According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a single dog creates about 274 pounds of waste a year. A larger dog will produce even more!
That’s a lot of poop.
So, what’s the best way to dispose of it? Is it better to let Nature take care of the “mess” or can you compost dog poop?
Biodegradable Poop Bags: The Green Choice?
While leaving poop to Nature to dispose of may seem like the most natural option, you’re actually hurting, rather than helping, the environment.
For example, dog poop is carried by storm water directly into waterways. This can lead to bacterial contamination. Poop is also nitrogen-rich, so it can deplete oxygen levels. This has a negative impact on fish in those waterways, the wildlife that require them for food or water …
… you get the picture.
That’s the beauty of biodegradable poop bags, right? Well, that depends.
Sure, picking up the waste in a biodegradable bag is much better. In the perfect conditions, that bag will break down and do what it’s supposed to. The problem with this is that our landfills don’t actually provide the perfect conditions, so those bags aren’t able to break down and decompose safely.
So, what’s the answer? You shouldn’t leave it on the ground and those poop bags won’t break down at the dump. It’s time to start composting, but ...
Can You Compost Dog Poop?
Yes, once you’ve picked up the poop in that biodegradable bag, you can compost it. And, not only can you compost dog poop, you should. A composter will give you that perfect environment to break it down.
It also gives you great fertilizer for that garden full of dog-friendly plants!
When you compost dog poop, you can use the nutrient rich material as fertilizer, giving back to the earth instead of hurting it. If the soil in your garden is lacking, no amount of chemical fertilizer is going to help. The compost from the dog waste can really make a difference.
And it’s really simple to do.
How To Compost Your Dog's Waste
You can go out and buy a compost container and set it up in your backyard. You can also make one on your own with minimal effort.
It’s a fairly simple procedure to compost dog waste. All you need is a few supplies (and a lot of this stuff you probably already have in the garage):
- A small area (try to keep it at least a short distance from your home and the dogs)
- A large wood or metal bin to keep and mix the waste
- Nitrogen-rich materials such as grass clippings or vegetable waste
- Dry, carbon-rich materials such as leaves, old newspaper or sawdust
- A pitchfork or shovel to mix the material
- A thermometer to measure the compost temperature
- A supply of warm water
Once the setup is complete, the next step is to toss the dog waste in the bin with the yard waste, sawdust and vegetable peels. Add some water every few days and let Nature do her work.
Every few days, head out to the bin and mix it. The pile should be turned from outside to inside. This allows all of the material to reach a temperature high enough to make the process work. The internal temperature of the pile should reach at least 145 degrees. The entire process often takes about six to eight weeks.
**NOTE: While your organic food waste is great for your vegetable garden, make sure this compost is kept separate from other compost and used only in ornamental gardens.
How To Tell When the Process Is Complete
There are a few different ways to tell when the process is finished. Here are the most common ones:
- The compost pile has a pleasant, earthy odor
- The material in the pile is dark, moist and crumbly
- The material no longer heats up after turning
When the compost pile is mature, it forms an effective fertilizer for plant growth. This serves as a beneficial product while keeping the dog waste out of the water table.
If you want to know more about composting dog waste, the benefits, or more tips on how to build your own, the United States Department of Agriculture has a whole paper on it - find it here.
So, keep picking up the poop in those biodegradable bags. But, instead of tossing them in the garbage bin, make that poop work for you in the compost!
Emily Vey is a research and writing wizard on the Four Leaf Rover team. She’s always working to help dogs live the healthiest lives possible (and helping the earth doesn't hurt either)! She lives in Ontario with her partner-in-crime Ryan, their husky Inuk and German shepherd Indi. Together they enjoy hiking, swimming and all things outdoors!