If you have a dog, you've probably thought about the environmental impacts of owning a pet, especially when it comes to their ahem, waste. I thought I was doing ok by using biodegradable bags and tossing them in the trash, but now I'm not so sure. Fortunately, there is more than one option for disposal and choosing the right one depends largely on where you live. Find out more after the jump!
Here's the first rule: pick up after your dog. The bacteria found in dog poop can cause water quality issues as waste is carried by rainwater to storm drains and then into local rivers, streams, etc.
Ok, so now that we know to pick it up, what's the greenest way to dispose of it? Reading up on the subject proves that it really depends on where you live and who you ask. Below are four different options and include the pros and cons of each.
1 Trash it - throwing away dog waste is the easiest thing to do and sending it to the landfill keeps it from contaminating water supplies. With biodegradable bags that are ubiquitous these days, this might seem like a good choice, but unless the conditions at the landfill are just right, the bags won't have what they need to decompose. (Dog waste in landfills is also a problem as it releases methane into the atmosphere.)
2 Flush it - some would argue that flushing feces is your best bet, but it's not always practical to bring the waste home with you and of course there's the "eww" factor. Additionally, while some municipalities give flushing the green light, others warn that it could put a burden on the waste stream and that "flushable" disposal bags have been known to cause problems in the system. Check with your city to see what they recommend.
3 Compost it - this is probably not the first option people think of, but dog waste can be composted. There are a number of products made specifically for this purpose and a DIY solution would not be hard to make. Just keep in mind that compost made from feces should not be used in or around edible gardens. (For a how-to on dog waste composting, check out this link from the USDA.) Also, look for disposal bags that are listed as compostable and not just biodegradable.
4 Bury it - if you have a yard and don't live next to a stream or other body of water, this seems to be one of the best options. In-ground digester systems act like mini septic tanks - the waste is collected in an underground container and non-toxic enzymes and water are added periodically to break down the waste. These products claim to work in all soil types with the exception of clay. (We've had one for several years that we use for backyard waste and it has worked great.)
What method have you found to work best?
(Image: Flickr Member zoomar licensed for use under Creative Commons)