Disposing of dog poop the green way

Happy dog

Always pick up pet waste! Leaving the poop to nature in high-density areas can be harmful to human health and the environment.

Dog poop disposal needn’t be a mystery

First, check how your region handles dog waste. Visit its website and search for “waste” or “garbage.” Maybe you’ll find a solid waste management plan. Each municipality will have a variety of suggestions and preferences (see this short list).

Choosing to bag Fido’s business in a biodegradable poop bag can be a “green” choice. Given the correct conditions, biodegradable poop bags will perform as promised.

Note: Please remove as much air as possible before knotting the bag to prevent poop explosions that might propel contents onto workers or passersby when the bag is squeezed by the truck’s compressor!

Here’s the hitch. The conditions in landfills are anaerobic (devoid of oxygen) and anaerobic decomposition creates methane gas. Furthermore, poop in landfills can lead to water contamination which is why some landfills actually have a no-feces (dog or otherwise) policy. However, some regions permit very small amounts of well-wrapped or double-bagged dog poop in the garbage, especially in areas where there is no green bin collection. That’s not the best-case scenario, though, based on the above points.

Back to the question of disposal.

First of all, do pick up dog poop! The problems with leaving the poop to nature in high-density areas are:

  • Dog poop is carried by storm water directly into waterways, where it causes bacterial contamination.
  • It’s nitrogen-rich so it depletes oxygen levels, hurting fish and other wildlife.
  • It’s unpleasant to step in.

 

Four responsible ways to keep doggie doo out of the landfill

1. Flushing

Do not flush any baggies — not even biodegradable bags! Scoop the poop directly into the toilet, empty the bags or wrap it in toilet paper before sending it down the pipes.

Compostable bags require the heat of a compost pile to break down. And beware of the word degradable (as opposed to biodegradable), which refers to formulated polythene. Polythene bags will fragment, not biodegrade, leaving tiny bits of plastic in the water.

Even bags labelled “flushable” will clog plumbing or the city sewer. Never deposit dog poop down the storm sewer either, as these often flow to our waterways (e.g., creeks and streams). On a septic system? Check with the installer or manufacturer.

2. Green bins

Municipalities, including Toronto and the Region of Waterloo, encourage dog poop disposal in the green bin (in certified compostable plastic or paper bags, or wrapped in newspaper or paper towel). More municipalities are making this change. Check with your municipal waste management department or request the change.

3. Composting

It may be best to leave dog poop composting to the experts. Experience and research regarding commercial and industrial composting shows that composting eliminates pathogens in dog waste, but knowledge about pathogen testing and temperatures needed to reduce pathogens ensures greater safety.

Comparative Analysis of Dog Waste Processing Methods for Metro Vancouver examines whether dog waste can be safely composted — turned into nutrient rich soil without harmful pathogens.

Highlights include:

  • B.C.’s regulations say, “animal excreta from pets is suitable for composting.”
  • Pathogens can be eliminated in commercial and industrial facilities.
  • Composting can produce nutrient-rich soil given specific conditions and testing for pathogens.
  • Responsibly composting dog waste requires effective treatment temperatures to reduce pathogens. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends 60 C while industry standards say 55 C for a minimum of three days for safe and effective compost.
  • Compost is not recommended on edible gardens (for landscaping only).

Can you compost dog poop in your backyard?

While there are a host of methods, a commitment to pathogen testing and knowledge of the temperatures necessary to do it safely is a must. Application-wise, dog waste compost should be kept separate from other compost and is best used on ornamental — not edible — gardens, and kept well away from streams, groundwater or vegetable and fruit crops.

The following are some of the recommended methods for composting dog poop, but make sure you learn about effective treatment temperatures and pathogen-testing first (start with this report).

  • Compost pit — about one metre deep by one metre wide, with a cover.
  • Dog poop compost bin — available at pet stores and garden centres.
  • Vermicompost — create a separate worm bin from the red wrigglers that eat your organics.
  • Digester — buried in your yard and works similar to a composter. Available at local stores or make your own.

4. Private dog-waste-collection services

This can be a good option for multi-unit residences (townhouses or apartments) where a group of dog owners share costs. Have you spotted red collection bins for dog waste? In Vancouver, it’s a private dog-waste-collection company in action. Poop goes to the sewage-treatment plant.