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Proper Green: Cleaner Pet Pit Stops

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When nature calls, your pup’s natural waste could cause some damage; but a cleaner pick-up could mean a greener environment.

Dear Proper Green,

I use plastic bags to pick up after my dog. What else am I supposed to do if I want to take care of my dog, respect my neighbors’ yards, and not use plastic bags?

-Cindy, TN

Dear Cindy,

I’m guessing we both know your doggie’s poo isn’t a museum piece, but it will be immortalized for hundreds of years to come if you pick it up with a plastic bag, tie it off, and chuck it in the landfill. That means trashing it in a plastic bag isn’t a great environmental option — but often times, neither is leaving it in a yard or on the sidewalk.

Proper disposal of your pet waste is vital to limiting pathogen and pollution exposure to people and animals. Not only does picking up after your pet keep the sidewalks and yards cleaner and more germ-free, it also helps keep our water supply cleaner. What does pet poo have to do with our drinking water, you might ask?

If pet waste is left sitting on the sidewalk or in the gutter, it can easily be washed into storm drains, thence into nearby streams, lakes, and other bodies of water. Once there, it decays, releasing bacteria, viruses, and parasites, as well as consuming oxygen and releasing ammonia. All of these results can damage the health of humans and wildlife alike, and promote weed and algae growth (known as eutrophication, in case you were wondering!), which makes water recreation unpalatable1.

One way to help limit water contamination is to avoid walking your pet near streams, rivers and lakes. If local laws allow it, longer grass, away from waterways, is an excellent location for pet pit stops, as the grass serves as a filter for the decomposition process. If you have to pick up the waste, use a biodegradable pet mitt or bag, which allows you to throw the waste directly into the compost or septic system.

If you’re ready to go the extra eco-conscious step, here are a few extra ways to dispose of your pet waste in an environmentally-friendly manner:
  • Flush the Waste: The EPA recommends you flush all pet waste, so it goes through the same waste purification system as our own waste (though, this would increase water usage in the home).
  • Compost: Create a compost pile, away from food plants (composting doesn’t create enough heat to kill the pathogens in pet waste); the resultant product can be used on trees, shrubs and other non-food plants2.
  • Install a Pet Septic System: You can create your own pet septic system by burying an old garbage bin with holes in the bottom — again, bury away from your food garden. There are a number of ready-made options you can purchase online, or in pet stores as well.

For friends of felines: Consider replacing clay litter with an eco-friendly alternative. Clay for cat litter is strip mined (not very eco-friendly!), and doesn’t biodegrade, EVER, once it ends up in a landfill. There are now a number of cat-friendly, biodegradable options made from recycled paper, corn, wheat and wood, which makes placing it in the trash a bit easier to digest.

Given the ever-increasing number of pets in the world today, taking a few steps to clean up in a better way will help prevent water pollution and landfill buildup, and will mean a cleaner, healthier, less expensive water supply for the future.

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Do you have any suggestions on cleaner pet pit stops? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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About the Author
Proper Green
Proper Green

Proper Green is Recyclebank's green advice column. From promoting good manners in a green world (because ideas about what constitutes proper behavior and... more