bags are marketed for this purpose, but some plumbing and waste treatment systems won’t be able to handle the bags. Perhaps using a scoop and bucket could work but a bit more work is involved in that case. If these issues aren’t barriers for you then flushing could be a viable eco-friendly option.
**Important note: Flushing is ONLY appropriate for dog poop. Cat poop cannot be flushed due to toxoplasmosis in the feces that is extremely harmful and is not removed by waste treatment methods!**
Sewer Line Attachment
A possible solution to the poop-to-toilet-transfer problem is a dog waste sewer line attachment. This method installs an attachment for dog poop from your yard directly into the sewer line. This operates the same way as flushing would, but without the need to transport poop into the home. A sewer line attachment necessitates more money investment, but once installed only requires tossing in the poop from a scooper and washing it down with the hose. No bags, no gloves, no transporting through the house. Some research should be done on viability in your climate before going this route, though, because cold weather can compromise the functioning.
Waste Removal Service
A simple and popular way to remove animal waste from yards is using a service that will scoop the poop for you and handle the disposal. These services have a wide range of waste disposal processes, though, so finding one you believe to be more environmentally friendly than your own method will require some sleuthing.
Some services use industrial composting procedures, while others may use incinerators, and still, others simply dispose of waste en masse into landfills. These services always provide convenience and do a great job preventing dog poop from building up in your yard and seeping into groundwater. However, they may not be any more environmentally helpful than your current disposal system and do not solve the issue of cleaning up when off your own property.
There are ingenious people who have developed creative ways to deal with pet waste, but technology has not quite caught up to make them viable on a large scale. However, in the future, we may see more methane-fueled lights in our parks that take our dog waste and use its byproduct to power the lamps. A UK investor has such a lamp that uses an anaerobic process to digest the poop and harness the released methane to power the light. Getting energy from waste is not a new idea but doing so efficiently enough to gain footing over current methods is the challenge.
A similar idea is used in some Canadian parks where pet waste is disposed of in concrete bins that are then emptied at an industrial site to be broken down with other organic wastes and harnessed as energy. In that model, the leftover byproduct is safe to use as fertilizer and is sold to farms.
These are but a few projects being explored across the globe to address waste disposal challenges. Ideas like this will hopefully propel us into a future full of green pet waste options soon.
Takeaways from Taking Poop Away
Pet ownership comes with a lot of responsibility and disposing of waste in a green way is one of the most difficult trials for pet owners. Current options leave much to be desired in terms of availability and practicality, but the near future looks promising for more green possibilities.
Currently, the reality of green options for tossing out dog poop is few and varied in their eco-friendliness. Plastic bags are a no-go as a green option, and biodegradable poop bags don’t actually degrade in a landfill setting.
Composters designed for pet waste are a great choice but require installation and some specific environmental factors that may not be available to all. Flushing pet waste or installing a sewer attachment looks like the greenest options available to most pet owners, provided local ordinances allow for it.
How do you dispose of dog poop?
Plastic bagging, flushing, composting, sewer attachments, burying it, or waste removal services are the most used methods. The bottom line is that disposing of your precious pup’s poo is definitely more beneficial than leaving it where it lies. It’s also the law and polite to dispose of it.
What do you do with dog poop at home?
Options at your own home are many, the most traditional being to grab it up with a plastic bag and toss it in the bin for trash day. Other popular home methods are to have a designated bin and toss it out in batches rather than individual tiny bags or set up a composting device dedicated to the task. Additionally, hiring a waste removal service is a convenient but more pricey option.
Is it OK to bury dog poop?
Burying dog poop is perfectly viable but must be done correctly to ensure safety and will require digging several holes in your yard.
Can dog poop be used for anything?
If processed appropriately, dog waste can be safely used as fertilizer for non-consumable plants but can be hard to guarantee safe conditions in backyard set-ups.