The Unintended Impact of Pet Waste Disposal
By Megan Sanders
Your best friend. Your furry pal. The additional member of your family. Whatever you call your pet, it’s no doubt that you would do anything for them. That includes purchasing anything for them- food, water, toys, and waste disposal supplies.
But your pet, their excretions, and your disposal methods could be hurting the environment. You could be contributing significantly to water contamination and air pollution.
Even when you think you are disposing of your pet’s waste properly.
Pet Waste and Water Quality
Imagine going on a beautiful hike in the mountains. The air is crisp, the sun is peeking through the trees, the weather couldn’t be anymore perfect. You stumble upon a beautiful river and realize that you’ve worked up a sweat on your long adventure.
So, you decide to take a little dip. The water is refreshing. You can’t foresee a more perfect moment than this one. Then you feel something slimy wrap around your ankle. At first, you assume it’s just river plants on the bottom, but then you look down and see it’s a plastic disposal bag used for pet waste clean up. YUCK!
Then, you take a closer look at the water and notice there are quite a few of these poop disposal bags and trash floating around. Your day is ruined, you head home.
The more humans pollute the environment, the harder it will be to ignore. That means many more ruined beautiful days. And you could be contributing to that pollution without even realizing it, with the help of your furry friend!
Pet Waste Transmits Diseases
The dangers of pet waste are two fold. The waste itself is dangerous. So is its method of disposal. Pet waste can contain many parasites and infectious bacteria.
When not disposed of properly, pet waste makes its way to natural water sources. Natural water sources do not receive treatment from treatment plants, so the water does not get purified. This leaves the water vulnerable to the parasites and bacteria in pet waste.
Water contaminated by pet waste can cause any of the following side effects in humans if consumed:
- Stomach cramps
- Vision loss
- Rash- can occur even if not consumed but touches skin
Some of these side effects could even result in death. These side effects are alarming, considering how essential water is in our lives. So why would we risk pet waste water pollution by allowing waste to wash into our water sources?
Even Pet Waste Disposal Bags Can Harm the Environment
Many people believe they are doing the right thing for the environment by scooping up their pet’s poop, putting it in a plastic bag, and tossing it in the trash for the weekly pick up.
However, pet waste’s bacteria and parasites aren’t the only threat to the environment. The plastic bags that people use to dispose of pet waste also harms the environment. If not disposed of properly and safely, those plastic bags end up in our precious bodies of water.
You might think plastic bags are a better option than leaving pet waste on the street to get washed away into the nearest body of water. But disposing of waste in plastic bags and sending it to the landfill is just as harmful to the environment.
When pet waste and plastic is burned, which is a method used for trash disposal, harmful emissions are released into the air. In fact, in 2016, the U.S. incinerated enough trash to emit 12 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air.
If you can’t imagine how much pollution this is, that’s the equivalent of 12 million saltwater crocodiles.
The Cost of Plastic on the Environment
Let’s consider how much plastic one pet contributes to pollution. If they poop twice a day and a plastic bag is used each time for the span of a year, that’s 730 plastic bags. That’s a lot of plastic for only one pet.
There are some pet waste disposal bags that claim to be better for the environment because they are made from plants. However, this does not guarantee that they are fully biodegradable.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service, in 2010 alone, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic entered the oceans.
That’s equal to 8 million baby humpback whales! And the humpback whale is only one of the species affected by ocean pollution.
Besides the plastic that ends up in bodies of water comes from things we use everyday like straws, wrappers, plastic bags, takeout containers; a large portion of that plastic could be coming from pet waste disposal methods.
Plastic doesn’t decompose. Overtime, some plastic may break down into microplastics. Plastic releases toxic chemicals into the ocean and serves as a choking hazer and source of poison to ocean creatures.
That is why being aware of how you dispose of your pet’s waste is essential. You might think that the plastic bag you use might be enough. But if it finds its way to a body of water, you’re doing more harm than good.
And if plastic’s effect on ocean creatures isn’t enough to convince you, remember that polluted oceans and bodies of water affect your health too.
Alternatives: What to Do With Pet Waste
Who knew that the choices we barely think about each day would affect the environment so much? It might even be scary or overwhelming to hear about the impact our choices have. It’s like the butterfly effect. A choice we make about our trash can affect millions of people and animals.
Luckily, there are alternatives to plastic bags and pet waste ending up in landfills and bodies of water.
1. Flush It– Flushing your pet’s poop is the same concept as flushing your own. If you have updated plumbing, then your house either has a septic system or your water gets sent to a treatment plant.
In both cases, your water has a chance to be purified before reaching a natural body of water. Disposing of your pet’s waste down a toilet is a viable option.
However, if you are flushing your cat’s waste and your litter is not flushable, flush the poop only, not the pee clumps. You risk damaging your plumbing if you flush the wrong litter.
2. Bury It– Any avid gardener knows that a good fertilizer can make all the difference in your garden. Although feces is used as a fertilizer in some cases, if you want to use your pet’s waste in your garden, you must be careful.
Bury your pet’s waste at least 6 inches deep and far from your garden. As the waste is broken down by the enzymes in the soil, the nutrients will reach your garden. Never use your pet’s poop as fertilizer if you are growing food in your garden.
Beware, if you bury the waste too close or too shallow, you risk releasing the harmful bacteria and parasites. If there is a heavy rain and the feces isn’t buried deep enough, the rain could wash it into a nearby water source.
You Can Always Do More for the Environment
So you now have a set plan to reduce your pet waste carbon footprint. And the fix really wasn’t that hard.
It can be a bit shocking to hear that you are inadvertently contributing to the Earth’s pollution crisis. But the more you educate yourself, the more you can do to stop pollution.
But what else can you do?
You can continue educating yourself with our blog. Our blog is updated regularly to continue your education.
For example, “How to avoid single use plastics in your life” gives you a guide to start becoming more aware of single use plastics to avoid. The more you avoid, the less end up in the ocean.
When you’re done reading that, you can check out “Where Does Recovered Beach Plastic Go?” One of the best ways to help the planet is by addressing the pollution that is already out there, especially in our oceans.
At Ocean Blue Project, our goal is to help you keep your beaches clean. We help you organize beach clean ups in your area by advising you on organization and helping you obtain permits. Contact us today for more information.
Author Bio: Megan is an animal and pet industry copywriter who strives to help fellow animal enthusiast’s businesses thrive. Her motto is, “Elevate your business. Reclaim your time. Increase your profit.”