Let’s be honest. Composting can seem pretty gross to the uninitiated. Unless you regularly take out your kitchen scraps to your compost pile when you’ve got fresh rinds or peels, you’ve probably dealt with some brown, yucky materials. Of course, when it’s all finished, there are no traces of these materials, and what’s created is a wonderfully rich compost material that should smell like luscious earth.
And speaking of gross, there is the large question of whether or not you can use poop in your compost bin. The answer, of course, depends on what kind of poop you want to use.
POOP TO AVOID COMPOSTING:
Because domestic house pets (like dogs and cats) are carnivorous by nature, their poop should NOT be added to a compost pile. Human poop also (even if someone is a vegetarian!) should never be added to a compost bin or pile. Both dogs and cats have organisms in their stomachs and can also have diseases in their poop that are harmful to the composting process and plant life, and ultimately humans. These diseases can get into the plants you eat, and should not be digested. Human poop can carry pathogens, diseases and organisms that can be extremely harmful.
Now, there are certain worm composting bins that are ok for dog poop. Earth worms and red wrigglers love to feed off of dog droppings, and the worm poop created (called castings) is a very rich, usable compost that is safe to use in the garden.
If you are determined to use human poop for composting, there are composting toilets available. It might sound a little funny, but they do have many benefits to an eco-friendly lifestyle.
Basically, cat poop is never OK to use in composting, but dog poop is OK to use with a worm composting bin. Do note: If you want to put dog poop in a worm composting bin, you can only put in dog poop. Worms do not eat food scraps and poop. They will only eat one or the other so don’t mix.
POOP YOU CAN SAFELY ADD TO YOUR COMPOSTER:
Who’s poop is OK to use in a compost pile? Herbivores. Cows, horses, sheep, essentially all grass grazing animals produce great nitrogen-rich droppings that are safe to use in a compost bin. It may not be glamorous, but shoveling in a cow pie or two will give your compost pile a real boost.
Try using pies that are not the freshest in the field, but instead, use droppings that have started to dry out or decompose already. This way, they can be made into smaller pieces and not just one lump piece floating around. This will help make it more effective in your pile or bin.
Other animals with beneficial poop for your composter: bats, ducks, goats, pigs, pigeons and any other vegetarian animal! Be careful with bird droppings because it might contain weed seeds.
Still want to compost dog poop?
These Flush Puppy dog poop bags can be flushed in a regular toilet. It isn’t really composting, but it’s a relatively eco friendly way to get rid of the dog poop. Municipal sewer systems (and septic tanks) are designed to effectively deal with poop, and it won’t end up petrified in a plastic bag sitting in a landfill somewhere this way.
This Doggy Dooley dog poop composter is a small bin that you bury into the ground. (Everything except the lid is underground, so it doesn’t take up much space in the yard.) You pop open the lid to put poop inside, which decomposes underground. There’s an enzyme product that you sprinkle into the bin to help with decomposition. It costs about $59.
63 thoughts on “Poop? Or no poop?”
1. Why is it ok to use compost from a composting toilet, but not ok to add humanure to a compost pile to use as fertilizer?
2. Native Americans buried fish scraps in their fields for hundreds of years. Were they doing the wrong thing?
3. What if a carnivorous bear poops in my garden? Am I in danger?
4. With bird dropping, shouldn’t we be equally worried about bird flu or encephalitis?
5. Where are your references?
1. Composting toilets are specially designed to break down human poop into a final product that isn’t dangerous. Doing it yourself by adding it to your compost pile is just asking for trouble. In theory, it might be potentially possible to do it safely yourself. In practice, it’s something that most people should avoid.
2. Burying meat and dairy and things like that is fine — such as with trench composting. You just don’t want to add it to your above-ground compost pile or bin, because it becomes putrid and/or attracts rodents and animals.
3. I’d be more worried about the bear itself than the poop!
4. In general, you can use bird droppings in your compost pile. They’ll heat up and break down during the composting process, and the aerobic bacteria that heat up during composting will destroy any pathogens. You’d never want to touch any kind of poop with your bare hands. And if you feel uncomfortable handling bird droppings, you should avoid it.
5. If you flip through a number of composting books in your local bookstore, you’ll find that they mostly agree with the approach listed on this page. Some of them have slightly varying advice, of course. The Humanure guy, for example, is big on how you can compost human poop safely if you do it right. http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/humanure.html If you get any kind of poop hot enough when you compost it, it would theoretically be okay. But this guide is written for your average person who is going to compost at home. So the best rule of thumb is to avoid most carnivorous poop. Why risk making yourself sick? We aren’t presenting a peer reviewed research paper — it’s just a basic helpful guide.
can I put chicken droppings in the compost pile?
Yes, you can use chicken droppings. Just don’t use dog or cat or any other carnivore!
Chicken droppings are extremely acidic. If adding them make sure you add something alchaline like ground egg shell.
If I don’t have access to fresh manure, can I just add bagged manure to my compost heap?
Manure isn’t a necessary ingredient, so you don’t have to add it at all if you don’t have it handy.
I think it would be wasteful to buy bagged manure, just to compost it. Instead, try adding other nitrogen rich materials like coffee grounds (which you can get free from Starbucks if you ask!) or vegetable scraps.
If my dogs are vegetarians, can I compost their poop? Or, should I have a separate worm compost area for that still?
No, you still want to avoid it, because dogs are omnivores. Same goes with people, even if they eat vegetarian.
The safest thing is to only compost poop of herbivores — not omnivores or carnivores.
You are a disgusting person if you force your dogs to eat a strictly vegetarian diet! What’s wrong with you? You should be arrested for animal abuse. I feed my dogs veggies, but they get meat, too BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT THEY FUCKING EAT! What dogs do you see planting and harvesting tomatoes? I bet you put them in little sweaters, too. They’re DOGS not PEOPLE.
Do your dogs go out and kill their own food? That’s what I thought musty rusty.
I love you Rusty. I was thinking the exact same thing.
hahahahahaha….ahhh, I’m glad you said it…esp the sweater part
I had a dog who could not process animal protein and developed horrendous ear infections. She was on a special dog food and loved her veggie treats.
What about using dog/cat poop in compost that you are only using for flower beds and not in a vegetable garden.
Cat poop is dangerous, period, in my opinion. Pregnant women should not go anywhere near it. Dog poop, maybe.
One of the instructors in my master composting classes did indeed compost pet poop that he only used in flower beds.
Personally, I would only bury or throw away any kind of poop and would not try to compost it. There are so many other things that you can compost that aren’t potentially dangerous, so it’s better to stick with those.
I have 3 black labradors, so needless to say I have a lot of dog poop on a weekly basis. Right now, I currently dispose of it in the city garbage weekly pickup. I’m thinking of getting a worm bin JUST for their dog poop so I can use it around the shrubs and flowers. I have chickens and a household worm bin already that I use for my garden fertilizer.
I think the best idea IS to compost dog poop because if it goes to the landfill what does it do there? and if you bury it in the ground doesn’t that affect water quality to some point? I live in Oregon and if I dug a hole in my yard and then packed it with poop and then covered it, the next time it rained all that water would seep in and then what? lol… a big sh*t hole.
As far as cat poop– I’d really like to know what the deal is here. What happens to the wild cats’ poop in Africa? doesn’t it just drop on the ground? do they bury it? Must be something to do with the desert heat or something because out in the wild it just goes back to the Earth.
Do you have any references for studies concerning dog poop compost, when processed by vermicomposting being pathogen free? I have been searching but cannot find. I am working on a project to show that this is the case and would greatly appreciate your imput. Thanks
I am not aware of such a study, unfortunately.
But if you find one, would you please come back and let me know about it so that I can write a blog post about it and/or update the site?
I am getting that composting poop is tricky business. Since I am just starting out with composting on my 1/4 acre within city limits; I will do everybody a favor and not. With that said, it kills me to scoop cat litter and then put in plastic bags in the garbage for the city to take to a landfill.
I have five cats and I use “Worlds Best Cat litter”. It is made from corn and the company says it is “safe” to flush down your city toilet. Being as I have so many cats to be flushing the cat pee clumps; (almost clogged the toilet…bad idea), I just flush the poop. I use biodegradable plastic bags for the clumped cat urine and put in the in the city trash bin.
Is there another way? Should I be looking into trench composting? or burying the waste? Being so close to neighbors I really need to think of them too. I am thinking there is not much more I can do unless I move to a rural setting with a lot of property. Thanks in advance!
Cat poop can have toxins in it that are dangerous to pregnant women and can make other people very sick, so that’s the main reason to be careful around it not compost it.
I would think that burying the biodegradable cat urine clumps is probably not a big deal, as long as it doesn’t end up making some incredibly stinky area of your yard. If I were going to attempt it, I would probably bury it or trench compost it, and would not add it to my regular compost pile for fear of smells.
I also have a compostable cat litter (made of cellulose fibers) and was wondering if i could put it in the compost after getting rid of poop in the toilets. Is the smell the only issue or can urine cause problems to vegetable grown out of compost ?
I am planning on building a dog waste composter, following the basic idea of burying a garbage bin with the bottom cut out and the lid at grass level. The waste would just degrade with the help of a septic starter and leach into the soil, I would NOT be using this in any garden, just trying to get rid of the waste with out putting it in a landfill.
Could I also put our indoor cat’s litter into this type of composter? I have read that exclusivly indoor cats possible do not have the bacteria (name escapes me) that is so dangerous to pregnant women.
I guess if you were just going to leave it buried at the end anyway and not grow any food in that spot, it would probably be okay. After all, outdoor cats poop outside everywhere, and we somehow manage to deal with that.
Hello, my neighbor has two cats that are constantly using my vegetable garden as a kitty litter box (pee and poop)
I am arguing with him that this is sick and dangerous for anyone eating these vegetables. His argument is that I use horse manure for fertilization purposes – what’s the difference? Does anyone have any answers / advice?
Horses are herbivores. Cat poop is toxic.
You should use this product in your garden. I have used it, and it works.
You might also consider these:
What if my chickens eat kitchen scraps that include, meat, dairy, eggs, etc? It’s obviously a small portion of their diet (mostly grain and free ranging) but I don’t want to waste their droppings if they’re OK.
Thanks! Just got my composter at a yard sale today
Chicken poop is okay, even if you feed them some kitchen scraps. It’s dog and cat poop that you have to worry about with composting, for the most part.
Is it OK to compost meat scraps and dairy in a dog waste composter?
If it’s one of those underground composters, I suppose it would be okay. It might cause a big stinky mess, but it would be a stinky underground mess, and it would all break down eventually.
People say the same things over and over for safeties sake. These are the rules. Everyone knows it. These things can’t be composted. These things can.
But all organic matter composts in nature without our applications of science that allow for the natural processes to work faster.
I’d love to see where people say things like, “One is advised against composting meat and human waste without researching the processes completely,” instead of setting up these false rules.
Humanure can be composted safely and effectively and not just in expensive toilets.
Check the Humanure handbook for the specifics. It is available free online.
Many cats have a microscopic parasitic protozoa in their feces called toxoplasma which is what is dangerous for pregnant women and immune compromised people. In order to become infectious, it must remain outside of the body for 24-48hrs, so if litter is cleaned daily it does not have time to become infectious, thus minimizing the risk. That being said, if it was placed in your composter, it would make a perfect environment for the organism to sporulate (become infectious) and if ingested can cause serious disease of your brain and eyes (and miscarriages and stillbirths). It is probably best to not use feline feces as compost for any plants because the microscopic organism would still be in your dirt which would get on your hands and in your nails and eventually, you would eat with those hands.
Ok, I get cat poop = not a good idea, pathogens etc. What I would really like to know is about cat litter besides the poop. I use the feline pine litter; as my cats use the litter box, the sawdust pellets break down into sawdust. If I scooped out the poop, could I compost the used sawdust litter?
This is exactly my question. Anyone have any answers?????
I am thinking to get a second composter with worms and put the sawdust litter in it (among other things) and use exclusively for flowers.
@Rhonda, As far as I know worms will break down the flowers, but they need to be shreded. I suggest kitchen scraps, I know worms love them.
@PatioFarmer, Its likely ok if the finished compost is for your plants and lawn, but not for your garden. If you do get cat feces in there it could cause a problem.
I have a guinea pig and wanted to know if, aside from the poop, could I put the entire cage cleanup in the composter? It obviously has poop and pine/aspen/paper shavings but, is the urine ok too? It would be great if I could just empty the whole cage into the composter when it’s time for cleaning day! Thanks…
i just want an uncomplicated solution for the droppings that get lost in the grass. is there a lawn spread taht can break down dog and cat poop . or a garden hose treatment type .i have for odor control but for the poop itself.
I have a question: I made a doggie waste compost out of large pickle bucket with a lid. Drilled the holes all around the sides and removed the bottom. Put small rocks in the bottom. At first I scooped it out every couple of months but the last couple of months have not had to because there are zillions of small worms in there devouring the dog’s waste. Now these worms look a little bit like maggots but not quite. I don’t know what they are. I didn’t buy any redworms or anything like that. I just made the compost, add the waste, and some septic tank stuff in the beginning and just let it go. Now I want to know what are these worms and where did they come from and should I just leave them in there? They are doing a remarkable job getting rid of the waste.
We have a small herd of deer that wander and sleep around our suburbin acre yard. With their visits, we obtain guite a large amount of deer pellets. Is it ok to use these in our bin type composter? (I am just starting out in the composting world, and greatly appreciate this site!) Thanks for your help and advise! 🙂
Deer are herbivores, so it’s okay to use deer poop.
Just starting out composting and I was wondering about rabbit droppings since they are herbivores, is it ok to use for compost? And what about the bedding material (ie: pine, aspen, paper material), is it ok to add to compost eventhough it will have rabit urine? Thanks in advance…
@Stephen, Yes, that should not be a problem, both the droppings and the bedding. Make sure you have a good source of greens to even out the browns and keep the composter in the sun to be sure it gets warm enough.
can i put veggie scraps and chicken poop in a red wiggler composter?
@rachel, Yes, you can, they will love it. Try to chop the veggie scraps up into small pieces, no larger than a dime, I don’t recommend chopping the chicken poo though!
Hi, we thought we were doing the responsible thing by mixing our dog poop with our compost. Now I see that we were not. Is there anything I can do with the compost now OTHER than shovel it into a bag for the garbage truck? For example, can I just care for the compost as if there was no dog poop in it and simply spread it in my flower beds or even leave it in the container until next spring? We live in in area where winter is the primary season (7 months of the year) so I need to act fast. Thank you!
@Laura, Correct, adding dog waste to a traditional compost bin is not the best idea. However there is a way to properly dispose of the dog waste. Take a look at these products.
yes, you can use finished product around things you wont be eating ( shrubs, flowers, lawns …) Make an effort to keep the pile nice a hot. maybe, if you are concerned and have space, let it sit around another year.. If you Really nervouse, Bury it. Anythings better than trash bag, eh?
Can I compost my mother-in-law?
@Mudslinger, Yes, it is hypothetically possible however it is not recommended. Due to certain state and federal laws it is highly recommended you call a cemetery to have your mother in law properly buried.
What about using poop from my tortoise? Can this go in my compost bin? It is an African Sulcata Tortoise….herbivore.
@JasonC, I would not recomend it, turtles and tortoises are known for carrying Salmonella bacteria, better to be safe than sorry.
I would like to compost but i have no idea where to start. I just bought a house and want to make a garden and thought composting would be good for it. Any suggestions would be great thank you.
@Matthew A, Starting a compost pile is very simple, even if you just pile it up in the corner of the yard it will eventually break down and turn to finished compost. Using a container simply helps speed up the process giving the material the ideal conditions. You can even make a compost bin with cinder blocks, pallets or some other basic material. Just make sure it’s vented, and you can easily get at the material to mix (aerate) it. Keep the material (browns and greens) as wet as a rung out sponge and mix it every week or two. You want a mix of 3 to 4 parts browns to 1 part greens.
This has been very helpful and quite funny. Thanks!! 🙂
There was no answer about compusting bear poop. I live in bear country and one climbed a fence a took a dump in my back yard. Should I add it to the compost bin or not? I’m not sure what bears eat except berries and the pears in my back yard.
@Maggie, A bear will eat meat, in particular fish. I imagine bear poop is safe to compost especially if your compost gets fairly hot. Also, since there is a minimal amount of it you should be fine. Just curious, how do you know its bear poop, did you see it leave it?
I have always heard you should use lime, our soil is very sandy
@pat, Not sure about adding lime, but if you add organic material like compost it will improve the sandy soil.
No poo, but what about urine? I use pine litter for my cats. Is it ok to include the used pine dust, some of which is urine-soaked?
Composting poop is such an interesting conversation. It’s obvious that is all comes down to what the animal eats, but apparently there are still people that disagree. For example, dogs are carnivores by nature, so composting dog feces makes no sense, at all!
I have been composting cat waste for about a year. I don’t understand all of the cat shit is toxic stuff… like it is radioactive or something. Cat shit has been decomposing for as long as there have been cats. Much longer than humans have been putting their stuff in plastic bags and trotting it to landfills. Yes, cats have toxoplasmosis, which is not a joke. If your cats are entirely indoor, they probably don’t have it. I was told to let the compost season for 18 months, which I intend to do. My cat compost is in separate drum bins and I use compostable litter, which also goes into the bin (with coffee grounds which help with the odor).
If you flush or toss the waste, then it, with its horrific microorganisms is going SOMEWHERE. You just can’t see it anymore. I’ve heard that some people have concerns about flushed litter contaminating the water supply. And land fill oozes out its toxins into the water table. At least if you compost the cat waste, you can take responsibility for where it goes.
@Lisa, Glad to hear you have success with all your cat crap, it’s great to hear someone willing to work with it. The reason it’s not recommended is that cat’s carry parasites and diseases in there feces that can be dangerous to pregnant woman and those with weak immune systems. That is a fact, so if you are not pregnant, nor have a weak immune system, more power to you.
Jumping into this for questions about cat poop, myself. We have a yard that has seen a great number of pets over the years, and my husband gave up picking up droppings before I moved in 10 years ago. We have not had dogs in over 5 years, but until a year ago we did still have an outdoor cat who did her business who-knows-where in the yard. No outdoor pets now. Barring that waste that has probably long decomposed, there is at least one stray cat that frequents our yard now, as well as opossums, and we have even found raccoon droppings in our firewood pile.
This year, I decided I wanted a garden. I am starting small and using containers to begin with, and if I actually have some success, I want to plant in-ground next year or the year after. From the 3-4 year guideline above for dog waste, I am guessing that’s not a concern. Should 2 years on the cat waste be enough as well, or it is not recommended to EVER garden in-ground if there is a chance of cats coming round? Also…what could I do in or to my yard to ward off other critters from coming around so that in for next spring, my yard could be one year poop-free and perhaps satisfactory for a garden?
@Susan, I would think you are fine, I can’t image the dog or cat waste being concentrated enough in the area you are planting to cause a problem. Just till it well and add some finished compost peat moss, and manure. As for the unwanted pests, try some vinegar in a bottle and spray it around the fence are where you think they are coming in. Or you can buy something like this: http://www.cleanairgardening.com/repellent.html
Faeces are broken down by bacteria in them, and the worms eat the bacteria and pathogens. If the worms are given time (couple of months) they will convert any faeces into worm faeces – which is the humus content of soil.
Human faeces are alkaline which the worms like.
Factual note: pigs are not herbivores, but omnivores, like humans.
I am afraid this article is simply based on the idea of an untrained person, and not based in fact.
Research indicates that vermiculite effectively sterilises excrement of bacteria; and viruses won’t survive either.
Compost Science & Utilization (Winter 2001,Volume 9, Number 1) contains the landmark publication “The Effectiveness of Vermiculture in Human Pathogen Reduction for USEPA Biosolids Stabilization.” The publication of this study in a peer-reviewed scientific journal confirms the efficacy of earthworms in eliminating human pathogens in biosolids (wastewater residuals) to achieve Class A stabilization, the highest rating of the USEPA, an indication that the material has been rendered safe because it is virtually free of harmful organisms.