Doggie Doo Digester
This DIY project is a green solution for the backyard
Tom Barthel, illustrations by Thomas Kimball
Poop happens. It’s a natural part of dog ownership. In fact, the nation’s 77.5 million dogs each generate an average of 274 pounds of poop a year, most of which ends up in plastic waste bags that can take years to decompose in the local dump. Rather than adding to this vast waste stream, try building your own composter in the back yard.
A few simple steps convert Mother Nature’s mess into harmless byproducts that drain back into the soil. This green habit not only saves the hassle of handling your dog’s dirty business, but it’s also better for the environment by sparing the local watershed from pollution from the parasites that can infest pet feces.
Composted dog doo should not be used on vegetable and fruit plants that you’ll be consuming, because it can still contain microbes and parasites harmful to humans. But you can easily create a self-contained unit where it naturally decomposes out of sight and out of mind.
- Trash can with locking lid
- Gravel (1 bag)
- Compost or septic tank enzymes
- Pulverized lime or baking soda
- Electric drill with ¼ inch bit
- Spray paint
A receptacle, preferably plastic, with a locking lid is essential for a yard with active pets and children, as they can easily fall into an unsecured can. Make sure the lid is securely fastened after each use. These cans typically range in size from 20 to 50 gallons. Depending on the size and number of dogs and amount of waste you’re handling, choose a size that fits your needs.
Select an out-of-the-way corner of the yard. Turn the trash can upside down, place it on the selected location, and spray a circle of paint around the top, transferring the shape onto the lawn. Using this shape as a guide, dig a hole to the depth of the can, leaving enough room at the top to easily remove and replace the locking lid. Do not dig where underground utilities or the sprinkler system could be punctured. Check for fit as you go, digging away only enough soil to allow the can to fit snugly into the ground. Drill several holes in the bottom of the can to permit good drainage and place it in the hole. Add a few inches of gravel to the bottom of the can.Collect your dog’s waste and add it to the composter. Secure the lid. Once a week, remove the lid and sprinkle with compost or septic tank enzymes (found at your local hardware or garden supply store) according to the instructions on the package. Add a layer of pulverized lime or baking soda periodically if odors become a problem.
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