What Is the Best Way to Dispose of Dog Poop?

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Categories: For Pet Owners
Categories: For Pet Owners




Published On: June 23, 2023

Dog poop is potent. It contains a number of biological and mineral components that are harmful to waterways and to human health. Perhaps the most numerous component is bacteria. It’s estimated that typical-sized poop contains 23 million fecal coliform bacteria. Then there is the large amount of nitrogen and phosphorus it contains. (This is the reason that dog poop sitting on a lawn for week or longer will start to burn the grass!)

Considering that dogs in the U.S. deposit 10 million tons of poop annually, one could see how these aspects of poop create quite a potential problem. Of course, the problem is concentrated in urban areas. In rural areas, one study finds that two dogs per square mile (not a lot of dog, mind you) is still within the capacity of nature to absorb it into the local ecosystem. But think of how much denser the dog population is in areas like our own metro.

So what is the most ecological way of disposing of it? People use different approaches: bagging it and throwing it in the trash, flushing it down the toilet, composting it for pick up or in one’s own compost, and burying it in the backyard are perhaps the leading methods. I perused a number of websites from government, veterinarians, and green pet experts to see what the consensus is. And there is some controversy, though a common sense approach can be ferreted out of the different treatments to the problem.

Let’s look at the burying it method first. Most sites agree that poop simply buried is not a great solution because it is very slow to decompose (takes a year) and will continue to leach gases and bacteria into the surrounding soil for several years. One study found that roundworms, salmonella, and e coli continued to live in the poop four years after burial.

Likewise, composting is generally not considered a good idea. It is just too poisonous to mix in with other compost and use for growing things.

Some sites recommend throwing waste in an airtight bag in the trash. The main problem here—pointed out by other sites—is the amound of plastic used in doing this. And using compostable bags, while more environmentally sound, doesn’t reduce another problem in this approach. Poop produces a lot of methane, a critical green house gas, and when the bags decompose, that gas will go into the atmosphere.

Most websites refer to the EPA’s guidelines that say that flushing dog poop down the toilet is generally safe because most water treatment plants can clean the water before it returns to lakes and rivers. Yet one gets the feeling that these sites are taking the attitude of looking to a final authority and looking no further. And there are voices that disagree, cautioning that many treatment plants cannot handle dog waste.

The most careful response that I found was from the Sierra Club website that said that some cities and counties do handle dog waste and some do not. And it listed several examples of each. Their recommendation makes the most sense: check with your local city or county waste treatment department website, which should have information about whether it’s safe to flush poop down the toilet in your area.

If it isn’t, putting it in a plastic bag in the trash, though not ideal, is the most recommended.

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