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SUSTAINABILITY

Embracing Dog Poop Shame:
Eco-friendly Methods to Get a Handle on Your Shit

Nikki Collier -- February 11, 2019

Three times a day (honestly, sometimes even four). That’s how many times our beloved dog Tonka poops each day. Too much information, perhaps, but I’m a mom and moms have been known to celebrate healthy bowel movements.

That praise is immediately followed by the inescapable duty—no pun intended—of having to clean up after him. As a mom, I’m used to cleaning up poop, so that doesn’t bother me.

What does bother me is the method in which we clean his waste –those tight rolls of disposable plastic bags dangling from his leash.

As I’ve been learning and changing my habits towards a more sustainable way of life, I felt sick to my stomach the day I crunched the number of plastic bags we’ve consumed with Tonka. It came to 1,095 bags a year, roughly 7,000 bags over his lifetime.

Ugh.

I’m not proud of that number, but it did inspire me to make a change and research the best ways to dispose of dog poop without putting a strain on the environment.

I know I’m not the only one who’s had poop on the brain. As I started my dog waste disposal research, I found many concerned dog parents that have looked into this.

To spare you the hours of internet research, I’ve compiled a list of options for various levels of commitment: from making simple changes, to the most sustainable dog poop disposal method—which will likely surprise you!

Eco-Friendly Dog Poop Bags

If you’re already using bags, then making the switch to earth-friendly poop bags could be the most realistic and least disruptive change to your daily routine.

As easy as this may sound, be aware that not all bags are created equal.

Due to unregulated guidelines, dog waste bag manufacturers often times use misleading claims in their packaging (such as “biodegradability”, “degradable”, or “dissolves”) to make it seem like their product is the real deal.

To avoid falling victim of ambiguous product labels, make sure that whatever biodegradable poop bags you choose uphold to the ASTM and USDA Certified Biobased specifications as they are the coveted standards. The ASTM D6400 specification is the highest badge of honor a product can carry and is given to products that actually compost. You can find more information on ASTM D6400 here: http://www.astm.org/Standards/D6400.htm.

You can also shop certified compostable poop bags and other compostable products at
Compostable.org. This site works to find compostable products on Amazon, and then lists them in a single place. If possible, the site indicates when a product is certified globally by DIN Certco (Vinçotte or OK Compost), BPI (North America), or EBPA (Asia). If Amazon isn’t your preferred digital shop, you can still use compostable.org to find ASTM D6400 specific bags and then decide where to make your final purchase.

While switching to ASTM D6400 specific bags is an improvement from a non-compost bag option, the bag and poop is still making its way to the landfill. Most existing composting facilities aren’t developed to handle feces and the dangerous bacteria associated with it, and what does exist isn’t very conducive to breaking down plastics.

Use an In-Ground Dog Poop Composter

At some point you might’ve asked yourself the question: can dog poop be composted at home? And the answer is yes!

An in-ground waste digester system is a step-up from using ASTM D6400 specific plastic bags, with several commercial options on the market like the Doggie Doolie. Just remember to use the compost created from dog poop for non-edible plants only!

If you’re considering this method, I encourage you to do your research and see if this will work for you, as this system comes with specific limitations. For example, digesters are temperature-dependent and tend to work better at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, that means that this might not be an option year-round in some areas of the country (I’m looking at you, Wisconsin!). Beyond that, there are a handful of other factors to consider prior to moving forward with a dog poop compost system. Check out In-Ground Stool Digesters: How They Work for more info.

For the super crafty folks, you can also make your own homemade dog waste disposal system with supplies available at your local home and garden store—but this can be more challenging for the average dog owner. The USDA has an interesting read on composting dog waste that is informative and makes starting your own composting system seem less intimidating.

 Flush it!

This might be the most surprising pet waste disposal solution to some—and it might also be the most ecologically friendly.

According to the EPA, the most sustainable way to dispose of dog poop is to flush it down the toilet. Most municipal water treatment facilities are equipped to process water containing fecal matter, with dog waste being not terribly different from human waste. You can find flushable dog poop bags on the market, like Flush Puppies, made from Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) – a water soluble alternative to regular plastic that breaks down in water. This option is a no-go if you have a septic tank, best to keep your dog’s poop (bag or no bag) out of it.

So have you done the math on the number of poop filled plastic bags you’ve sent to the landfill yet? If yes, and you’re as shocked as I am—don’t sweat! From making more informed choices when choosing your earth-friendly poop bags to using your toilet, you’ve got options here to help you change your habits in a manageable way. Just remember to do your homework and ease into it. We’ll be doing the same here at Leashless Lab, and you know we’ll always let you crib our notes. Now embrace that shame and get a handle on your [dog’s] shit!

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