The 7 Options for How to Dispose of Dog Poop (the green way!)
If you’ve got a dog and you pay any attention to climate change and the impact of plastic on the world's ecosystem then there’s a good chance you’ve wondered how to dispose of dog poop the green way, the most eco-friendly way possible.
Well in this article I go through the size of the problem (and why you should care if you don’t already), the 7 main dog poop disposal methods out there, what they involve and just how green each is so read on!
The 7 ways to dispose of dog poop
Regular trash + landfill
Flush down toilet
Doggy septic tank
The size of the Problem
Let’s jump into the nature of the problem first, and it’s a big one. There are estimated to be around 83 million pet dogs in the U.S. 8.9 million in the UK, 4.8 million dogs in Australia. That’s over 96 million dogs in these 3 countries alone...scale that up to the whole world and you have a lot of dogs!
The average dog produces about 274 pounds (124kg) of waste per year. That’s a lot of dog waste to dispose of and works out to a massive 12 million tonnes of dog poop produced every year (again in these 3 countries alone).
To make matters worse, if we assume that every dog goes once a day and 1 plastic bag is used to dispose of each motion then 2900 million plastic bags are used every month just to dispose of dog waste. Wow!
So what is the most green way to dispose of dog poop, one that would make even the most hard-line eco-warrior proud of you? Well,let’s jump into the 7 ways to dispose of dog poop. Well, there’s actually 8 if you count just leaving it wherever your dog decides to go - not something I recommend because of the risk to human health dog waste poses.
I’m going to start with the most obvious way to dispose of your dog poop and work my way up to the greenest way to clean up after your dog. At least in my opinion.
Let me know in the comments below how you clean up after your dog!
Regular trash destined for landfill
So at number one, we have disposing of your dog waste in the regular trash where it will then get taken and disposed of as landfill. There are two major issues with disposing of your dog's waste in the landfill. The first one is that the plastic bags that you use to collect your dog's waste and throw it away in just won't break down.
Even those that are marketed as biodegradable or are non-petroleum, non-plastic based won't break down in a landfill site in the green way you might expect.
If you've got a corn-based bag or similar, then this will break down but not in the way you might expect. What will actually happen is that methane will be produced in the same way that dog poop in a landfill will produce methane rather than decompose naturally. Even if the “biodegradable” bag doesn’t produce methane, the pressure and lack of oxygen will lead it to become mummified rather than breaking down properly.
Methane is a really potent greenhouse gas and so clearly not something we actually want to to be produced if at all possible. 1 ton of dog poop will actually produce 450 kilograms of methane. If all dog poop ends up as landfill that's a huge amount of methane contributing to climate change.
As for those plastic bags that the waste may be wrapped in? Well, they’re not going anywhere in a hurry. We are only just starting to realize the effect that plastics are having on the environment as a whole and also on individual organisms. Tiny pieces of broken down plastic are now in the food chain and really we need to reduce our reliance on them where at all possible.
Despite all this, if this is the only option open to you, throwing your dogs' poop in the trash is better than leaving it on the street or on the ground in the park.
There are also a couple of steps you can take to reduce the environmental impact as much as possible:
Use a smaller bag so that less plastic waste is being used and disposed of.
Recycle any plastic bags that you are going to throw away anyway. Rather than buy specific dog poop bags, reuse the empty bag your bread came in or the bag from inside the cereal box. If you were going to throw it away anyway rather than recycle it you might as well put it to use first.
Flush the dog poop down the toilet
It’s where ours goes so why not your dogs? Flushing dog poop down the toilet is something that is actually going to be accessible to most of us, it just takes a little bit of a mental shift.
There's a couple of ways that we can go about this. The first one is simply to empty the poop bag into the toilet and then flush. Sure the bag will then go in the trash but just think of all that methane which won’t be being produced!
If you’re just collecting your dog’s poop from your yard then you don’t even need to use a bag. Collect it in a scoop (like this one) and you won’t be generating any extra waste!
Option number 2 is to flush while your dog’s poop is still in the collection bag. Clearly, this can’t be a standard plastic bag. It either won’t flush in the first place or will block your plumbing. Instead, you should use these special flushable dog poop bags. Not only can these be flushed, but they also dissolve as they are made from something called polyvinyl-alcohol, the same substance that washing machine capsules are made from.
All might not be as rosy as it seems, however. The ability of the bags to dissolve fast enough may be questionable. In hot water, it takes no time at all. In cold water though, it takes a long time. This might lead to blocked pipes and issues with waste processing.
If you are planning on using flushable dog poop bags, or flushing your dogs waste down the toilet without being bagged, just check with your local council or water board to check that they have the ability to process both bag and waste.
A couple of other hints for successful flushing:
Don’t tie the flushable bag. Leave it open so that air is not trapped and the bag actually flushes!
If you live in an old house then you might want to think again or check with a plumber as a blockage may be more likely
Never flush cat waste as processing does not remove Toxoplasma which can have human health implications if then released into waterways
Doggy septic tank
Next on the list of dog feces disposal methods is to install a doggy septic tank into your garden. What this involves is digging a deep hole in the ground, about 4 feet deep. You pop the system in the hole so that the lid is flush with ground level.
Depending on the system, you then simply add your dog's waste to it, follow with some water (actually quite a lot of water) and every few days or so (depending on how much waste you put in) add some bacterial tablets or enzyme powder to help with the breakdown of your dogs poop.
As the waste decomposes it simply drains through the soil and is removed. Simple!
There are a couple of things though that you need to know and think about before deciding this is the right option for you:
You need to have free draining soil. If it’s mainly clay based then you may end up with no drainage at all and just a disgusting pool of poop
The enzymes or bacteria stop working when it gets too cold, below around 40 degrees Fahrenheit (a little over 4 degrees C). Depending on where you live, this might just be a dog poop solution for part of the year.
The lid is generally made of plastic and come become brittle in direct sunlight. It can also be broken by being mowed over. If possible install it in a sheltered spot that’s not in your lawn.
Some users suggest adding meal-worms removes the need to use any kind of additive at all, making it cheaper and more natural to run.
If you’ve got the right spot, live in the right climate and have the right soil type then a dog septic tank might be just the thing to keep your yard poop free. This Doggie Dooley system is one of the more popular ones out there.
Bury your dog’s waste
This might be the most basic one of all...if you’ve got the space. Strategy number four is simply to bury it!
If you're thinking of this, you obviously need enough space so that you've got lots of different places that you can bury your dog's waste without disturbing previous spots. You also should bury it around 6-12 inches deep. In warm, moist soil it may take as little as 2 weeks for the waste to decompose. In dry or cold conditions it may take much, much longer.
Even in perfect conditions you still want to avoid previous sites for as long as possible. While the poop may no longer be visible, some bacteria and parasites can persist for many months. Choosing a spot that is out of the way is important here, and definitely away from the veggie patch!
Composting dog poop
This is a popular question. Can you compost dog poop? The answer is yes and no!
Let me explain.
If you've just got a small compost heap that you don't really pay much attention to then you're not really going to be able to compost your dog's waste. It won’t get up to a high enough temperature to compost it safely.
If on the other hand you put a little bit of effort into composting the right way (and it really is only a little bit of effort) the composting dog poop is definitely something to consider. Not only does in produce no methane and requires no additional waste to be generated, it also results in a usable, useful product.
How green is that!
Temperature is the key thing to consider. A compost heap needs to get up to 165 degrees for a total of five days to destroy all of the bugs and potential nasties within dog your dog's waste. An alternative to this is getting the compost up to 130 degrees while at the same time turning it five times, once every three days.
Satisfy these requirements and your compost will be risk free and your garden will appreciate the extra nutrients you are then able to add.
There are lots of different systems you can use to satisfy these requirements. As a rule you add 1 part lawn clippings or sawdust to 2 parts waste, add some soil to provide the starting bacteria and intermittently add some old compost and away you go. You can find instructions like these all over the web.
Prefer a made-for-you system? Then this rotating composter will be just the ticket!
One general recommendation is that, even if you have the best composting system, you should avoid using the compost on and edible products. If for any reason there has been a failure of the entire contents to break down safely, the last thing you want to do is make yourself unwell.
Don’t have the space or inclination to compost yourself? Have no fear, it may be that your local council or refuse center will collect dog waste alongside your normal green waste and compost it for you. Not everywhere will offer this, but if they have systems in place to make sure the end product is safe you may simply be able to toss your dog’s waste in the green bin guilt free!
Start a wormery...seriously!
A wormery is similar to composting, only different! It’s the same in that you get a great, usable product at the end, but different in that the worms do all the hard work and make the whole process a lot faster. It’s amazing how much material they can get through in a single day. A system like this one can process well over half a pound of waste a day once up and running.
OK, so it does involve a little bit of a set-up process and you’re probably better off buying a wormery system than making it yourself (although this is definitely something you can do!).
As well as your dog’s waste, you can also use the worms to process most of your food waste.
As well as a compost material, wormeries also produce a fertilizer “juice” very quickly, meaning that you have a usable product faster and more regularly than a normal compost system.
Again, don't use the final product on your veggies or fruit. Save it for your ornamentals and shrubs instead!
My final dog poop disposal method may sound a little futuristic and far fetched but it’s definitely something to keep a look out for! It’s bio gas harvesting which is another way to produce a highly usable products from your dog’s feces.
If you remember, one of the big downsides of landfill disposal is the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Bio-gas systems take advantage of this, optimize of methane production and then use it as a source of energy.
Now you might think that this is far fetched and that a little bit of dog poop is not going to make any difference. There are though studies that show, compared to cow and other ruminant manure, dog waste punches well above its weight.
Is it scalable though. It probably will be soon. There has been a scheme proposed in Melbourne Australia which suggests that they could use all the dog waste collected there to power all of the street lights. In the UK there have been some collection schemes proposed as well.
Who knows, it could be coming to a neighborhood near you sometime very soon!
I hope that this has given you some food for thought about what you can do with your dog's waste rather than just tossing it in the trash without a second thought. We only have one earth so let’s all look after it in whatever way we can.
What do you think of these options? Do they sound too much like hard work for the benefits they provide or are you keen to give one a go? Have you changed what you do with your dog’s poop and how have you got on?
I’d love for you to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.