Ask The Expert: Green Pet Company


Ask the Expert in green text above a row of animals from left to right: hamster, rabbit, cat, dog

Let’s talk about poop! When we sent out our Four Second Survey, our subscribers (That’s you!) overwhelmingly expressed that they wanted to learn more about how to dispose of pet waste in an earth-friendly way.  What is the environmental impact of my dog’s waste, and what can I do to help?

To help us out, we recruited a representative from Green Pet Companies to talk about pet waste: the environmental impacts of dog waste, how to safely dispose of pet waste, and what we can do to help the earth while loving our pets.

Can you tell us a little bit about your company?

 Green Pet Companies logo: A green paw print with a white leaf.

Every year, thousands of tons of pet waste are being wrapped in plastic, and deposited in the trash, then moved into area landfills. The dog or cat poop that isn’t collected is left to decay, leaching contaminants and pathogens into the soil, groundwater, rivers, and the ocean.  

Our founders, Lance & Nayibe Donavan knew there must be a solution to this massive pet waste removal problem and so, Green Pet Companies was born in 2009. In 2011, our composting operation was taken over by Lance’s parents, Steve and Fran Dreiling, and relocated from Portland to the Key Peninsula outside of Gig Harbor, Washington.

Over the last 10 years, the pet waste composting process has been perfected. Green Pet has been licensed by the State of Washington Department of Ecology -- the only licensed pet waste compost company on the West Coast -- and our pooper-scooper style collection routes in the greater Portland and Seattle areas have grown to collect more than 15,000 lbs of pet waste each month.

What is the biggest misconception about pet waste disposal?

An infographic that reads: 1 dog=3/4 pound poop per day, = 273.5 pounds per year times 74.8 million dogs = 10.2 million tons of poop per year

One of the biggest misconceptions is that you don’t need to dispose of pet waste at all – just leave it on the ground, spray it into your lawn, or send the dogs into the greenbelt.  Pet waste contains contaminants and pathogens that can only be eliminated by processing/composting the waste. Leaving it to leach into the ground is extremely harmful to the environment, not to mention potentially harmful to humans that may be exposed to it.  For more information, the Pacific Shellfish Institute in Olympia, Washington has done an extensive study on the impact of pet waste on Ocean Acidification.

What about the myths of pet waste composting?

Infographic of pet waste being recycled into soil

Many experts warn against composting pet waste because it requires a specific process of high temperature over an extended period, proper moisture and carbon content. That means that most people don’t even think that composting pet waste is possible.  Even though backyard composting can break down the waste, it is challenging to dispose of pathogens and contaminants through home composting, and that’s where Green Pet is able to step in and provide the composting service in a safe and functional way.

Another myth is that there must be a terrible smell associated with the process. Surprisingly, there is very little smell even at the beginning of the process because carbon sources, such as sawdust, are introduced very early on to absorb the smell.  But rest assured: there is absolutely NO smell in the finished compost. It is simple dark, rich dirt when we are done.

So, the question on every cat owner’s mind: is cat litter flushable?

We say no to flushing cat litter and most city water systems agree.  The simple volume of waste can overwhelm a processing plant or septic system, especially if the litter is clay based.  Even plant or paper-based litters are not meant to break down in water but rather to absorb it! Those litters are meant to break down in a composting style process, not in sewers or septic systems.

Are poop bags compostable? If not, what if they say they’re compostable?

A small white dog watching as their owner picks up their poop

There are three main types of dog poop bags. Your traditional plastic bags are not compostable, and they degrade over a very long time period in the landfill.

Biodegradable bags are also made of plastic, but they break down over a much shorter period of time and break down into hundreds of tiny plastic pieces. They are not truly compostable, but a better option than your normal plastic bags.

The only compostable bags we trust carry the ASTM6400 certification -- check the label or the bag itself to confirm your purchase. Not only do we require them for our process, offer them for delivery to our customers and on our website, we also recommend them for use by people who have composting and food waste collection services.

What does biodegradable mean and should I choose that over a standard poop bag?

Biodegradable bags still contain plastic and though they do break down over a much shorter period of time vs conventional plastic bags, they still break down into hundreds of tiny plastic pieces.  Some experts think that using biodegradable bags for waste going into the landfill is worse, since it breaks down sooner, releasing methane gas into the atmosphere. This is a subject of somewhat endless debate.  As always, it’s just better to compost!

Do you have any favorite earth-friendly waste disposal products that you love recommending?

We, of course, recommend our own line of compostable bags.  

We also encourage all cat owners to use plant or paper based litter.  There are so many good options out there, it’s easy to find one to meet every cat and cat owner needs.

Is there anything else that we should know?

There is so much more to pet waste composting and the impact of pet waste on the environment, we would simply encourage research by pet owners into their local options.