If you are looking for an alternative to collecting your dog’s poo in a plastic bag to throw away, you may be thinking about setting up a pet waste composting system.
Getting started is easy but there are some very important dos and don’ts around hygiene and where you can use the compost. Be sure to follow these when composting pet waste.
Dos and don’ts
Dog faeces can contain nasties such as campylobacter, E. coli and salmonella type bacteria, as well as various parasitic worms, which can all be transferred to humans. With that in mind, here are some tips for pet waste composting.
DO: always remove dog poo from public spaces. If left, poo could be eaten by other dogs or enter waterways, increasing the risk of spreading these diseases or parasites.
DO: set up and use a separate compost system for pet waste. The resulting compost is ONLY suitable for ornamental (not edible) flower gardens.
DO: be very careful if using a reusable bag or scoop to pick up dog poo in public. If you don’t want to use newspaper or a plastic bag, make sure that any reusable scoop or bag is washed thoroughly in hot, soapy water before using it again.
DON’T: use compost from a pet waste system on vegetable gardens or fruit trees. Again, this puts humans at risk of contracting diseases or parasites from the poo, as the compost system won’t kill these off.
Collecting dog poo
On your own property, you could use tongs, a shovel, pooper scooper (bought or home-made) or loo paper to pick up and transfer the dog poo to your compost system. Make sure that if you use a reusable scoop or tool, that it is ONLY used for picking up dog poo.
While you are out and about, you could use:
- An old tin or plastic container with a lid. You could keep it in a bag with tongs to pick up the poo, and carry it with you on walks.
- Scoop the poo up with newspaper, a paper towel, or reuse a paper bag and then put this package into a reusable wet bag. You can then put the paper package into your pet waste composting system.
- Buy or make a pooper scooper that includes a lid. Large old plastic bottles can make great homemade pooper scoopers.
Remember any reusable item used to collect dog poo must be regularly and thoroughly washed in hot soapy water.
Pet waste composting options
There are pet waste composting systems available to purchase in New Zealand.
One example is the EnsoPet pet waste composting kit, available from Zing Bokashi. It uses the same principles as a traditional bokashi system.
The enzyme that is sprinkled over the poo must come into direct contact with the poo for the best results. This is why Zing Bokashi recommends not using any plastic bags with its system, even home compostable bags, as the bags don’t break down fast enough to allow the enzyme to work on the poo itself.
A system for small dogs
This system is suitable for small dogs. It uses a large plastic bucket with a lid, with lots of holes drilled in the sides of the bucket, and the bottom cut out.
The bucket is buried in a suitable spot (be sure to pack lots of dirt firmly around the sides so it doesn’t flood when it rains).
A large handful of compost worms are added to get things started. Then it’s simply a case of adding dog poo to the bucket and letting the worms do their thing.
A system for large dogs
The principle of this system is very similar to that used for the home-made system for waste from small dogs. However, it uses a larger barrel which is buried, with a pipe sticking out to add the dog poo.
Pet waste composting options
If you want to continue to use new plastic bags to collect dog poo and you plan to compost these in a separate system at home, look for certified home compostable bags. You can find a list of compostable packaging suppliers here. Remember that certified home compostable bags can still take a long time to break down in home-made compost systems.
Bags advertised as ‘degradable’ or ‘biodegradable’ (without specifying a compostability certification) can break down into microplastics.
Dog poo bags labelled ‘certified commercially compostable’ will not (at this stage) be accepted by any New Zealand industrial composters who accept other compostable packaging. These bags need to go to landfill.
A note on flushing
Flushing dog poo, bagged or unbagged, down the toilet is not recommended – it can cause issues with the water treatment process.
You should NEVER flush dog poo bags, even if they are labelled flushable or compostable, as this can block wastewater pipes.