Q: Why should I clean up after my dog?
A: No one wants to step in dog poop—so cleaning up is a necessary courtesy to other park users. But in addition, failure to bag the poop and put it into the provided trash cans harms the environment.
Q: Why does cleaning up after my dog help the environment? Isn’t dog poop natural and biodegradable?
A: In the natural world, there would be a few carnivores and their waste products would be harmlessly absorbed in the ecosystem. But the population density of dogs in our area is very high and the amount of waste they produce is a serious source of water pollution. In heavy rains, dog waste is washed into streams. This is especially likely at our park, because we are situated in a flood plain, but it also happens throughout the township because feces left in yards and on the street wash directly into streams through our storm drains. There are two reasons why dog poop in our waterways is harmful:
- Dog waste contains disease-causing bacteria and viruses which can infect people, making it dangerous to come into contact with the water in our streams and lakes.
- When dog waste decomposes in streams, it releases nutrients that cause excessive algae growth. Oxygen is depleted and the water cannot sustain aquatic life.
Q: I notice that Friends of WMC is advocating use of unneeded plastic grocery bags instead of the green bags labeled “biodegradable” provided by the township. Aren’t the township bags better for the environment?
A: Township trash is shipped to a trash-to-steam plant and it is all burned. Therefore, the biodegradability of the bags is not relevant. (Two interesting side notes: (a) Even if our trash were shipped to a landfill, the value of a biodegradable bag is questionable. Landfill does not turn into compost over time. By and large it just sits in sealed underground containers. What biodegradation does take place is anaerobic so it produces polluting methane gas. (b) Dog waste can be composted, but special methods are needed – the pathogens are not destroyed in ordinary home composters.)
Q: Isn’t it better to recycle plastic grocery bags rather than use them for pick-up duty?
A: We’ve all heard the slogan, “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.” Those options are listed in order of environmental benefit. The greatest benefit is not to create the trash in the first place; the second is re-using an already manufactured item, and last is recycling. Recycling is good for the environment, but comes last on the list because it involves a second manufacturing process, which takes energy and may create polluting by-products.
For more information see:
Homeowner’s Guide to Stormwater Management, Philadelphia Water Department. http://phillywatersheds.org/doc/Homeowners_guide_to_stormwater_management.pdf
Seemans, Rose. The Pet Poo Pocket Guide: How to Safely Compost and Recycle Pet Waste
© 2016, Friends of West Mill Creek Park