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Pet owners and conservation

Picking up your dog’s poop in a plastic bag sounds like the right thing to do, but it is not without environmental consequences. Massive amounts of poop in plastic bags take up considerable space in landfills. But it is even worse to leave it behind, possibly close enough to pollute waterways or spread disease.

While it may not be the most pleasant practice for one’s nostrils, there is a growing trend among pet owners to compost their critters’ waste. For those who own two or more dogs, for example, composting becomes both an economical and environmental benefit.

It is a particularly interesting notion to compost animal waste, when considering that the Environmental Protection Agency recently estimated that the typical dog excretes three quarters of a pound of waste each day. That means one little doggie is creating about 275 pounds of poo per year for our landfills.

Environmentalists believe the total could be cut in half through composting efforts, which would save landfill space, cut down on the energy required to transport and dispose of the waste, while also replenishing lawns in the backyards of those pet owners.

There are some tips, and drawbacks, that nature lovers and pet lovers are quick to agree upon. First, you want to be sure to keep your dog and cat compost separate from any other kitchen waste compost bin. Second, avoid using the pet compost on garden vegetables as the waste contains highly toxic pathogens that the average garden compost cannot break down. This is true, even after dog or cat compost has matured. Third, be sure to keep your homemade dog or cat compost away from ponds, wells or other water sources.

Compost is created to enrich the soil for plant life, and its bin should be made of wire or plastic. Suggestions from pet experts call for taking a plastic garbage bin, drilling about a dozen holes into its side, and cutting out the bottom, so it stands as an upright cylinder. You then dig a hole deep enough to bury the bin, nearly to the top, allowing enough room for the lid to be snapped in place. Two to three inches of rock in the bottom of the bin provides drainage, and then add the pet feces, a septic starter (available in most supermarkets) and water. A “greener” compost is possible by adding sawdust instead of septic starter (basic rule is two parts of waste for every one part of sawdust). After placing the lid on the bin, all that is left is to add poop as it becomes available – which we know is daily.

Others recommend adding grass clippings to the dog waste for the effect of a high-nitrogen “green” material. When an appropriate carbon source is added to that mix, an effective composting material is created. Once the compost has matured for a few months, it is ready to spread and enrich the soil

While more pet owners are considering composting bins in their own backyards, it is also becoming more common to see groups take on composting projects to help the environment in their neighborhoods, at dog parks or doggie daycare centers. The next trend, quite likely, will be enterprising capitalists who would charge a weekly fee to pick up dog poop and compost it.

As an example of a city taking on pet waste composting, Tails magazine reported that municipal officials in Montreal, Canada, have been composting dog waste since 2004. The results? Approximately a ton of dog waste and 7,000 plastic bags are diverted from the landfill each year.


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