Do you poop patrol? Getting serious about the pet poo problem in L.A. (and everywhere else, too)
Really interesting article in the L.A. Times this past weekend. It's to do with pet poop. Yes, this topic a-gain.
You'd think two poo posts in a month (check out the last one, if you dare) might mean something sinister, but I assure you, scatological obsessiveness is not one of my many vices. To prove it (well, sort of), this time stool is getting the serious treatment. Mostly, anyhow.
On the Tail End of Animal Waste, by Susan Carpenter, delved into deep doo-doo as it tackled the unmentionable subject of the animal waste that pervades our human existence — whether we're aware of it or not. (And most of us are not.)
There's no doubt animals add a lot to their owners' quality of life, but they also contribute something else — poop. Most of it goes to landfills.
Estimates for animal waste are, not surprisingly, difficult to locate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency doesn't track it. Nor does L.A.'s Bureau of Sanitation, except for horses, which generate about 25,200 tons of manure annually in L.A.
Extrapolating U.S. Geological Survey figures for the 2.14 million tons of clay that is mined for use in kitty litters each year and L.A. County's human population of roughly 9.85 million, I estimate at least 50,000 tons of cat litter are sent to L.A. area landfills every year.
As for dogs, the amount of doo they generate varies by animal size, but the average is 274 pounds annually, according to a report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. In L.A., that's 548 million pounds of dog doo that is wrapped in plastic, tossed in the black bin and trucked to oblivion.
Ouch! Those are some serious stats! So what are responsible pet owners to do if they don't like the notion that they're a bigger part of the problem than they'd previously estimated?
Luckily, Ms. Carpenter's article plows fearlessly into the apparently unpopular solution: poop patrol!
Yes, scooping your pet's poop, whether it's your dog's or your cat's, and keeping litter and paper out of the landfill's gaping maw would seem to be a good thing.
Sure, some landfills are capable of turning methane gas-producing items like feces into electricity, but not every landfill does … and not very efficiently, either. Turns out, the idea of flushing dog and cat stool is probably a more efficient method, electricity-wise. That's because, just as for human waste in the sewage treatment system, some electricity can be harnessed from methane gas production. And much more efficiently than in a landfill setting, even. Which is why flushable cat litters and biodegradable poop baggies exist.
But wait. Isn't that a health hazard? Or at least a plumbing hazard?
Turns out that, at least in L.A., cat feces flushing is not allowed due to the possible contamination of the water supply with toxoplasma. And as for plastic biodegradable bags, the local department of water and sewer prefers a "black and white message" that includes flushing nothing other than human waste so that people don't get all confused and start flushing everything in their homes down the loo.
Should you live in a home with a yard, you're hooked up. Composting poop and soiled litter (the type made with organic materials - I like the piney ones, myself) to apply to your ornamental plants is soooo doable! (There are lots of resources online for this.)
And yet this article informs us otherwise, explaining that only vegetarian pet doo-doo is compostable. (Think: rabbits, chickens and goats.) Potential contamination with pathogenic bacteria and/or parasites like Toxo means edible plant compost application is a no-no. Only ornamental plants need apply.
That is, unless you're willing to try an Alaskan sled dog team's approach: employing a heated compost method, which kills the "bugs" dead. Turns out, however, that you need at least seven or eight dogs to undertake this adventure efficiently. Twenty big sled dogs with enormous appetites is probably even better.
In the end, the article invites you to read between the lines on the flushing and composting thing, but officially informs us that the best-est, most greenest method is that of the dig-a-hole variety, by which you pop your poop into an underground container that has been designed to take in stool and digest it with enzymes you apply to the mix. Slowly, the now-harmless material will trickle into the soil around it. Yummy!
For my part, I compost my chicken coop shavings and my goat bedding. I was throwing doggie doo in for a while but then decided otherwise. It just seemed too gross and the resulting compost too limited for use in my yard (I have tons of avocado trees).
So the pet doo goes down the toilet, sans baggie, seeing as I scoop and dump. Or it gets hosed into the bougainvilleas that surround my side yard patio, where the dogs unkindly deposit their poo at times.
That's my way. But what say you? Do you poop patrol? If you do … how? If not, would you ever tackle doo-doo detail? Could an article like this one ever persuade you otherwise? Think about it and let us know.
Dr. Patty Khuly