How to dispose of cat litter the green way.

March 16, 2021 4 min read

We love cats, and we want to see them stay healthy and happy. But we also love sea otters, beavers, and nesting birds. Nature is a beautiful, fragile thing. Unfortunately, cat litter does serious harm to the health and habitats of many other creatures.

The good news is: It doesn't have to.

With a little ingenuity, you can help create a more sustainable planet. The best way is by purchasing cat litter that does little environmental harm and then disposing of it safely and responsibly.

Here's the scoop on cat litter and the natural world:

 

How cat litter causes damage to the environment

Almost all bentonite clay in the U.S. is obtained through strip mining. Engineers identify the mineral below the soil. Then, bulldozers scrape off the topsoil, trees, and vegetation. Blasting caps are inserted into the first layer of rock if necessary, and all the detritus gets dumped nearby. Finally, miners dig the clay out of the earth.

Estimates vary regarding how much of this clay turns into pet waste absorbent, but it's somewhere between 25% and 85%. That's a lot of environmental damage just to help manage cat poop!

Most of the clay for traditional coarse cat litter gets mined in the southeastern states such as Georgia and Alabama. For the clumping clay litter, companies turn to the distinctive clay buried in northwest states like Wyoming and South Dakota. Strip mining destroys animal habitats, pollutes water sources, and contributes to ecological imbalance in these states. 

Fortunately, you can take advantage of environmentally friendlier options for your cat.

Green litter choices include materials such as corn, wheat, grass, newspaper pellets, and wood pellets. Yes, biodegradable litter comes at a higher price point than the grocery-store stuff, but purchasing one of these products can help end the ecological damage that mining for clay creates. 

Strip mining isn't the only environmental problem cat litter creates. There's also the matter of litter disposal.

Some pet owners flush used cat litter down the toilet. It may seem like a simple and pain-free solution, but once that litter swirls out of the bowl, it creates chaos all along its way. Sewage systems weren't designed to transport cat litter. Water treatment facilities can't handle it well. And too much of it ends up in rivers, lakes, and oceans where it wreaks havoc on aquatic life.

If you've been flushing your cat's litter, you'll hear no judgement from us. Lots of folks do it because they just don't know the harm it can cause. But now that you know, we want to share two alternative ways that you can keep your house clean, your cat happy, and the planet breathing easier.

 

Two green ways to dispose of cat litter

1. Compost your cat's litter safely.
You can't compost clay litter, but most other kinds break down beautifully. Just remember that you're composting the litter only, not the products your cat left amidst the pebbles. Even then, you're going to end up tossing some fecal matter into your compost bin. Consequently, you'll want to use this compost on your decorative beds and not on vegetables or other edible plants. 

2. Bag it in a biodegradable container.
Scoop up your litter into a biodegradable bag and toss it into your garbage. You can buy a bag, or you can just wrap your used litter in a newspaper, tie it up, and dispose of it that way. One thing to watch out for if you buy a bag: Many biodegradable options don't actually deteriorate in any meaningful way. Check the ASTM international standards to determine if your poop bags meet the strictest criteria for biodegradability.

 

What about toilet training a cat?

The best advice says not to do it. Although Mr. Jinx, the toilet-trained cat from the Ben Stiller comedy Meet the Parents, earned plenty of respect for his agility, toilet training isn't a good idea for ordinary pets. It's not safe. Too much can go wrong, and besides, you're potentially flushing toxoplasmosis right into the water system. Not a good idea.

 

Three other tips to shrink your cat's carbon pawprint 

1. Scoop with hard plastic or metal.
Disposable scoops go right into the landfill. Not to mention, these can break and often don't really get the job done. Modkat's scoop lasts practically forever and is designed to get right in the corners of our boxes.

2. Stick with reusable liners (or no liners).
Disposable liners are like anything else made to throw away — bad for the planet. Stick with a liner that's made to last. Our Modkat liners, for instance, should give you minimum three solid months of easy clean up and odor control. Whatever you use, please avoid plastic trash bags. Your world and your cat will appreciate it.

3. Clean with environmentally friendly cleansers.
Bleach, harsh powders, and powerful scents can harm both kitty and Mother Nature. Try cleaning with baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice, or another sensitive-but-effective cleanser. Take a look at our 10 tips for a safe spring cleaning for more cat-friendly practices when you're spiffing up your place.

Going green as a cat owner means making thoughtful choices. Maybe it's buying an alternative litter such as wheat or wood pellets, or maybe it's composting your leftover litter for the community flower garden. It might even be as simple as dropping your cat waste into an old newspaper instead of flushing it. 

The sea otters will appreciate you.

And so will your kitty. 



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