What is the best policy when picking up poo?

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A reader wonders what is the best policy from an environmental aspect of poo picking.

Q: I am lucky enough to live in a very rural area surrounded by fields with access to footpaths and bridleways — perfect dog walking country. However, I have a question regarding the management of my dog’s poo. I have always picked up after him, even when he goes onto the side of the track we are walking on, or into the undergrowth alongside the fields. However, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the number of poo bags I end up putting in our household waste bin! What is the best policy on poo picking from an environmental perspective? Should we pick up every time in rural areas like this, or if the poo is hidden in the undergrowth or off the footpath does it make more sense to leave it to break down naturally?

Carla Roberts, Nottinghamshire

Stephen says:  You are absolutely right to pick up after your dog wherever you are, in town or country, as that’s the best way to avoid breaking the law. Plus, apart from dog poo passing fatal diseases to sheep and cattle, treading in it gets all dog owners a bad name.

Worst of all is leaving bagged dog poo behind. Apart from being unsightly and creating a litter hazard for farm and wild animals, poo becomes more infectious over time; it’s safest to pick up and remove when it’s fresh. 

Given the problem of a few irresponsible dog walkers leaving filled bags behind, plus the costs of transporting dog waste to landfill or for incineration, a ‘flick it off the path’ approach was adopted in some areas; the idea being if people didn’t tread in it, and it was away from grazed areas, leaving poo to naturally decompose seemed a more environmentally friendly option.

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However, with ever more people walking dogs, and concerns about water pollution, the preferred approach now is to always pick up, everywhere, and place it in a waste bin on-site or at home.

The best option though is to compost your dog’s poo at home; if you look online you’ll see lots of options and advice. It’s vital to use compostable bags; look out for the good ones made of corn starch, as not all bags that claim to be ‘biodegradable’ are compostable nor are they always environmentally friendly.