Pets’ waste lurks in many corners

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Let’s tackle a serious reality for us pet owners: what goes in, must come out… How to dispose of dog and cat’s food tins, the waste of packed dog biscuits and food sacks, but most important cat litter and dog poop, can be an issue! From point of view of recycling: our dogs are all rescue dogs but one.

We used to buy food tins for our pets, to give them additional meat to their daily kibble (per month: about 20 tins for the dogs and the even amount for the cats)! Add to that: buying sacks of cat litter and the waste of the cat litter weekly… Imagine the waste we have to bring to the recycling bin and the litter we had to put in our dustbin bags…

How to go zero waste with cats

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Cat food:

There are brands in fully recyclable packaging, do a good search (check PETA lists for the most humane pet food lists) and use stainless steel feeder.

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Making your own cat food is not difficult but time-consuming. Never use garlic, onions, raisins, raw egg whites, tomatoes or grapes when you do! Poultry, beef, pork, rabbit, fish or liver will do the job. We boil and mince it into a kind of pate, good for one week’s worth and our cats like it. Many recipes on the net add sweet potato and meat drippings to the mixture.

Cat litter:

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Plain sawdust is a wonderful, inexpensive, and delightfully green cat litter that utilises a wasted resource. Most cats love its texture. The nearby sawing mill gladly donates the sawdust (1 euro per sack), we transport / stock it in old doggy food bags, giving those a second life. You can add baking soda in to reduce the smell, better is to change the litter regularly!

Or try a commercially produced litter made from pine or cedar, it tends to have pleasant, natural scents, and has been processed in such a way as to be significantly more absorbent than plain sawdust. However, it is somewhat expensive by comparison.

Wheat-based natural litters are also a compost-friendly. Composed of wheat husk–a by-product of the food-farming industry–they are an odourless, clean, and renewable option that is usually readily accepted by most cats and sufficiently absorbent.

You can find litter made from recycled newspaper too.

Don’t use any box liners, just wash the box out with soap and water.

Cat feces and litter:

Cat feces pose a great threat to human health, because they may transmit toxoplasmosis. It is said that cat litter waste must be left to compost for at least eighteen months before it is completely safe to use on edible crops, but I would never use it on edible crops composted, even knowing cat litter tends to be cleaner and less prone to parasites than typical garden soil.

Clay-based, sand-based, and crystalline litters are not compatible with use in compost, since they can damage the structure of your soil and cause synthetic toxins to leak into your garden. The best choices for compostable cat litters are those made from natural, living sources (see above).

How to go zero waste with dogs

Dog food:

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Our butcher gives us tons of meat leftovers weekly for free and we cut it up, boil it (time consuming!) and use it with its gravy as extra food to their kibbles. The bones are an additional treat!

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Dog manure:

Tons of it and it weighs! The primary hazard present in dog manure is roundworms, but when composting is done correctly, dog waste can be composted safely and to great benefit of the surrounding environment. Pet waste cannot be composted with organic food waste but can be composted separately and easily.

Composting reduces the volume of waste by over 50 percent!

Once composted it could be used as a side-dressing for nonfood plants, fruit-bearing shrubs and trees, and other cultivars whose edible parts are not in direct contact with the soil. Be sure, though, never to use the fertiliser in areas where children might play.

Some people apparently flush it, but with 9 dogs I don’t see myself doing that seen the amount of water flushed! Compost is a better solution, composted dog waste can be used on ornamentals, but not on food crops. We decided not to put the composted dog waste in our garden, but just let it compost in one of our fields nearby.

To start your compost:

  1. Dig a hole in the ground, sprinkle with 2 packages of septic starter (available at hardware stores) and add 1 liter of water, this is the starting point.
  2. 48 hours later the septic tank starter (non-caustic, promoting natural bacterial growth) has begun to do its work, add more dog poo daily so it can biodegrade.
  3. Add a one-inch layer of sawdust, leaves, chopped yard waste to hasten the process. Compost mixtures require adequate carbon to help break down the nitrogen rich manure. Sawdust is almost pure carbon and will compliment the high nitrogen content of this manure.
  4. You can cover the pile with black plastic, if necessary, to keep heat in and help focus solar energy on the pile.
  5. After one year, or as little as six months the compost can be used.

Homemade dog biscuits

Two recipes our dogs adore:

Broth biscuits: Mix

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  • 2 ½ cups flour,
  • 1 tsp salt,
  • 1 egg,
  • ½ cup of hot chicken/beef broth.

Knead dough until it forms a ball, knead little balls, flatten them to a circle and cut in two. Twenty minutes in an 180° oven will do the job (or till golden brown).

Apple carrot biscuits: Mix

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  • ½ teaspoon salt,
  • 1 cup flour,
  • 1 cup grated carrots,
  • 1 grated apple,
  • 1 egg.

Same preparation as the recipe above.

Dog’s toys, baskets, collars, leads

If you don’t use them anymore they can always be donated to animal rescue to give the items a second life!

For us reducing our pets’ overall waste, was the biggest zero waste challenge and the above mentioned initiatives are a lot better than to place all pet waste  into the bin in plastic bags, even if those bags are labeled biodegradable!

Cutting down our carbon paw print,

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