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Composting Dog Waste at Home

Updated on July 29, 2012

Picking up and disposing of dog waste, poop, land mines, or whatever you call it, is a major hassle in a dog owners life. When walking a dog, many owners just leave the waste in neighbors yards, on the side of the road, or in public places. This creates tiny point sources for nitrogen and ecoli to run off and pollute streams and rivers. Our solution most of the time is to pick up the waste, plop it in a bag and toss it into the trash. Yet, these plastic bags do not break down in a reasonable amount of time. Even compostable or biodegradable bags will enud up in a land fill. Dog waste contributes a very significant amount of nitrogen and harmful bacteria to our water cycle and we put millions of pounds of dog aste into landfills each year. However there is a way to create a sustainable waste composter at home that can actually provide a benefit to the owner.

What you need:

  • A Large Plastic (not metal) trashcan - 30 to 55 gallon size (the larger the better)
  • Drill with a 3/8" bit
  • Gravel (1/2" size is perfect, must be larger than the drill bit diameter) a few bags from a hardware store should do the trick.
  • Sand (optional) two large bags from a hardware store.
  • Grass clippings, hay, cedar trimmings or compost (about a 5 gallon bucketfull)
  • Rid-X or other septic treatment to start the composter.

Round plastic trashcans are the best choice for a dog waste composter
Round plastic trashcans are the best choice for a dog waste composter | Source

Building The Composter

Remove any moving handles, and wheels from the trashcan with a saw and the appropriate tools. Molded plastic handles can stay attached. Drill numerous holes in the bottom two thirds of the trashcan, leaving the top third solid and intact. Drill a hole every two inches or so, the trashcan should look like a giant collander or pasta strainer when you are finished.

Pick a spot away from your water well (if you have one), and garden if possible and mark out a circle just larger than the diameter of the trashcan. Make sure you are away from utilities or anything that might be damaged by a large hole. If you are unsure, you can call the utility companies and have them mark out where the gas water and electric lines are. Private wells will not have markouts available, so do not install this between the well and your house.

Now we have to dig a hole. Yes, this is the difficult part. This is a big hole, and it will take some time and effort to dig, but the exercise is a great benefit. The hole should be just larger than the trashcan and deep enough to make the trash can sit just below the surface.

Now we pour two inches of stone in the bottom of the hole and set the trashcan on top and pack firmly. The lip of the trashcan should stick up enough that you can still attach the lid. Fill around the bottom trashcan with gravel, for about six inches, packing down with the shovel handle. You can chose to add another six inches of sand on top of this as well but ti is not necessary. Pack the dirt from the hole around the trashcan to the surface.

Throw some dirt, about 2-4 shovel-fulls in the can, and toss in some grass clippings or compost. Pour in a little bit of the Rid-X or septic treatment and mix it up. Spray with a hose or pour water in the bin to saturate the mix. Done!

Don't forget to add grass clippings to the composter to keep the nutrient levels balanced!
Don't forget to add grass clippings to the composter to keep the nutrient levels balanced! | Source

Using the Composter

You will need to give your composter about two weeks before you can use it.Throw in some more grass clippings or compost after the first week and a little bit more of the Rid-X / septic treatment. Keep the compost moist by adding water if you need to. After two weeks start adding any doggie waste, with a little Rid-X / septic treatment each time until you use up the entire treatment. Make sure to add some grass clippings or ready made compost every week to keep the waste a bit dilluted and make sure the compost stays moist (shouldn't be a problem). If the composter fills above the 2/3 mark, add some more septic treatment and let it rest for a week or two. One composter should sufice for one dog, or two smaller dogs. A second may benecessary if you have two or myre larger dogs. By cycling two composters , you should always have one free.

Turn your compost over once every 2 months and make sure to rinse that shovel thoroughly after. If you want to spread the compost make sure you let it sit without adding anything for at least a month so that the waste will break down remove any harmful issues associated with it. Adding cedar chips to the composter will help to reduce any smells that are associated with it. Other natural options to reduce smell are adding a bit of lime, or placing a piece of plastic over the composter before you cover it.


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    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 

      6 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      Awesome idea for dog owners. Definitely need to share this with friends! -K

    • JillKostow profile image

      Jill Kostowskie 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I never thought about the waste filled plastic bags we throw away each week. With two dogs that really adds up quick. This is an excellent idea and I think we may try it!! Voted up and useful!!

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 

      6 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thoughtful advice on a stinky topic. Well done.

    • starbright profile image

      Lucy Jones 

      6 years ago from Scandinavia

      Now there's a wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing this composting idea for doggy waste. Voted up.

    • lindacee profile image


      6 years ago from Arizona

      What a great composting idea, Charles! I think more people need to consider options like these to keep pet waste out of our landfills. (I live in a apartment, but I use flushable dog poop bags that biodegrade in water.) Thanks for sharing this eco-friendly way to dispose of Fido's droppings and get some rich compost as part of the bargain!


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