Back in the day, when you took your dog for a walk, they would do their business, and then you’d keep on walking. It wasn’t until Boomers were growing up and plastic bags were everywhere that people started picking up their dog’s waste. Fast forward 50 years, and dog poop totals about 10 million tons per year (that’s more than human waste in 1959). Dog owners everywhere are determined to keep their yard tidy and are required to keep public spaces clean.
But, there’s a problem—a plastic problem. Americans use close to 1 billion single-use plastic bags per year, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. So, as a responsible dog owner, what should you do? Leave the waste where it lies? Wrap it in plastic and throw it away? Here’s where things stand today.
You shouldn’t leave your dog’s poo where it lands.
Dog waste is toxic. It contains bacteria, viruses, parasites and plenty of other components that pollute water systems. Whenever it storms, those nasty things can travel into surrounding bodies of water, which in turn pollute swimming areas, increase the amount algae and weed growth that makes water murky and green, and alter the amount of oxygen and ammonia, thereby killing aquatic wildlife. The EPA even estimates that two days worth of dog poop from about 100 dogs would contribute enough pollution to close a beach and all watershed areas within 20 miles of it. So, do you need to pick up dog poop? Yes.
But plastic bags aren’t the answer.
When you buy groceries, take out food, or really just about anything from a store you end put with a surplus of single-use plastic bags. While it seems like a great second use of the bag to make it a container for your dog’s waste, it’s actually better if you recycle it. Only about 1% of single-use bags are recycled with the rest ending up in the landfill or the ocean. Okay, so then biodegradable bags are the answer! Well, yes and no. “Biodegradable” is a loose term and manufacturers are taking advantage of it because it’s not regulated. These bags also usually end up in the landfill where there is little light and oxygen (which must be present for something to biodegrade), so they actually end up decomposing slower, resulting in more methane emissions.
So… what SHOULD you do with your dog’s poo?
In an ideal world, dog waste would be used as a form of energy. Some innovators have already found ways to turn waste into “poop power.” In Ontario, they’re piloting a poop collection program and in the UK, poo has been used to fuel lamps. The reality is that this isn’t an option for most dog owners right now so here are a few other options to take care of your pet’s waste and the planet:
- Compost it. You can purchase a special container for animal waste compost from Amazon. Follow the directions to ensure the poo composts correctly, and then spread it on your flower garden making sure it doesn’t touch anything that you or your family might consume. If you’re a seasoned DIYer, you could also create a compost bin yourself starting with this design.
- Flush it. Yes, you read that right. If you’re up for it, you can flush your dog’s waste down your toilet with a water-soluble bag like this one on Amazon. Caveats: This isn’t a good option for septic systems and you should never flush cat poop down the toilet!
- Purchase compostable bags. Compostable bags like these from Amazon will truly break down because of their plant-based make up. While it may not be the best of all solutions, it’s still better than a traditional plastic bag.
Conclusion: There is currently no one perfect solution for what to do with dog poo, but hopefully, as innovative solutions remain a currency of success, smart people will find solutions for the dog poo conundrum in the near future.
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