Dear Recyclebank: I have several kitties. I was wondering if there is any way to recycle or compost kitty litter? –Noelle L.
Dear Noelle: Having multiple feline friends means kitty litter can really pile up, so bravo for looking for a green solution to cat waste in your efforts to be an eco-friendly cat owner.
Unfortunately, composting is probably not the best way to go.
“We caution against composting or disposing of used litter in a yard or garden because of a possible bacteria found in cats’ waste, which may be harmful to humans and other animals,” says Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association. This bacteria causes toxoplasmosis, which is particularly harmful to pregnant women or infants. Vetere also says that some litter products contain additives and perfumes, so it shouldn’t be used in gardens or compost piles even if it hasn’t yet been used by cats.
According to Vetere, as well as several manufacturers we researched, the landfill-bound trash is the safest place to dispose of used kitty litter.
“Most cat litters are made from natural, superabsorbent clay. While it cannot further biodegrade like leaves, yard waste, or some alternative litter, its absorption characteristics continue when it is disposed of, which helps to limit harmful materials from entering water resources after disposal,” notes Vetere. (Because of its absorbency and ability to contain toxic substances, clay is used to line landfills.)
That said, there are definitely ways you can minimize your cats’ carbon “paw” print in their litter box:
- Seek out lightweight litters, like those from Cat’s Pride, which can be transported more efficiently, reducing the gas and energy needed to transport the product to stores.
- Avoid litter containing sodium bentonite, a clay derived from volcanic ash that is mined in an environmentally detrimental manner.
- Find a cat litter made of more sustainable materials. There are litters on the market made from coconut, from wheat and from recycled newspaper. These litters are made with renewable materials, however, litters made of plant-based products like corn and wheat will decompose in landfills, creating methane gas emissions. Perhaps the best option of these litters is the one made from recycled newspaper because it can extend the life of that already used material.
- Or you could teach your cat to use the toilet like everyone else. With this route, you wouldn’t have to worry about what brand of litter to buy, or how to dispose of it at all!
Even though composting litter is a bad idea, you can still do your part by incorporating one of these more sustainable options into your household.