It would seem like an obvious thing to compost pet waste, either by just leaving it where it’s deposited, composting it in a backyard composter, or dropping it in the pails provided by the organics recyclers. The EPA assures us that is not the case!

Pet waste, is, of course, organic, but it also smells bad, can attract vermin, and can transmit a variety of nasty — and sometimes fatal — diseases to humans or other animals. Even if nobody steps in it, the stuff pollutes both surface and groundwater with parasites and bacteria, especially e. coli.

Flushing dog waste down the toilet is not advised because the sewer treatment facilities are not equipped to handle the parasites, and so-called flushable bags do not always dissolve fully in the sewer system and can then cause clogs. Any suboptimal conditions at the discharge from the treatment plant can cause the various parasites to spread to groundwater and reappear in drinking water.

Cat waste is more problematic. It carries something called toxoplasma gondii, which is a parasite that is infectious to humans and is known to survive municipal sewage and water treatment facilities to get into rivers and ground water. Don’t flush this.

Evidently, EPA once actually recommended flushing pet waste, but no longer does.

According to earth911, the official recommendations now are to put the waste into the trash. That is supported by my telephone conversation with the Brunswick Sewer District.

In theory, you could compost the stuff, but it needs higher temperatures to kill the bacteria and parasites than is usually available to a home composter. Commercial composters don’t want to take the risks of not killing everything, so none of the organics recyclers or composters operating in the Brunswick will accept pet waste of any sort.

The Recycle Bin is a weekly column on what to recycle, what not to recycle, and why, in Brunswick. The public is encouraged to submit questions by email to Harry Hopcroft is a member of the Brunswick Recycling and Sustainability Committee.

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