Don't waste your dog's poo – compost it

December 28, 2018 by M. Leigh Ackland, The Conversation
There are alternatives to simply throwing your dog poo in the bin. Credit: Francesco83/Shutterstock

Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with 38% of Australian households owning dogs. Dogs improve the quality of our lives, and studies show that exposure to dogs can even improve our immune system.

However, one medium sized dog produces about 180 kilograms of poo a year. With about 9 million dogs in Australia, it can really start to pile up.

Rather than wrap it in plastic and throw it away – where it eventually ends up in landfill – you can use dog poo as a sustainable source of fertiliser.

Poo problems

The products of humans and their associated animals have not always been a problem. In the past, even within the memory of people I met living on small Pacific islands, human poo was produced in relatively small amounts because the population was low, and could decompose naturally and safely within the soil. Healthy soil contains a vast number of and organisms that thrive on organic material.

But burgeoning populations have changed this. Waste produced by humans is now an immense problem. Not only is there a waste issue, but human activities have caused soil pollution and degradation that kills soil microbes or impairs their capacity to process organic matter.

Dog poo is considered an environmental hazard. This is a consequence of its composition. It is comprised of three-quarters water plus undigested food including carbohydrates, fibre, proteins, and fats from the dog's digestive system. Also present are a wide range of resident bacteria that are needed for digestion.

If are infected with worms, or other disease-causing microbes, these can be present in their poo. Left on the street, dog poo is washed into waterways, creating a potential health hazard. Once pathogenic microbes from the poo get into waterways, they can find their way into other living things – including humans.

People also don't like dog poo because of its smell. This is due to the volatile products produced by microbes in the gut that are involved in the digestion process. More than 100 different chemicals that could contribute to the bad smell have been identified.

Because poo smells bad we avoid dealing with it. Local councils offer at parks and other to encourage dog owners to collect the poo. Bins, sometimes specifically for dog waste, are often placed nearby so the smelly package can be discarded as soon as possible.

But this is not the best solution, because ultimately the dog poo ends up going to landfill, contributing to our ongoing problem of waste accumulation.

The author’s pup, in a garden he helped fertilise. Author provided
Why dog poo can become a nutrient

Rather than becoming a pollutant, dog poo can become a nutrient for your garden, by being composted in your backyard.

If you have a garden you can make your own bin by adding the dog poo to grass clippings, plant or other organic waste, and even sawdust as a source of food for the microbes. The microbes then break down the into humus. During this process the temperature in the compost mixture rises to 50-60℃. Over time, the heat will kill most canine bacteria, as they are adapted to live at lower temperatures in the dog's gut.

Compost contains billions of microbes per gram of material and competition from these (as well as the environmental conditions of the compost that are very different from the dog digestive system) assist in promoting destruction of pathogenic canine microbes, if present.

The compost needs to be turned over weekly to ensure uniform composing and oxygenation. Over days or weeks the temperature in the compost drops, indicating when the decomposition process is complete.

Then it's time to use your compost to improve your garden!

A couple of dog-do dont's:

  • Don't include waste from unknown or from dogs that show signs of disease
  • Avoid using it on vegetables for human consumption.

If you live in an apartment and don't have a garden or access to green waste, you can still compost dog poo and use the product. There are small compost bins commercially available for this purpose. Composted material from these can be used on your outdoor or indoor plants.

And if you don't have any indoor plants, then you should think about getting some, as they can cut down on ozone in the air and even reduce indoor pollution.

Explore further: Some smart ways to jumpstart your recycling program

Related Stories

Some smart ways to jumpstart your recycling program

January 25, 2018

(HealthDay)—Working toward a healthier environment involves more than separating glass and plastic. Try a new take on the three "R's"—recycle, reduce and reuse—to save money, energy and natural resources.

Indoor Composting With NatureMill (w/Video)

April 22, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Many people throw out organic food waste. When I do this, I feel vaguely guilty, knowing I should probably compost it for my backyard garden. However, last time we tried to compost, the neighbors got upset. ...

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

The friendly extortioner takes it all

February 15, 2019

Cooperating with other people makes many things easier. However, competition is also a characteristic aspect of our society. In their struggle for contracts and positions, people have to be more successful than their competitors ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

mabrams
1 / 5 (2) Dec 28, 2018
So putting poo into the ground in your backyard is GOOD but putting poo into the ground somewhere else, in ground labeled a "landfill" is BAD. How remarkably scientific, I am so glad the ever watch full editors included this pseudo-environmental nonsense.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.