By Linda Foss
Compost: the Safest Dog Waste Disposal System
Dog waste disposal poses a dilemma to the environmentally friendly pet owner. Leaving the waste on the ground is hazardous, as it may carry E. coli, salmonella, or giardia, and the rain can wash it into rivers, streams, and oceans. Beaches and rivers have been closed to the public due to such contamination.
So we need to pick it up. However, instead of taking this organic matter that would eventually degrade on its own, encasing it in plastic bag, and throwing it into an airless landfill where nothing decomposes, you can compost it. This ensures that we are not putting off dog waste disposal for future generations to deal with, or risking contaminants leaching in the landfill.
While there are dog waste composting systems for sale, making a composter yourself is simple and inexpensive. All you need is a lidded trash can, a hole in the ground, and septic system enzymes (City Farmer.org recommends Septo-Bac). A five-gallon trash can should be adequate for one large dog or two small dogs. You do not even necessarily need a trash can. I used a plastic nursery growers pot I had lying around, and covered it with a clay plant saucer for my dog waste disposal system. If you have an out-of-the-way spot, you could even just use a hole in the ground. The can will keep the hole from caving in, and the lid will seal it off.
To prepare the can, cut out the bottom and drill holes in the sides. Then dig a hole that the can fits in snugly. Add a few inches of gravel to the bottom to aid drainage. Then throw the dog waste in using compostable bags, newspaper, or a scoop. The newspaper will decompose and will absorb some odor as well. When I am out walking my dog, I use newspaper and a plastic bag.
Start off decomposition by adding a liter of water and some septic tank enzymes. After that, you will need to add water about once a week and enzymes once or twice a month. The frequency depends on how much pet waste you are dealing with. You can always upgrade to a bigger can if you need to.
Cautionary Notes on Dog Waste Disposal
Locate the composter away from your edible plants, and don’t use the composted waste on them. However, the compost can be used on ornamental plants. Alternately, you can bury the compost and make a new hole elsewhere. Aside from the newspaper and anything else you might throw in, most of the waste will break down quickly and wash into the soil. It should be a long time before you have to worry about a full bin.
If you live in a cold climate or an area with high water tables or heavy clay soils, you may need to do additional research. Your soil needs good drainage, but you may still be able to make it work with extra efforts such as worm composting. In cold climates, you can add additional material to keep the compost hot enough for the enzymes to work and organic matter to break down. And finally, city dwellers should make sure it isn’t prohibited by law where you live.
Then for your next trick, try to convince city parks and dog parks to provide a composter as well. It actually makes environmental sense in the long run, as one study from Alaska shows. Industrial-sized composters capable of managing 300 lbs of waste per week are available.
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