Monday, June 23, 2008

What a Waste

SUMMARY: Recycling and doggie droppings.

Back in high school in the early 1970s (there, I admit it), I wrote a couple of speeches about ecology and the environment, and then I got all hot under the collar about Things We Can Do At Home To Save The Earth. This was back when recycling was something you did to get back on a bicycle. Or else weird counterculture stuff. I believe that I was the instigator for my parents to start recycling bottles and cans. This was back when you had to buy your own containers for recycling, if you wanted it separate from garbage, and then you had to go find someplace that would take your recyclables and transport them there, and sort them yourself into the appropriate bins, after crushing all the cans to save space, of course.

I think I let my parents do most of the actual work. Although when I moved out on my own I did all that stuff.

Also, just to be a good person, I have always picked up my dogs's messes in public. I used to get complimented because I'd walk around picking up after my dogs. Now people swear at me because my dogs poop in public. Weird world. Anyway. In your own yard (if it's not a giant ranch in, say, Marfa), you need to pick it up or else reencounter it in many unexpected and not necessarily pleasant ways.

Eventually, when I grew up a little bit, like in 1995 or so, I went through the program to become a Master Composter because I learned that soil is SO much happier with organic matter added, and besides it makes so much more sense to process your own yard waste. (Ask me someday for why. I'm a Master Composter. I have a very long list of reasons.)

Then there was the doggie droppings thing. When I walked out in public, we used to carry a trowel and a small paper bag. Then I'd scoop the poop into the bag and then throw out the bag. When I started doing Dog Activities with Dog People, I realized that plastic bags were way more convenient in so many ways: Moisture doesn't leak through them. Before use, they crush easily into a pocket. You can do the grab and lift and don't need a trowel. You can buy them on a very condensed roll and attach them to your leash.

When I had a Really Big Yard, during the winter, when it rained, we'd mostly leave the doggie deposits where they lay, as they'd fade into the soil under their own power. But the rest of the time, we used to gather it all into a large grocery bag and toss it in the trash.

So, Taj MuttHall Mom, What's Your Main Point?

And so, here's my main point. With my Concern For The Environment and finally being a Master Composter, I decided that I needed to find some way to deal with all of the solid waste produced by my canids.

So I bought a Doggie Dooley digester, which is basically a big plastic box with a lid that you bury in the ground, like a mini doggie-doo septic tank, and you periodically throw in your dog waste and some Doggie Dooley Digester Enzymes. It's supposed to just vanish in a trice and sink into the soil in an unobtrusive way.

Well, I tried for probably 3 years to get that thing to work. I added more liquid. Less liquid. More enzymes. A lot more enzymes. Fewer enzymes. I kept a big pole by the (very-rapidly-completely-filled) Dooley and stirred it and aerated it. A really fun thing to do on weekends. But I never, never got it to work. There were notes about clay soil not being perfect, but since our clay soil drained very well, I thought it wouldn't be an issue. But noooo--- I gave up finally.

I have corresponded with people in other parts of the country who have had good success with the thing. But not here.

So here are some other possibilities:

* Put in a plastic bag and into the trash. Actually, at least one agility site near here REQUIRES that the dog poo must be in plastic bags before it goes into their trash. But--all those plastic bags!

* Put into a paper bag and into the trash. However, some municipalities now apparently ban pet waste in the garbage entirely (hmm, trying to find a reference for that and can't. I believe it was Pacific Northwest somewhere). Plus, really, stuff that goes into the landfill gets buried so quickly and thoroughly that a lot of it just doesn't break down, or won't for centuries. I don't think paper or plastic really matters.

* Compost it. Ugh. Doggie poo (and that of most omnivorous/carnivorous animals) can or usually does contain all kinds of ugly pathogens that normal backyard composting won't kill and you don't want in contact with you, your vegetables, or your children. Not a good solution.

* Same applies, maybe, to leaving it lying around the yard to break down on its own, if you have a large-enough yard. But in this case, it would be far enough from where you're usually in direct contact with it that it wouldn't matter so much. But how many of us have yards that big?

* Flush it down the toilet. Gak, carrying that through the house?

* Put it into the sewer in some other manner, like build a sewer connection in your back yard. Expensive, although maybe cost effective for larger kennels. But now there's some indication that many of those pet pathogens are not destroyed in the water treatment process and are finding their way into the waters of the world. (Limited references available; mostly applies to cat waste.)


So what's an ecoconscious dog owner to do? I dunno. My current strategy is plastic bags into trash, both for public poos (small convenient-sized bags) and for backyard cleanup (one large bag weekly).

But someone just pointed out this gadget. Looks like an interesting idea, if it really works. And if you have $400 left over after doing dog agility. Anyone out there have any experience with this thang?

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8 Comments:

At 7:26 AM, June 24, 2008 , Blogger Johann The Dog said...

Here's another idea I found not too long ago.

http://www.tumbleweed.com.au/pages/default.cfm?page_id=19692

 
At 2:21 PM, June 24, 2008 , Anonymous alaska said...

I know you're the Master Composter and all, but I think you need to reconsider composting it. If we can do it (in an ordinary compost pile) with human poo, why not dog poo? Check out the (free) "Humanure Handbook" for details:

http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/humanure.html

Photo essay here:

http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/garden_gallery.html

 
At 2:50 PM, June 24, 2008 , Anonymous alaska said...

More links from the forum at the Jenkins Publishing site:

"Here's the Scoop: San Francisco to Turn Dog Poop Into Biofuel"
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/03/0321_060321_dog_power.html

"CAN DOG POOP BE COMPOSTED SAFELY?"
http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/cgi-bin/messages/show.cgi?tpc=53&post=118#POST118

The consensus among knowledgeable folks seems to be that that you can compost pet poo but should not use the compost on food gardens, only on plants that you don't plan to eat.

Excerpt from Joe Jenkins:

"Pet manures should be composted. In fact, all organic materials should be recycled. Lots of people ask me what to do with pet feces and I tell them to do the following: If they do not have a thermophilic composting system to throw their pet manures into, or if they're uncomfortable with the idea of adding their pet manures to their compost pile, then create a separate compost bin (perhaps one of those garbage-can size plastic ones) and add the pet manures with normal cover materials like grass clippings etc. Maybe add some water now and then. When full, start to fill another bin and leave the first to rest (maybe throw some earth worms in there at this point). When the second one is full, assuming it takes at least a year to fill a bin, use the contents of the first bin for horticultural purposes, like shrubs, fruit trees, etc. This makes a lot more sense than burying dog and cat shit in a landfill."

 
At 10:27 AM, June 25, 2008 , Blogger ALS said...

I am with alaska. I compost our dog poop. It just goes right on the compost pile with the non-meat scraps from the kitchen, coffee grinds and leaves in the fall.

amy

 
At 2:38 PM, August 03, 2008 , Blogger Elf said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments and links.

I also have an update on the NatureMill, from our master composter coordinator. Every month, we have someone come in and talk to us on topics related to composting. I missed that presentation; here's the feedback:

"The inventor of the Nature Mill was our speaker at one of the MC meetings last year. We werenít impressed. I asked for a model to test and he wasnít interested in our opinion. He didnít bring a working unit, didnít show finished compost and wasnít able to answer our questions. I asked the leader of the Alameda Program what their opinion was and they donít know anyone that used it either.

"As for the pet waste units one of our MCís used one and thought it was awful. "

-ellen

 
At 8:08 PM, August 23, 2008 , Blogger jzcookie said...

I have a neighbor at my condo development that puts her dog feces in plastic bags tied up and leaves it at the corner of her patio. Her patio abuts the entrance to our building and is very close to the sidewalk that leads to our entrance.

I've heard that our other pet owners are doing the same thing. It seems our condo assn. will not install a doggie poop station.

My concern with this is that it's unsightly to see all of the poop bags upon entering the building and I don't want guests seeing this either. Of course they have seen it. Isn't this also unsanitary? Why can't our pet owners take the feces to the trash dumpster or other disposal means?

Any comments?

Thank you

 
At 8:16 PM, August 23, 2008 , Blogger jzcookie said...

I have a neighbor at my condo development that puts her dog feces in plastic bags tied up and leaves it at the corner of her patio. Her patio abuts the entrance to our building and is very close to the sidewalk that leads to our entrance.

I've heard that our other pet owners are doing the same thing. It seems our condo assn. will not install a doggie poop station.

My concern with this is that it's unsightly to see all of the poop bags upon entering the building and I don't want guests seeing this either. Of course they have seen it. Isn't this also unsanitary? Why can't our pet owners take the feces to the trash dumpster or other disposal means?

Any comments?

Thank you

 
At 10:04 PM, August 23, 2008 , Blogger Elf said...

Well, I don't know how unsanitary it is if it's tied up in plastic bags, but it sure must be ugly (and might still smell on hot days, depending on the quality of the bags). Surely the homeowner's association has some rules about leaving one's trash lying around where other people can see it? Or if not the condo complex, then the city you live in?

-ellen

 

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