Dog Poop and the Environment

We stepped in it this time.


In the February 2000 issue, WDJ reviewed products designed to make picking up dog poop easier. We also compared some commercial “poop bags,” and expressed a strong preference for the two products that are purportedly made of “biodegradable” plastic, which would ostensibly prevent the bags from contributing to overflowing landfills.

Unfortunately, there are no shallow solutions to the interrelated problems of overabundant plastics and landfill glut. As usual, our loyal readers have offered some comments (and solutions):

“A better option for people who need bags for this purpose is to reuse a bag that has been used for something else, such as a newspaper bag or a grocery/retail bag. These bags are free and most of them get tossed in the trash.”

doggie dooley

“I was dismayed to note in your review of doggie poop bags that the idea of simply re-using plastic bags that are already in circulation was mentioned only in passing. Let’s use the billions of plastic bags already in circulation. Why encourage the manufacture and distribution of yet more bags?”

“I’m one of those people who bring our own cloth bags to the grocery store. I use plastic bags as little as possible. When walking my dog, I carry a rolled-up newspaper in my back pocket, and use sheets of the newspaper to clean up after my dog. I use (and re-use) a plastic bag only to carry the ‘package’ of paper and poop to a trash can. The paper and poop does go to a landfill, but it won’t ‘live’ as long as it would in plastic.”

And finally:

“When I first heard about ‘biodegradable’ plastic I was enthusiastic until I read further studies by environmental groups not associated with the plastics industry. ‘Biodegradable’ plastic breaks down only in the sunlight. Therefore virtually none of this plastic will degrade in our landfills where it will be covered by garbage. Second, if the “biodegradable” plastic does break down, it doesn’t decompose into natural components of the soil but rather into tiny synthetic particles. No one knows what the effect of such particles might be on our land, water, plants and animals.

“Personally, on my own property I use a canine septic system, placing poop in a hole and dousing it with water and enzymes until it biodegrades.”

One sensible solution: The Doggie Dooley

Actually, for the past year, we have been testing the very system the reader above mentioned: The Doggie Dooley. (We’ve been waiting for just the right time to mention it.) This is a bottomless plastic box that you bury in the ground, with a lid that opens to permit you to dump doo in daily.

The box itself doesn’t really do anything except hold the hole open, like a septic tank. The interesting part of the product is the small tub of “Super Dooley Digester Powder,” a few teaspoons of which you mix with a few gallons of water and pour into the tank from time to time. If you assiduously add the powder and some water to the system, the enzymes in the powder break down the poop; it literally melts into the ground, and it doesn’t smell bad until you open the lid (which is normally kept closed). We’re not sure whether we can get more environmentally sound than this.

Of course, you have to have a yard to employ this device, and it only makes sense that you wouldn’t want to install it near a well. But it’s been a big boon to this suburban dweller. Households with multiple dogs or gigantic dogs might need more than one.

The Doggie Dooley is available in pet stores and from a number of catalogs, and sells for about $30. The maker, Huron Products, also sells extra tubs of the “digester” enzymes.

Nancy Kerns is editor of Whole Dog Journal.