“Waste”ful Resources

The possibilities are nearly endless for dog owners to dispose of pet waste. Throwing it over one’s fence or putting it in the garbage, however, is not only passé, but with the wealth of research and modern technology available, it is clear there are more efficient and environmentally friendly ways of disposing of Sparky’s little gifts.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a dog, on average, excretes less than a pound of waste per day. Although this amount may seem small, even insignificant by itself, it quickly becomes a problem when multiplied by all the dogs at a single park or a district of parks. For example, the Houston Dog Park Association (HDPA) includes more than 25 dog parks, according to Tiffany Moore, president of the association. She estimates between 250 and 300 dogs visit the largest parks (13 to 18 acres) every day, while roughly 100 dogs frequent the medium-size parks (3 to 8 acres), and about 50 dogs stop in at the small parks (under 2 acres). “Whether you have one Paw Park or a whole legion, the possibility of being overrun with pet waste exists,” Moore relates. HDPA believes strong partnerships with local municipalities and active community groups can greatly reduce pet-waste issues.

A Growing Concern

Pet waste is a known contributor in polluting local water sources. “Pet waste is a contaminant when it gets into the ocean, which is does on a regular basis,” says Laura Kasa, executive director of Save Our Shores. In fact, at one time, the EPA went as far as to classify waste as a “nonpoint source of pollution,” which elevated it to the classification of a toxic chemical. Most municipalities now have enacted ordinances and public-outreach programs in an effort to reduce the damage pet waste can have on the environment. Rain and melting snow are top catalysts for introducing pet waste into lakes, streams and oceans. As pet waste decays in waterways, the released nutrients promote algae growth, which destroys local fish and shellfish populations. Some beach and lake closures also have been attributed to high levels of potentially harmful fecal coliform bacteria.

Besides the environment being affected, pets and humans are susceptible to infection from some of the bacteria and parasites found in pet waste. Infections may occur from drinking or playing in contaminated water, walking barefoot on infected soil, or by coming in contact with flies. Some of the transmittable parasites and bacteria are:

• Campylobacteriosis

• Salmonellosis

• Cryptosporidium

• Toxocariasis

• Toxoplasmosis

Plastic Supermarket Bags

The device of choice for most urban pet owners over the past 20 years for picking up waste has been the supermarket plastic bag. With a bag’s life span at a minimum of 500 years and a high of more than 1,000, a more efficient and environmentally sound tool for containing and removing waste is needed. Several factors are working together to nudge pet owners toward alternatives, for example, big-name retailers charging for plastic bags or simply not providing them anymore. The creation of reusable bags also has contributed to lowering the nation’s demand on plastic bags. However, according to the World Watch Institute, Americans still throw away more than 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags a year.

The Evolution Of Bags

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