Our furry friends are great for our mental health and emotional well-being, but those “little surprises” they love to leave behind aren’t so great for the environment’s well-being. That’s why it’s so important to learn the best way to dispose of dog poop.
So, how can you make sure that your pet’s waste leaves a small paw print on the planet’s health? Learn how to dispose of it in the most eco-friendly way possible, of course. While there’s a lot of conflicting information floating around about the best way to dispose of dog poop, we did the digging to get you a concrete answer.
Why It’s Important to Pick Up Pet Waste
If you’re in the habit of leaving dog poop in your yard expecting that mother nature (i.e. rain) will come wash it away, you may want to think twice. Micro-organisms such as roundworms, E.coli, and Giardia are persistent and may hang around in your yard for up to four years if not picked up.
Not only do you not want your pet returning to that yard to ingest the bacteria it just excreted, but you also don’t want to track those micro-organisms into your house after an afternoon play session with your four-legged friend.
That bacteria could also end up in your water supply. Dog poop that isn’t picked up can wash into waterways, carrying potentially dangerous pathogens that can cause cause harm to marine life and humans.
All of this also goes for the “surprise” your dog leaves in the woods. Just because it’s in nature doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be picked up. It still contains harmful organisms that you wouldn’t want ending up in ponds, lakes, or in the stomachs of other wildlife, so picking it up in all circumstances is crucial.
3 Disposal Methods to Avoid
Ok, so now you’ve picked up the waste, but you’re left wondering: What do you do with it? And is flushing it, burying it, or composting it okay? We don’t mean to leave you with your tail between your legs, but those are all no-nos.
1. Why to Avoid Flushing Pet Waste
Both cat and dog poop can contain pathogens that most municipal waste plants can’t filter out (though we do recommend reaching out to your local facility to check). As a result, flushing it could actually do more harm than good.
By allowing the feces to enter the sewer system, you’re putting your community and local wildlife at risk of being exposed to harmful bacteria. For instance, Cryptosporidium is a diarrhea-causing parasite found in animal feces, and therefore it’s not something you’d want in your water supply.
This goes for cat waste, too. Cat waste specifically can contain an organism called Toxoplasma, which is dangerous to sea life and humans with weakened immune systems.
2. Why to Avoid Composting Pet Waste
Composting also isn’t the answer. “Folks should not try to compost pet waste at home. They will not achieve high enough temperatures to kill pathogens,” Robert Horowitz, supervising environmental scientist at the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, told PetMD.
Horowitz goes on to explain that while commercial compost facilities may have the machinery necessary to kill pathogens, it’s still not ideal to compost pet waste, as it could negatively affect the facility’s ability to sell the compost.
3. Why to Avoid Burying Pet Waste
Burying your pet-waste is also problematic for many of the reasons previously mentioned. The organisms in the waste can easily leach into gardens or waterways if buried too close to either. The feces also contain nutrients that can be fatal to fish and marine eco-systems.
If you’d prefer that your pet waste not contribute to algal blooms that deplete marine habitats of the oxygen necessary for life, you may want to find another disposal method.
So, What’s the Best Way to Dispose of Dog Poop?
You won’t hear us say this often, but when it comes to discarding pet waste, we recommend sending it to the landfill. You can further minimize your environmental impact by using a biodegradable bag. This will improve the chances of the waste properly breaking down. Make sure to do your research, though: Not all biodegradable bags undergo the rigorous testing needed to prove their claims of biodegradability.
“Just looking at the bag or looking at the claims on a bag or on a box doesn’t really tell you much,” Amanda Basta, staff attorney with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), told PetMD. “A consumer can look to see whether a company is talking about the type of testing they have to support those claims, and if they’re making a representation about what conditions their products were tested under. And if companies aren’t talking about testing at all, consumers should be skeptical.”
Regardless of which bag you use, though, the number one way to get rid of those number twos? Throw them in the trash.