All posts in “Information”

New Colorado composting dog park!

Congratulations to the Town of Erie, which launched its dog waste composting program on June 1, 2024. The park has been retrofitted with dedicated collection bins and signs to accommodate the new program. Pet Scoop will collect the waste and transport it to EnviroWagg at Soil Rejuvenation in Longmont for composting. 

Erie joins six other dog parks plus Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks – all Colorado pioneers in outdoor dog waste upcycling!

 

How to compost dog poop in small spaces using a tumbler

In 2023, two successful experiments were conducted on opposite sides of the globe, utilising tumblers for the composting of dog waste. This approach is particularly suitable for individuals with limited yard space.

Here’s a fact sheet with step-by-step “how to” instructions and project outcomes.

When trying this with your own dogs, it’s important to know that each situation is different in terms of quantity of waste, available added materials, weather and climate. These projects are meant as guidelines. Keep experimenting to find the tumbling method that’s right for you!

View the webinar video on this topic here.

Senior builds pet waste composter for Colorado shelter

As part of her capstone project, Colorado Mountain College sustainability studies senior Ramsey Bond teamed up with the Colorado Animal Rescue shelter (CARE) in Spring Valley to build an outdoor animal waste composting system. The three-bin composter – built using wooden pallets – is converting a mixture of the shelter’s animal waste and a local woodworker’s sawdust into composted soil that’s safe for lawns, shrubbery and flower gardens.

Read more.

Photo caption: Ramsey Bond explains the new animal waste composter to Wes Boyd. Bond was able to incorporate the composter into her own studies and to those of her sustainability classmates. Photo ©Hannah Johnson (CMC professional photography student)

Article provided by Debbie Crawford, Colorado Mountain College public information officer, Central Services

Composting program at Great Bark Dog Park in Lafayette, Colorado

The Lafayette Parks, Recreation & Open Space Department, in collaboration with the Lafayette Waste Reduction Committee, is pleased to announce the launch of a pilot dog waste composting program at the Great Bark Dog Park. Dog waste can be challenging for communities to deal with, and most of it ends up in landfills where it contributes to emissions from methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Nationwide, pet dogs produce over 10 million tons of poop each year, and Lafayette wants to do what we can to minimize our contribution. More to bark about.

Today US dogs produce more waste than humans did in 1959

Much of the 11 million tons of dog waste generated in the U.S. each year is trashed and streamed to lined and sealed landfills. The rest is left on the ground as a potential pollutant, particularly in urban areas.

The average dog poops more per day than the average person. Throw in the tons of plastic we use in a foolhardy attempt to sanitize this absurd process.

Add it up and you find that today U.S. dogs generate more solid waste than the U.S. human population in 1959. Can you imagine an advanced country in 1959 not providing a practical sanitary disposal system that works for its 178 million people? We have a hard time wrapping our heads around that one and hope you do, too.

Sources

1959 human population
U.S. Census Bureau, 177,8 million

2016 dog population
U.S. Humane Society, 83 million

Pet waste quantities
Average dog produces .75 lb. of waste per day (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)

Human waste quantities

On average humans excrete 128 g (.28 lb.) of fresh feces per person per day – Rose, C.; Parker, A.; Jefferson, B.; Cartmell, E. (2015). “The Characterization of Feces and Urine: A Review of the Literature to Inform Advanced Treatment Technology,” 3.1

Dog waste vs. human waste

.28 lbs. human waste per day vs. .75 ave. dog waste per day

2016 U.S. dogs

83 million dogs x .75 lb. waste per day = total 62,250,000 lb. waste per day ÷ 2,000 = 31,215 tons per day
31,215 tons per day x 365 days = 11.4 tons dog waste per year

1959 U.S. humans

177.8 million humans x .28 lb. waste per day = total 49,784,000 lb. per day ÷ 2,000 = 24,900 tons per day
24,900 tons per day x 365 days = 9 million tons per year

 

Environmental impacts of dog waste

Toilets and sanitary sewage treatment provide humans with a workable solution to waste disposal. But there is no effective, broadly-implemented way to tackle the problem of pet waste. At this point, most pet lovers, shelters, kennels, breeders, municipalities, and pick-up services are left to their own devices.

Studies show that roughly 40% of all dog owners do not “stoop and scoop” and the ecosystem doesn’t gracefully embrace dog waste. If left intact, it can take more than a year to break down and can quickly turn any outdoor area into a site unfit for pets and humans.

In addition to the mess and smell, raw dog waste spoils grass and other landscaping. Dropped along trails, it kills native plants and encourages noxious weed infestation. Residual waste left at ground zero runs off into storm sewers and waterways.

Studies indicate that dogs are third or fourth on the list of contributors to bacteria in contaminated waters, increasing the potential for serious diseases, including cholera and dysentery. The EPA estimates that two days worth of dog waste from about 100 dogs can create enough pollution to close a bay and all the watersheds within 20 miles.

In addition to threats to humans, bacteria that feed on dog waste deplete oxygen, killing native aquatic life. The bacteria also feed algae blooms which block sunlight and suffocate fish. On fragile terrain such as hiking trails, dog waste contributes to the growth of invasive weeds that endanger native plants.

Percentage of pet waste vs. other trash

What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done.

Calculating how much dog and cat waste is streamed to landfills in the U.S. alone is difficult to do and the amount increases each year. There are no comprehensive official statistics, but here is one attempt to quantify trashed pet waste based on available data.

According to the 2017-2018 American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey, there are a total of 89.7 million dogs and 94.2 million cats in the U.S. The same survey indicates that pet ownership has consistently trended upward over more than two decades.

Dogs

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the typical dog generates three quarters of a pound of waste per day – or 274 pounds per year. Therefore 89.7 million dogs produce 67,275,000 pounds (33,637.5 tons) of waste per day or 24,555,375,000 pounds (12,277,687.5 tons) per year. Each year U.S. dogs produce enough waste to cover 109 football fields (including end zones) 10 feet deep.

How much is trashed? A total of 80.7%: Percent of the US population living within urban areas; that calculates to approximately 78,039,000 urban dogs. According to several surveys, roughly 60% of dog owners say that they pick up after their dogs (Pollution Prevention Fact Sheet: Animal Waste Collection, U.S. Storm Water Center https://www.stormwatercenter.net/Pollution_Prevention_Factsheets/AnimalWasteCollection.htm). Sixty percent of 78,039,000 dogs brings the number of urban dogs with owners who pick up their waste to 46,823,400. Those dogs produce 35,117,550 pounds (17,558.78 tons) of waste per day or 6,408,952.875 tons per year.

Cats

Cats poop less, but there are more of them and city cats’ waste is co-mingled with mostly clay litter. No organization has undertaken an official study of the amount of waste cats produce, but an informal measure reported by Rose Seemann in The Pet Poo Pocket Guide: How to Safely Compost and Recycle Pet Waste https://earthhero.com/products/sustainable-essentials/rose-seemann-the-pet-poo-pocket-guide/ indicates that an average cat leaves around .3 pounds of waste/litter per day to be trashed. Approximately 70% of the 94.2 million cats are kept indoors. These 65,940,000 indoor cats produce 19,782,000 pounds (9.891 tons) of waste day or 3,610,215 tons (300,000 dump truck loads) per year.

This does not include co-mingled plastic and bulk cat litter resulting from litter box dumps. Disposal of the litter itself presents challenges. According to Judd H. Alexander in 1993’s In Defense of Garbage, over 2 million tons of cat litter ends up in landfills each year more than 2 million tons of clay litter is disposed of each year in the United States. That was 1996, but we’ll use that conservative number in our stats.  So the sheer volume of used cat litter has a significant impact on landfills

Total pet waste to landfills

Six and a half million tons of dog waste plus 3.6 million tons of cat waste plus 2 million tons of disposed litter totals approximately 12 million tons of pet waste streamed to U.S. landfills each year.*

Pet waste compared to other U.S. waste

When reviewing the data for waste quantities below, keep in mind that anaerobic degradation of organics such as pet waste in landfills results in methane emissions that air quality.

  • Each ton of organic waste disposed of as landfill and broken down by anaerobic fermentation releases about one ton of carbon dioxide equivalents(CO2e) of greenhouse gasesmostly in the form of methane”. 
  • Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States, accounting for approximately 15.1 percent of these emissions in 2018
  • In “Strategies for Reducing Degradable Organic Wastes in Landfills 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. Un-degraded 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.”

Below: from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: 2018 Facts and Figures about Materials, as posted March 2021

Printed in black: direct data from EPA 2018 Facts and Figures (disposal of traditionally quantified materials)
Printed in red: estimated pet waste in residential waste stream

Municipal Solid Waste

Materials Landfilled (in millions of tons) % of total MSW % recycled % combusted with energy recovery
Food 35.28 21.5 Composting
6.08
Other management
41.57
21.85
Plastics 26.97 12.20 4.47 16.27
Paper/paperboard 17.22 23.05 66.54 12.16
Metals 13.93 8.76 12.62 8.54
Wood 12.15 6.1 4.49 8.22
Dog and cat waste 12?* 12? **
Textiles 11.3 5.8 Rubber + leather + textiles
6.05
9.32
Yard trimmings 10.53 12.11 52.35 7.44
Glass 7.55 4.19 4.43 4.75
Rubber and leather 4.99 3.13 Rubber + leather + textiles
6.05
7.24
Misc. inorganic 3.27 1.39 0 2.32
Other (?) 2.93 1.56 1.40 1.91

* Six and a half million tons of dog waste plus 3.6 million tons of cat waste plus two million tons of disposed litter totals approximately 12 million tons of pet waste streamed to U.S. landfills each year.

** “We have been doing a series of waste audits on residential garbage. We’ve done two so far and the third is slated to be done August/September of 2018. What we did find in both of those audits, consistently, is that 12 per cent of what is in the residential waste is pet waste.” Susan Grimm, team leader, City of Airdrie (Alberta) Waste and Recycling Services 

** According to Kirk Symonds, team lead-education and program delivery with Halifax Regional Municipality Solid Waste Resources, pet waste represents eight to 12% of the weight of all residential waste headed to the landfill. That weight includes kitty litter, dog feces, feathers, and pet bedding.

Summary

This data projection shows that pet waste is under the radar for the EPA and other agencies regulating and setting policies for MSW. But the need for accurate data on the quantity and its relationship to other MSW is essential to developing standardized best practices for diverting pet waste from landfills.

Calculating pet waste

When planning a pet waste recycling program, it’s important to find out the amount of pet waste that your project will be tackling. This data will be key to choosing options and applying for grants. Here are formulas for arriving at the numbers you’ll need. If your project includes dogs and cats,  simply add totals for both.

DOGS

– The average dog produces .75 lb. of waste per day.
– Sixty percent of urban dog waste is picked up and deposited in bins.

Medium scale project – 100-300 pets per day
– Determine the number of dog visitors or clients served per day.
– Multiply that number by .75 for daily weight of waste.
– Alternately, you can set up a dog-waste-only bin and weigh the bin daily or weekly. Subtract the weight of the empty bin.
– Simple multiplication will take you to anticipated monthly or annual weight.

Large-scale projects – more than 300 pets per day

If a large park or event, follow the directions above for a medium scale project.

Residential waste from towns, cities or other jurisdictions
Determine the number of households (see recent census).
– To find out the number of dogs, multiply households by .53.
– Multiply the number of dogs by .75 and you’ll have the weight of dog waste produced within the community per day.
– Simple multiplication will take you to anticipated monthly or annual weight.

CATS

– The average cat produces .3 lb. of waste and litter waste per day.
This does not include cat litter resulting from litter box dumps, estimated at more than two million tons of clay litter each year.
– Alternately, you can set up a cat-waste-and litter-only bin and weigh the bin daily or weekly. Subtract the weight of the empty bin.
– Simple multiplication will take you to anticipated monthly or annual weight.

Medium scale project – 100-300 pets per day
– Determine the number of cat visits/clients served per day.
– Multiply that number by .3 for daily weight of waste.
– Alternately, you can set up a cat-waste-only bin and weigh the bin daily or weekly. Subtract the weight of the empty bin.
– Simple multiplication will take you to anticipated monthly or annual weight.

Large-scale projects – more than 300 pets per day
Residential waste from towns, cities or other jurisdictions
– Determine the number of households (see recent census)., determine the number of households (see recent census).
– To find out the number of cats, multiply households by .38.
The average cat owner has two cats, but 50% of cats are outdoor cats, so we’ll go with one cat per household.
– Multiply the number of cats by .3 and you’ll have the weight of cat waste produced within the community per day.
Simple multiplication will take you to anticipated monthly or annual weight.

Dos and don’ts of do-it-yourself pet waste recycling

– Herbivore pets that eat only plants generate poop and bedding that are easily composted without concern for pathogens. The quantity of bedding is often much greater than the amount of manure and needs to be supplemented with household food scraps. A little research, and a little trial and error, will help you get the recipe right.

– Dog and cat manure might contain hard-to-kill pathogens that pose serious health risks. Don’t use do-it-yourself finished dog or cat compost on vegetable gardens or near fruit trees. Harvested edibles could fall and become contaminated through direct contact with the soil. Even thorough washing may not remove harmful residue.

– Keep in-ground pet waste septic systems and burial trenches away from house foundations, tree roots, ground and surface water.

– All decomposition grinds to a stop when temperatures drop below 40 degrees F. Bury in-ground septic systems below frost line for your area. Adding a PVC pipe entry at the top will allow you to bury containers deeper.

– When you recycle pet waste, don’t include bags. Even certified compostable and paper bags will degrade in a timely way only at a commercial composting facility. Bags will slow down or stop the back yard recycling processes. Bags identified as “biodegradable” leave plastic bits in the soil. Best to use a scooper and deposit loose pet poo into a backyard composter. Some people use newspaper to pick up dog poop. The newspaper can then be composted along with the poop.

– If asked, municipal water treatment plants often discourage flushing dog waste. But many water control experts including those at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council flushing https://cfpub.epa.gov/npstbx/files/KSMO_PetWaste.pdf and the Salt Lake City County Storm Water Coalition have endorsed flushing pet waste. https://cfpub.epa.gov/npstbx/files/slc_petwaste.pdf encourage flushing.

– To avoid clogged plumbing, don’t flush waste-filled bags unless the bags are specified as “flushable” (usually alcohol-based film). Limit the quantity of loose dog waste you flush to avoid toilet back-ups.

– Don’t flush pet waste into an underground household septic tank. Hair in the waste could cause outflow problems.

– Don’t flush or bury cat waste near natural water sources where runoff can pollute. Poop of outdoor cats that like to feast on rodents might contain Toxoplasma gondii, a disease agent affecting water mammals.