I lead a double life. I’m a full-time employee in Chicago who commutes to San Francisco once a month for the California College of the Arts’ MBA program in design strategy. This semester I’m taking an enlightening class on sustainability. For our final project, three teammates and myself are tackling the very real issue of animal waste disposal. Yes, we’re researching dog poop. Riveting topic, yes?

Your dog’s waste certainly isn’t sexy, but it is a part of your pet’s daily life. Picking up after your dog is probably your least favorite thing about being a dog owner. Yet, just because dog poop is nasty doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know more about it.

The topic might not be dinner table fodder, but we hope you learn a few things about dog poop. Here are five little-known facts about this delightful-smelling animal by-product.

1. The average dog excretes three-fourths of a pound of waste per day — or 274 pounds of waste per year

Seventy-eight million dogs live in the United States. While not all dog owners throw away their dog’s poop, roughly 10 million tons of dog waste ends up in landfills every year. According to Doody Calls, this is the equivalent of 267,500 tractor trailers fully loaded with dog poop.

Aren’t these facts staggering? Doesn’t it seem unacceptable that so much dog waste (technically an organic and biodegradable material) is funneled into such an unnatural system?

2. Dog waste is an environmental pollutant

Picking up your dog’s waste isn’t just a common courtesy, it’s a health imperative. Picking up after your dog helps reduce the likelihood of its fecal bacteria ending up in an increasingly contaminated water supply. Considering dog feces are common carriers of nasty things like heartworms, whipworms, hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, parvovirus, giardia, salmonella, and E. coli, it’s pretty important to curb your dog!

3. Using a biodegradable doggie bag isn’t enough

We as humans tend to forget that when something is thrown into the trash, it isn’t really gone. The same is true for the bags you use to pick up your dog’s waste –- they don’t disappear just because you’ve tossed them.

“Upcycling” old grocery-store bags is a common practice, or you can spend a little extra money on biodegradable bags for “better” removal. Either way, the bag and the poop travel to a landfill, which is not conducive for breaking down any type of plastic (biodegradable or not). This means we have millions of tons of dog waste wrapped in plastic bags sitting and rotting in our landfills for decades on end.

4. You can compost dog waste, just not with your normal compost bin

There are viable solutions to divert dog waste from landfills. For example, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can compost your dog waste in your backyard. Composting dog waste correctly neutralizes the enzymes, creating a byproduct that can be used as manure or mulch on your non-edible plants.

However, the composition of dog poop means that you cannot merely put dog poop in the usual compost container. A separate composting receptacle is needed. In an effort to inspire home dog-composting receptacles, here are a few excellent tutorials from the USDA and savvy dog owners on how to build your dog’s very own composting system.

5. The best removal method is to flush it

Humans use toilets every day. So why don’t we flush animal waste down the toilet, too? Perhaps we don’t consider the toilet a viable receptacle for our dog’s waste because toilets aren’t outside. We also might overlook toilets because the idea of removing your dog’s waste from a bag and putting it into the toilet bowl adds an extra step to waste disposal. However, it may be time to reconsider the toilet. After all, even the EPA suggests flushing dog poop is by far the most ecologically friendly removal method. And there are several water-soluble bags on the market, which you can safely flush, so there’s nothing stopping you!

What would it take for you to flush your dog’s poop instead of throwing it away? Do you have any more suggestions? Let us know!

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