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The Poop Scoop (Or Way More Than You’d Ever Want to Know About Poop’s Impact on the Environment)

*Warning: The word “poop” appears 56 times in this post.

According to scientists who study this kind of thing, there are over 8.7 million species on Earth, and there’s no escaping that almost all of them poop. A lot. By 2030, all that diverse poop will yield an estimated 5 billion metric tons per year. That’s just too much, especially since most poop isn’t processed properly (or at all), and the environmental impact of that poop varies greatly from species to species. Take a look below for the 411 on number 2, and see where some of the biggest poopers fall on Ando’s revolutionary (though not-at-all-scientific) Enviro-Poop-o-Meter!  

Human

In the U.S., human poop weighs in at about 56 billion total lbs. per year, about the same as one and a half bananas each per day. In the developed world, human poop is flushed away and treated, but a lot of the developing world doesn’t have access to modern sanitation / waste treatment technology. As a result, a lot of that poop goes untreated and ends up contaminating soil, water, and all of the stuff that uses soil and water like animals and crops. Not good. However, there’s a growing effort to harness the power of human poop through technology that can convert it into energy (electricity) and fertilizer. 

So while humans are clearly part of the global poop problem, we’re the only ones who can fix it, so we skate by with a rating of merely “Super Bad” on the Enviro-Poop-o-Meter. 

Dog

American dogs produce about 21.3 billion total lbs. of poop per year, about the weight of two red apples each per day). Maybe you’re asking yourself, “How can dog poop be a problem...isn’t it all safely contained in those little plastic bags we all have shackled to our leashes?” Yes, a lot of it is, and that’s the issue. Most dog poop (about 60%, the other 40% is just waiting for your unsuspecting shoe) is picked up, and a lot of it even in “biodegradable” bags. But then those bags are just thrown away and destined for a landfill...where the bags biodegrade and then the poop is left to create the same problems as bagless poop. The key to so much poop management is composting, but most of the country doesn't have a program readily available. 

Composting tech is becoming more common and hopes to alleviate the problem in years to come, but as of right now dog poop earns every bit of its rating of “Like, Horrible” on the Enviro-Poop-o-Meter. 

Cats

U.S. cats produce about 10.2 billion total lbs. of poop per year, each pooping about the weight of a naval orange daily. Since cats are domestic house pets just like dogs, we tend to throw their poop away (coated in cat litter) with normal trash, so cat poop presents all of the same issues as dog poop. But to up the ante, cat poop contains something especially dangerous. 

According to researchers Drs. E. Fuller Torrey and Robert H. Yolken,”...Some cat poop contains Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite for which cats and other felines are the definitive host. This parasite can affect the fetus if a woman becomes infected while pregnant. That is why pregnant women are warned against changing cat litter. It’s also well-known that Toxoplasma gondii can cause major brain infections in individuals with AIDS and other conditions associated with immune deficiency.” 

Yes, cat poop is as-bad-if-not worse than dog poop, but because they only poop half as much as dogs, they get the more favorable rating of “Disaster Time” on the Enviro-Poop-o-Meter.

Chicken

Even though most chickens only live about 45 days, there are about a billion alive at any given time in the United States, and they collectively produce about 44.5 billion lbs. of poop a year, each pooping about the weight of seven cherries a day.  

It’s a common assumption that chickens don’t contribute to climate change, as their digestive process doesn’t produce methane gas. That is true, but chicken poop does release nitrous oxide, a Greenhouse Gas that has 298 times the global warming potential of CO2. With Americans eating more chicken that beef or pork--and appetites are increasing--this problem is going to get much worse. Also, chicken poop is arguably the worst smelling of all poop. 

With all this in mind, cat poop earns the rating of “Just Awful” on the Enviro-Poop-o-Meter. 

Pig

Pigs and wild boars together produce about 390 billion lbs. of poop a year, about the equivalent of 10 coconuts each per day. The big problem is (and this applies to any farmed animal), these over 70 million pigs and boars are not spread evenly over the whole of the U.S., but instead in isolated pockets. That density creates a huge problem of massive poop “lakes,” often making the areas around these massive pork farms uninhabitable due to run-off contaminating the local water supply. 

However, according to an article on Pet Poo Skidoo, “Researchers have discovered pig manure possesses certain oils that create a strong viscous material similar to that of petroleum. When mixing these oils with sand or gravel, it can produce a substance comparable to traditional asphalt. If this new combination can prove to withstand the daily abuse from cars driving upon it, repaving roads with pig manure will not only drastically reduce our use of petroleum, but also be a solution as for where to put the billions of pounds of pig manure produced from industrial-scale farms.”  

While that would make roads simultaneously less and more crappy, pig poop is a huge problem and thus rates “Total Nightmare” on the Enviro-Poop-o-Meter. 

Cow

Moooove over pigs, ‘cause we need room for all this cow poop! Cattle produce about 2.8 trillion lbs. of poop a year, about the equivalent of four watermelons each per day. 

Cow poop presents all the environmental hazards that chicken and pig poop do, but since they live longer and are much, much bigger, the sheer scale of the problem is exponentially worse. Cow poop (and the associated methane released) is arguably the biggest environmental issue in America because it’s tied to something we take for granted—eating. You don’t have to fly or drive, but you do have to eat, and to the majority of the country, beef is a dietary staple.  

While experts are looking for ways to reduce the amount of methane cows release, the only true solution to this issue is needing fewer cows because people are eating less red meat. Happily, trends are heading in exactly that direction.  But since cow poop ain’t going anywhere any time soon, it earns the highest rating of “The Worst.” 

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