It’s estimated that there are over 9 million dogs in the UK and that our beloved dogs produce over 1000 tonnes of waste every day! That’s a lot of poo and for the responsible dog owners amongst us who pick up after them, that is potentially a lot of plastic bags going to landfill.
So, we try to do the right thing and start buying biodegradable poo bags. If you’re anything like me then when I first saw the biodegradable bags, I thought that by buying these instead of using nappy sacks or regular poo bags, I was doing the right thing, problem solved. But then I started to look into it a bit more. It turns out that even the biodegradable bags are often still plastic bags that have microorganisms added to break down the plastic into micro plastics. But unfortunately this will not happen anytime soon in landfill, and when it finally does, you are still left with the micro plastic. When sent to landfill, all poo bags are likely to undergo mummification. The rubbish is compacted together so tightly, that a lack of oxygen results in the waste mummifying, causing it to decompose even more slowly than it would usually. So whilst in the correct conditions the bags should decompose within a year, this could now take very many years.
Then we have the compostable bags. Now it’s true, we have the same problem with compostable bags that go to landfill and get compacted, as we do of biodegradable bags. It could still take several years for the bags to break down, but the difference is that at least they won’t be leaving any micro plastics behind. This is due to the fact that any reputable compostable bags are made from a vegetable matter, like corn starch for example. As they are made from a vegetable matter, this also means that you can compost them at home as they do not contain any toxic materials, unlike the biodegradable that are often still made of plastic.
So what can we do with the poo?
Well, we can easily compost the bags at home using just a small composting bin that you can either make yourself or buy. If you are already composting then you are going to really want to have a separate bin for the dog poo just to make sure you know which compost you can use on your fruit and vegetables and which you are only going to use on your plants!
Composting uses a mixture of both wet and dry materials. In this instance the wet materials will include the dog poo but you can add grass clippings or vegetable waste if you need it and for the dry materials you can use dried leaves, straw, or sawdust works really well. You will need to ensure you mix the wet and dry items to the correct ratio to get the desired effect. Usually, 2 parts dog poop to 1 part sawdust is advised. Once you have layered the wet and dry materials, dampen down (not soak) with water and mix well and then cover with some black plastic to keep the heat in.
Make sure you mix it up every week or two, once the temperature starts to drop. You want to be aiming to get the temperature up to 63c or 145f to ensure the compost gets hot enough to kill off any bacteria or parasites. This is a very important factor. Whilst you want to try and do your bit to help reduce waste in landfill, you do not want to risk making yourself unwell! For the same reason, you only want to be using poo from dogs that you know to be healthy. With the correct ration of wet and dry, the dampness and heat, your compost will be ready to use in around 3 months.
Some key points to remember:
- Only use poo from healthy dogs.
- Ensure you get the mix up to the correct temperature before you turn it to kill any nasties.
- DO NOT use the compost on edible plants.
- Make sure you are using compostable bags made from a vegetable matter.