Q: I’m a dog owner and would like to stay away from plastic bags for discarding dog doo. What are my options?
A: You can romanticize singing in the rain/sleet/snow/40° heat wave all you want, but there’s nothing fun about being a slave to your dog’s elimination system.
If you live in the T-dot, you already know you can poop-and-scoop all the way to the green bin, and the city will turn remnants of Rover’s last meal (as well as last night’s dinner party leftovers) into compost for the landscaping biz.
Most composting communities (like Mississauga’s) aren’t so lucky. Still, that doesn’t give you total bragging rights. If your dog does his business twice a day and lives to, say, 13, you’re using 9,490 petroleum-??based bags in his lifetime.
Biodegradable plastics should never be seen as a panacea, but those compostable, GMO-??free corn-??based BioBag poop-and-scoop bags are definitely better than petroleum-??based plastic bags, even if you’ve used the latter once or twice before picking up your dog’s back-end business.
To use fewer bags altogether, carry a lined lidded pail (like the ones the city gives out to collect kitchen scraps) with a clipped-??on mini-scooper. Sounds cumbersome, but hey, it gets the job done with minimal bags.
If you’ve got a yard and you’re ambitious, you can even start a separate composter by drilling a dozen holes into the sides of an old plastic garbage can, cutting out the bottom, then popping the can into a hole big enough to hold it.
Throw some rocks down there, then start scooping in your poop, adding a little septic starter and water each time. (For more info, check out Vancouver’s Cityfarmer.org/petwaste.html, and note that you do not want to put this composter near your veggie plot). The waste decomposes and enters the subsoil; it’s not used on garden beds.
Any of you condo and apartment dwellers without access to composting but with a deep desire to shrink your doggie’s footprint can fork out for an automated machine that takes both Maggie’s waste and your food scraps and can be tucked under the kitchen counter ($399; NatureMill.com).
Q: Why does the city take clay litter in the green bin when clay doesn’t break down? And which litter do you recommend instead?
A: All right, so scooping out stinky litter boxes isn’t any fun either. But T-dotters are again blessed by being able to green-bin the whole mess. And, yes, that includes the strip-??mined clay stuff, too. (Keep in mind, though, that mining clay for, say, ceramic plates is one thing, but mining it so your cat can piss on it for a few weeks before you toss it is a waste, especially knowing how damaging clay mining can be).
On a composting level, clay doesn’t break down like, say, newspaper or corn-??based litter, but scratch around your backyard and there’s a good chance there’s already some clay in the soil. Throwing it into the industrial compost mix isn’t a bad thing.
Waste management officials weren’t too sure what the impact of tossing those crazily odour-absorbent silica-crystal-??based kitty litters into the mix would be. Seems no one’s really looked into it.
But I did some snooping around, and it turns out sodium silicate (aka silica crystals) is actually used in polluted soil remediation and helps lower the acidity of soil. So it, too, should get tossed into Toronto’s compost without much trouble. Sodium silicate, by the way, is a combo of sand and soda ash.
Neither of the above should be added to backyard composters, so if you live outside the city or are thinkinging of this option, definitely stick to the biodegradable products. Even so, you still have to clean the cat poop from your litter before it hits the composter. But don’t worry about the pee part, it’s actually nutrient-boosting for your soil.
Good Mews and Yesterday’s News litter are made of recycled paper pellets – though not every cat likes it or will even use it, and lazy scoopers will find it stinky.
If you want to use a clumpable product (litter that turns pee into scoopable masses), you have a few choices. Corn-??based World’s Best Cat Litter and wheat-??based Swheat Scoop are biodegradable as well as clay-??, chemical-?? and fragrance-??free. (Swheat Scoop is made of non-??food-grade American wheat; World’s Best couldn’t tell me if its corn is GE-??free.) In my experience, both get really funky sweetish odors if you don’t scoop them daily.
The pine-??based litters really neutralize stinky urine ammonia odours best. Pick one that’s made with chemical-??free by-products of the lumber industry, like Feline Pine, so no new trees need to be axed. And again, the city says it doesn’t mind having a little wood in its soil mix, so it’s all good.
Whatever you do, don’t flush your cat litter even if the label says it’s flushable. Not only does it create a mess that needs to be fished out by the poor peeps working in the waste water treatment centres, but cat poop can contain parasites harmful to aquatic life.
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