Sunday, 20 August 2017

Dog Poo: What's the Right Thing to Do?

Dog poo bag hanging from a tree

It's a fairly common sight in Orton, but I'd never caught someone in the act before. I'm writing this in August, with Christmas some four months away, so why are local residents hanging things from trees?

I'm afraid I'm talking about dog poo. More specifically, the bags of dog poo that dangle from trees around Orton.

Why do dog owners do this? Why bother to pick up after your dog and pop the mess into a bag only to then throw the bag into a tree?

As I'd had the misfortune of observing someone do it, I thought I'd ask them (to protect their identity, and because they promised me they wouldn't do it again, I'll keep the identity of the dog owner and the location to myself this time).

The answer didn't really surprise me: lack of dog bins and too much distance between dog bins.

Why are there so few dog bins in Orton?

This largely depends on where in Orton you are.

Residents have complained to me about the lack of dog bins across Orton for some time now (Orton Southgate in particular). Except Orton Northgate that is, where there are five dog bins in close proximity to one another. These red dog bins are infrequently emptied, having put there by the Northgate developer's managing agent. An overflowing dog bin is no pleasure to live by.

The reason we don't have more dog bins in other parts of Orton (and elsewhere in Peterborough) is the cost of emptying them. But should this really make a difference? What happened to 'take your litter home with you'? I wouldn't dream of throwing a bag of dog poo anywhere but in a bin, and I'm quite rebellious.

The city council says that all bins in Orton now double as dog waste bins so if you see any kind of bin you can put your bagged dog waste into it.

"If I hang it on the tree the council will collect it"

Err... not necessarily. Many of the bags are plucked from branches by volunteers like me who don't wish to live in a public dog toilet.

While you may believe that hanging your dog poo bags on trees sends a message to the city council it really doesn't. What it does is make our environment look nasty.

Across our city, Peterborough City Council is introducing PSPOs (public space protection orders) that forbid any kind of littering. If you are caught in breach of a PSPO you will be fined. It won't be a council worker who approaches you, but a member of the Kingdom team, a third party company the city council has contracted to watch us for any wrongdoing and which benefits financially when we do something 'wrong'. Personally, I think it will be a very sad day for Orton if a PSPO were to be introduced here to kerb something as basic as dog poo management.

Find a stick & flick it

So what are you supposed to do if your dog does a poo and there is no dog poo bin nearby?

1. Ideally, bag the poo and carry it with you to the nearest bin or take it home with you. This is the best thing to do. Dog poo is dangerous and not just to humans. It can cause harm to delicate ecosystems too. Taking it home and disposing of if with your household waste or placing it into a council public litter bin is the best thing to do. Please note that ANY public bin will do. It doesn't have to be a designated dog bin. If disposing of it at home, it should go in your black 'general waste' bin to be taken to landfill.

2. If you are unable to carry it to the nearest bin or to your home then, please, DO NOT BAG IT. When you throw bagged dog mess into a tree or hedgerow you introduce plastic to the natural environment that takes many years to biodegrade. It also looks horrible when, come autumn, the leaves fall from the trees. Instead of bagging it, find a stick and flick the poo it into the bushes. While this is not the ideal solution, it is infinitely better to do this than to throw a plastic bag into a tree.

3. If you have forgotten to bring dog poo bags on your walk, use the 'stick and flick' method to flick the dog poo away from places where people walk.

Julie flicking dog poo into undergrowth with a stick
No dog poo bags?
Flick it into the undergrowth with a stick.
Suitable for keen golfers (put, don't pitch).

What about 'biodegradable bags'?

Biodegradable bags still look awful hanging from a tree or on the ground and they still take several months to biodegrade. The introduction of dog poo to the natural environment, whether in a biodegradable bag or not, is harmful. Dog poo contains many toxins that hurt the environment, and harmful bacteria found in dog poo can pass from other animals to people and can also pollute our waterways.

Do use biodegradable bags, but bin them so they will be disposed of in landfill sites where they will biodegrade, not in our trees or hedgerows.

If you can't find a public bin, it is better to leave the dog poo where it is than to bag it and throw it in a tree. Better still, bag it and take it home with you for disposal in your black bin. Failing that, find a stick and flick it away from the path. Please stop adding to the amount of plastics in our environment. Out of sight may be out of mind as far as you are concerned but the harm that plastics do to our wildlife and natural environment is far greater than you might imagine.

Dog poo bag on the ground
The bags often fall out of the trees onto the forest floor where they
suffocate the earth and take years to biodegrade

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