As the realization of the danger plastic poses to the environment, one of the biggest questions we get at Outdoor Society is “What do I do with my pet waste?”
As a dog owner myself, I know it is a dilemma I have struggled with myself. I try to do all I can in my daily routines to minimize my impact on the environment. Plastic being one of the largest culprits of pollution, it is something I am particularly conscious of.
It is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. It is an environmental threat that continues to grow. And with an estimated 89.7 million dogs in the United States, you can quickly see the impact dog waste bags can cause.
Lets Run the Numbers
Lets use my household as the example. We have two dogs, Azeni and Arnold. Both of them do the #2 deed about twice a day resulting in 4 waste bags being used. With an average lifespan of 11 years (many dogs live far longer), that is 4,015 days on this earth. With 2 poops a day and 2 dogs, we could potentially use 16,060 pet waste bags in their life span.
So what are the Options?
Unfortunately there is no perfect solution. So you will need to choose which option works best for you and your living situation. What works best for someone living in a major city will be different than those out in the country side.
1. Plastic Waste Bags
By far the most common and convenient method for disposing of your pooches poo. But not all bags are created equal, lets dive a little deeper to review.
Re-using grocery or newspaper bags – Re-using these bags is much better than just tossing them in the trash after returning from the store or reading your morning newspaper. Here they get a second life and become slightly more than the single use plastic they were destined to be. On the other hand, many grocery stores accept bags being returned and will recycle them. You should also be all aboard the re-usable cloth bag train at this point for your grocery shopping.
Bio-degradable bags – At first, this sounds like the best solution. But beware of specific claims companies make on their boxes. The FTC found many of the claims to be deceptive (FTC Article). In addition to the FTC study, biodegradable bags are don’t breakdown properly when thrown in the trash and sent to the landfill where they are compressed and lack the oxygen needed for breakdown.
If you live in the country with a large lot of land, the best way to use biodegradable bags would be to bury them far out in the property. If you are in the city or suburbs, drop them off at a commercial compost facility. Do not throw them in your personal compost because there are specific guidelines to follow to avoid the deadly pathogens in pet waste. More on that later.
Interested in biodegradable bags? Select the image below.
Metal bin with single bag – One last option to minimize the use of plastic bags is to get a galvanized metal bin and use a single grocery bag or trash bag. You fill the bin using a shovel and throw out the bag once a week. Yes, if you live in a warm climate, this can get stinky. For those of you where it is cold half the year, this could be a great solution for half the year.
2. Flushing it
This is the most environmentally friendly method. Though for many, the thought of bringing your pets waste through the family room to dispose in the toilet is enough to eliminate this as a feasible option. But city and county waste water treatment plants are set up to handle poop, regardless of human or dog.
3. Composting or Burying
The USDA give specific guidlines on how to safely compost dog waste (USDA Guide). Please, please, please read completely before deciding to compost pet waste. Pathogens in the waste can absolutely cause food-borne illness if around your gardens. Illnesses can also be transferred to humans just from contact with the contaminated soil.
Burying the waste could be a great option if you have a large property. There are several options on Amazon to assist with making it as easy as possible. Consider getting an in-ground disposal system that mimics a septic tank. Though, if you live in a very cold climate, this may not work as intended unless the system is below the frost line.
So what method do I use? I use a metal bin with a lid and re-use grocery bags. This leaves me with 1 bag used a week rather than 28 single bags for the two dogs.
Deciding the best method to dispose of pet waste is a personal decision. We all need to evaluate our living conditions and choose the best option that works for our life. Whatever option you choose, please keep in mind the dangers of pathogens with waste and take the appropriate precautions.