Disposing of pet poop/pet waste is one of the most sensitive issues in a neighbourhood or apartment community, and there has been an increasing pressure on pet parents to be responsible by picking up after their pet. While one of the easiest solutions to dispose of pet waste is by bagging it, imagine the amount of plastic (fossil-fuel-based or plant-based) tied with dog poop that will be sent to landfills or incinerators.
An internet search around disposing pet waste throws up multiple options:
- Bag it and dispose
- Scoop and flush it
- Scoop and trash near plants
- Scoop and bury, which basically promotes composting
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each of these methods.
Bag it and dispose
The instruction on disposing pet waste for many apartment communities in Bengaluru is, ‘Wrap the pet poop in a newspaper and give it as reject waste, along with your regular sanitary waste/domestic hazardous waste’.
But the question many people are asking is, ‘Is it ok to pick up pet poop in compostable plastic bags, during walks?’ The answer is no. As per Karnataka State Plastic Ban 2016, compostable bags and garbage bags are banned, so you cannot use this option.
Scoop and flush
Is it safe to flush your dog’s poop down the toilet? The answer is yes! It can be safely flushed down the toilet. Remember though, you cannot flush it if it is wrapped in plastic, newspaper or wet wipes. And beware of biodegradable bags, as these will clog the plumbing and further stress out our sewage system.
Savita Hiremath, a composting aficionado and Founder, Endlessly Green, a social enterprise promoting composting and gardening services, says, “Personally, I prefer the flushing option. Composting must be done by pet parents (themselves).” She points out that leaving the job to domestic workers or housekeeping staff is an unfair expectation, since they may do it because they feel helpless, and it can be considered a violation of their rights.
Scoop and trash near plants, or scoop and bury
According to Vasuki Iyengar, a compost expert, “Any organic matter, whether it is kitchen waste or poop, is high in nitrogen, and can generate heat. Hence it is not a safe method to put it around plants.” He states that this method can actually have a negative impact on the plant, and proposes composting in a closed container.
Vasuki recommends that pet parents invest in a good poop scooper, which can be carried easily during walks and treks, so that they don’t have to touch poop. He adds, “Typically, I have seen healthy dog poop is pretty dry, unless the dog is unwell, so scooping with a poop scooper is easy.” He recommends carrying a paper bag along in case the walk is for a longer duration. He disagrees with the common complaint around the difficulty of carrying poop back home: “If you consider the dog as part of your family, then the statement doesn’t hold any merit.”
Composting pet poop
Vasuki states that ideally pet poop must be composted separately from regular kitchen or garden waste. Regular composters can be used for composting pet waste; there are no specific containers as such.
Vasuki suggests adding good microbial inputs such as microbial coco peat or any good accelerator, or the composite liquid manufactured by the National Center of Organic Farming. He also recommends adding some kitchen waste or dried leaves to improve the quality of the compost. “Composting is a battle between good microorganisms and bad microorganisms, and ultimately good microorganisms will overtake the bad ones. We recommend that you add good microbes into dog poop composting, and the compost can be used for ornamental trees.”
Savita says that pet poop is high in pathogens and must be handled carefully: “Pit composting is safe because the pit remains closed and hence the possibility of pathogen proliferation is lower. If the pet owner doesn’t have the luxury of space for pit composting, then opt for an aerobic composting method using dry leaves or coco peat, or both. Use a good accelerator so that the process gets over quickly.”
She adds, “To make sure the output – the compost – is safe for your plants, the first stage of composting must be carried out thoroughly. Unlike in kitchen and garden waste composting, where eventually the output attains a balance once all the organic acids get released into the air and the pH level moves to near-normal levels, pet poop composting is a much more sensitive task (due to the high load of pathogens). Hence, make sure a good degree of heat gets generated during the process so that thermal killing of pathogens takes place. The next task is to let it cure fully. I suggest curing it for a longer time. Make sure the compost is moist and is cool to touch. If it’s warm, then biological activity is still on.”
Vasuki says it’s important to wear gloves and a mask when harvesting or handling pet waste: “With finished product (poop compost), there can be some amount of aerobic coliform (pathogens that may exist), if it is not fully done. So safety should be of utmost priority, even when using it for ornamental trees.”
In 2019, CUPA Second Chance located in Sarjapura, that houses 130 to 150 dogs, adopted pet poop composting. On an average, 25-30 kg pet poop is generated here every day. It is collected twice a day by the staff members.
Two mesh composters were installed on a cement block platform. The bottom layer of the mesh is lined with dried leaves, to create a bedding. Compost and an accelerator are added in the second layer.
The dog poop is collected in a plastic tub and wood ash is added to it, then an accelerator is added on the top. This mixture is then put into the mesh composter, along with kitchen waste and cocopeat, and covered with dried leaves. Water is sprinkled every alternate day.
Frequently Asked Questions
I live in an apartment complex. We don’t have a space to dig a pit, and the residents are wary of composting. Can we place bins at convenient locations for pet parents to dispose of pet poop? What should be the instructions?
Bins must be clearly labelled as ‘Pet Poop Only’. The bins can be lined with dried leaves or paper, and residents must be instructed to dispose pet poop using leaves or paper only. (Plastic bags are banned in Karnataka.) Housekeeping staff must be equipped with personal protective equipment when transferring the bin’s contents into the sanitary waste collection.
How does one handle dog vomit?
Dog vomit can be flushed down the toilet if it is food. If it’s liquid or just bile, toilet tissue can be used to wipe it and flush it. Alternatively, if pet parents can sprinkle some cocopeat and collect it in a dustpan, it can go into the compost bin. You could keep a dedicated cloth towel to wipe the vomit.
Should dog parks be equipped with Dog Poop Composters?
Ideally yes, pet parents who pick up after their pet, can deposit the same in the Poop Composter. Facilities need to be made for scooper, dry leaves and accelerators.
If bins provisions are made, they need to be separately labelled, with clear instructions, so that it is not mixed with other types of waste. Ensure no plastic bags are used.
How does one disinfect/clean scoopers or dustpans?
Always ensure that the handler is wearing personal protective equipment. Bio Enzymes are the safest means of cleaning the equipment, with hot water.
Special acknowledgement to Beula Anthony, for assisting with the transcription of the interview with Vasuki Iyengar.