With the increase in environmental awareness grows the demand for eco-friendly pet products and green solutions. Buying plant-based cat litter is just the first step towards an eco-lifestyle. Equally important, if not more important, is the sustainable pet waste management.
In this article, you will learn how to properly dispose any kind of cat litter in tle legal and an eco-friendly way, as well as why you shouldn’t compost cat excrements or throw biodegradable litter into the toilet.
A word of introduction
To create this article I consulted with dozens companies and state offices in Poland dealing with the environment, sewage system, utilization and waste management as well as a litter producers.
The topic is quite extensive, but I will try to explain and illustrate it in the most friendly way possible for you.
Popular methods of disposing cat litter
I conducted a survey among our instagram @apollo.fluffy.cat followers:
- Composter or bio-waste bin
- Mixed waste bin
Unfortunately, some of the popular methods are incorrect for both environmental and legal reasons. Let me tell you why.
How to NOT dispose of used litter
In order for you to understand how to dispose properly, you must first find out which methods and why they are incorrect.
Cat litter should not be flushed down the toilet
When you see the litter falling apart under the influence of moisture, you think that you have found your ecological Eldorado and now all your problems along with the litter will flow into the sea through sewage pipes. Unfortunately this is a trap!
Even if the litter is biodegradable or breaks down into really tiny particles, it still poses a threat to the sewage system. No litter (neither vegetable nor mineral) completely dissolves in water and forms suspended matter.
Shredded mass can accumulate in sewer lines limiting their capacity and even causing blockages.
“This is particularly important where, due to the low speed of wastewater flow, there is no self-cleaning of sanitary channels .” – adds a representative of the GWIK.
There is also a risk that litter can lead to excessive wear and damage to devices and pumps in the sewage system and treatment plant.
Throwing lumpy and highly hygroscopic litters, e.g. bentonite, into the toilet can lead to clogging of the sewage pipes in the apartment, and in consequence flooding the flat!
Throwing cat litter into the toilet is against the law in some countries
In my country, the matter is regulated by the Act on Collective Water Supply and Collective Waste Water Disposal (DU 2001, 72, 747), which states that solid wastes such as sand, gravel, textiles, fibers and so on cannot be discharged into the sewage system, even if they are broken into tiny particles. Please notice that I am writing about Poland – where I live, so don’t forget to check out law regulations in your country.
So no matter what it was made of (gravel, sand, silicate or plant fibers), cat litter is solid waste and it is forbidden to throw cat litter into the toilet, even if it is biodegradable!
“We strongly recommend that you do not dispose cat litter into the municipal sewage system, even if it is made of biodegradable plant fiber. “- sums up the representative of the MPWIK Warsaw.
Why do litter producers place information about the possibility of disposal in the toilet?
A significant proportion of products marked in this way are produced on a larger scale than one country. You should remember that in different countries sewage networks differ in terms of construction, and different laws apply in different countries. A good example of this is the sewage system in some Greek cities, where it is strictly forbidden to throw even tissues or toilet paper due to narrow sewer pipes.
Even if the gravel is biodegradable and the packaging indicates that such a possibility is present, in Poland no type of litter should be flushed into the toilet. Please, don’t forget to check out law regulations in your country.
No contaminated cat litter should be disposed of in the bio-waste bins
According to the current guidelines for waste segregation , animal faeces (i.e. also gravel contaminated with faeces) should not be disposed of in brown biowaste bins.
For example, the segregation rules for brown containers for bio-waste (based on information provided by the MCK Warsaw 19115 ) are as follows:
- vegetable and fruit waste,
- egg shells,
- coffee and tea grounds,
- withered flowers and houseplants,
- food leftovers without meat, bones or animal fats.
- animal extrements,
- edible oil,
- earth and stones,
- meat residues, bones and animal fats.
Please, don’t forget to check out law regulations in your country.
What about cat litter that is not contaminated with excrement?
“In the case of litter that has not been used by any animal, it must be handled in accordance with the indications indicated on the packaging.” – answers a representative of Ekosystem Sp. z o.o.
What about composting biodegradable cat litter?
Throwing biodegradable gravel into your garden or composting plant may seem tempting, but unfortunately this is not the best idea. Why? Representative of Ekosystem Sp. z o.o. recalls: “It is worth remembering that biodegradability does not mean compostability.”
The fact that the litter is biodegradable does not mean that it should be thrown into compost or into the garden!
- Disintegration occurs in a long, indefinite period (it may take decades).
- For full decay it needs special conditions – the right temperature and the presence of microorganisms.
- It can leave toxins or residues if the toxic ingredients do not fall apart.
Materials marked with special eco-labels – Seedling EN 13432 or OK Compost.
- It falls apart relatively quickly.
- As a result of decomposition, compost is created, i.e. organic fertilizer.
- Does not leave visible or toxic residues.
The final product of the decomposition of composted material provides nutrients to the soil and has the least environmental impact. However, the degradation of biodegradable material can take a long time and there is 100% certainty whether everything will break down.
It is worth remembering, however, that certification is quite expensive and not every manufacturer can afford it! If you are in doubt as to whether the product is suitable for composting, contact the litter producer.
Can cat droppings be composted or disposed in the garden?
Even if cat droppings are 100% natural and your intuition tells you that this is a great idea, you should neither compost cat droppings or fertilize your garden with them. Pet droppings (cats and dogs) can be dangerous even when broken. Temperatures reached in home composters are not high enough to cause the death of all parasites, viruses and bacteria in animal faeces.
Composting and fertilizing the garden with cat droppings can be dangerous and lead to infections, e.g. toxoplasmosis (parasitic disease caused by Toxoplasma gondii protozoan) or toxocarosis (parasitic disease caused by cat’s roundworms).
How do you get rid of used cat litter?
All officials and representatives of the companies I contacted agreed that there was only one right way to dispose of used cat litter:
Bin for mixed waste
You can throw all kinds of litter and animal droppings into the mixed waste bin.
Pet droppings should be thrown into a mixed waste container. (…) If we are dealing with responsible and ecological care of cats, we should not look for “bypassing” the applicable regulations. “- commented the media representative of the Polish Department of Education and Communication in the Ministry of Climate.
Do you still have doubts about where to throw away used cat litter? Here are the results from the waste sorting search engine:
- Dirty wooden cat litter – throw it into a container for mixed waste
- Dirty corn cat litter – throw it into a container for mixed waste
- Dirty bentonite cat litter – throw it into a container for mixed waste
- Dirty silca cat litter – throw it into a container for mixed waste
- Dirty cat litter – throw it into a container for mixed waste
If you are looking for safe, ecological and legal methods for utilizing gravel and cat droppings, they are definitely not: flushing to the toilet, throwing it into containers for bio-waste, composting and fertilizing the garden.
In addition, remember: DO NOT USE a litter box liner. Why? The plastic liner is very unpleasant experience for the cat, because it rustle loudly and has an unpleasant slippery texture. Also it is not eco-friendly!
It turns out that among so many popular methods of utilizing cat litter, only one is really sustainable and ecological, and above all supported by all representatives of Polish offices and companies dealing with sewage, utilization and waste management, which I contacted.
A place for the disposal of all types of cat litter and excrements is the binf for mixed waste!
Other ECO topics
Check the EKO? section for articles on eco-lifestyle and reviews of sustainable products for cats.
I would like to thank everyone who devoted their time and helped me interpret the law and the principles of waste segregation, in particular the representatives of:
– Departament Edukacji i Komunikacji Ministerstwo Klimatu
– Ekosystem Sp. z o.o.
– Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Wodociągów i Kanalizacji we Wrocławiu
– Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Wodociągów i Kanalizacji w Warszawie
– Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Wodociągów i Kanalizacji w Krakowie
– Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Wodociągów i Kanalizacji w Rzeszowie
– Gdańska Infrastruktura Wodociągowo-Kanalizacyjnej Sp. z o.o
– Zakład Wodociągów i Kanalizacji sp. z o.o. w Łodzi
– Toruńskie Wodociągi Sp. z o.o
– Katowickie Wodociągi S.A.
– P.P.H.U. LEKARO
– Ekologiczne żwirki Zakop i Zapomnij
– Dział Ochrony Środowiska Wodociągi i Kanalizacja w Opolu Sp. z o.o.
– Biuro Ochrony Środowiska Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Oczyszczania Sp. z o.o. w Toruniu