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Percentage of pet waste vs. other trash

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Pet waste compared to other U.S. waste

When reviewing the data for waste quantities below, keep in mind that anaerobic degradation of organics such as pet waste in landfills results in methane emissions that impact air quality.

  • Each ton of organic waste disposed of as landfill and broken down by anaerobic fermentation releases about one ton of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2–e) of greenhouse gases, mostly in the form of methane.”

  • Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States, accounting for approximately 15.1 percent of these emissions in 2018.

  • In “Strategies for Reducing Degradable Organic Wastes in Landfills" the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources states: “Current landfill designs and practices do not provide for degradation of landfilled organic wastes within a defined and reasonable timeframe. Un-degraded organic wastes can potentially cause future environmental or economic impacts if the landfill gas and leachate collection and containment systems (cap and/or liner) fail at some time in the future. Potential economic burdens and environmental risks associated with these undegraded wastes will be largely borne by future generations.”

Printed in black: direct data from EPA 2018 Facts and Figures (disposal of traditionally quantified materials)

*estimated amount of dog and cat waste by weight streamed to landfill

**estimated amount of pet waste in residential waste stream reported by Canadian sources






Municipal Solid Waste

Materials Landfilled (in % of total MSW % recycled % combusted with

(millions of tons) energy recovery


Food 35.28 21.5 Composting 21.85

6.08

Other

management

41.57


Plastics 26.97 12.20 4.47 16.27


Paper/ 17.22 23.05 66.54 12.16

paperboard


Metals 13.93 8.76 12.62 8.54


Wood 12.15 6.10 4.49 8.22


Dog & cat 12?* 12?*

waste


Textiles 11.3 5.80 Rubber + 9.32

leather +

textiles

6.05


Yard 10.53 12.11 52.35 7.44

trimmings


Glass 7.55 4.19 4.43 4.75


Rubber & 4.99 3.13 Rubber + 7.24

leather leather +

textiles

6.05


Misc. 3.27 1.39 0 2.32

inorganic


Other 2.93 1.56 1.40 1.91


* Six and a half million tons of dog waste plus 3.6 million tons of cat waste plus two million tons of disposed litter totals approximately 12 million tons of pet waste streamed to U.S. landfills each year.

Summary

This data projection shows that pet waste is under the radar. But the need for accurate data on the quantity and its relationship to other MSW is essential to developing standardized best practices for diverting pet waste from landfills.



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