Eighty-three million dogs call the U.S. their home. Each year these pups produce more than 11 million tons of waste. That’s enough to fill 109 football fields – including end zones -10 feet deep.
Country dogs distribute their waste in wooded areas like wildlife scat. But in the city, the dog population is more concentrated and space is limited. Their waste can easily become a nuisance and source of pollution.
A mid-sized metropolitan area can easily host 300,000 dogs producing 41,000 tons of waste a year. That’s comparable to the tonnage generated annually by 12,155 cows on a mega dairy farm.
In the U.S., dairy operations with more than 1,000 cows meet the EPA definition of a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), and are subject to EPA regulations for environmentally friendly waste disposal. In the city, there are only two options for dog waste: leave it where it lies or pick it up and trash it.
Stoop and scoop is by far the better choice. But neither support sustainability.
An easy, low-cost way to upcycle organic material is to simply compost it. To work its magic, composting requires only biologically derived matter, air, a bit of warmth, moisture, hungry organisms, and a person skilled at the practice. Composting dog waste is a creative and elegant solution to an inelegant dilemma.
Landfills = waste in perpetuity
Most cat waste and approximately 60% of the dog waste is dumped into garbage bins which are emptied into landfills. The trash option usually involves plastic bags which can take centuries to degrade while the waste inside is preserved for posterity while emitting methane. The landfills themselves are disasters waiting to happen.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources states: “Current landfill designs and practices do not provide for degradation of landfilled organic wastes within a defined and reasonable timeframe. Undegraded organic wastes can potentially cause future environmental or economic impacts if the landfill gas and leachate collection and containment systems (cap and/or liner) fail at some time in the future. Potential economic burdens and environmental risks associated with these undegraded wastes will be largely borne by future generations.”
According to the U. S. Geological Survey, “…landfills are designed to minimize contamination of ground water, but modern landfills eventually may leak contaminants into the environment.” Landfills account for 18% of all methane released in the U.S and even treated landfill leachate discharging to streams, seepage into groundwater, diversion to wastewater treatment plants, and even onsite spraying or irrigation contain a wide range of dangerous compounds.
Across the country, landfills are topping out, raising rates, and losing favor as a solution for solid waste. Ecologically savvy communities are looking for innovative ways to divert waste from landfills.