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Seattleites debate putting dog poop in fancy garbage cans

Henry lives in Belltown, where he likes to cuddle, go for walks, and poop.
KUOW Photo/Anna Boiko-Weyrauch
Henry lives in Belltown, where he likes to cuddle, go for walks, and poop. He is a very good boy.

Everybody poops, especially your pooch.

Seattle pets generate over 80,000 pounds of poop a day, according to Seattle Public Utilities. That’s 40 poop tons — the weight of a fire truck.

Like human poop, pet excrement can carry diseases.

The EPA classifies dog poop as a form of raw sewage. You certainly don’t want that in our waterways, where it can work like a kind of fertilizer.

“Which can lead to increased weed growth or algae blooms, and if that’s left unchecked that can lead to contaminated recreational waters or possibly even (contaminated) shellfish beds,” said Vance Kawakami, who was trained as a veterinarian and works for King County Public Health as an epidemiologist.

And that could make YOU sick.

But you’re a Seattleite, so you also get a little queasy around just throwing something in the trash. Can’t it just go in the compost?

No way. Even a tiny piece of poop, the size of a jelly bean, carries 23 million fecal coliform bacteria. So, if you tried to compost it, those bacteria could contaminate food.

In general here’s what dog owners should do: pick up the poop, put it in a plastic bag and put that bag in the trash.

Don’t leave it in the yard. Don’t put it in the yard waste. Don’t put it down the storm drain.

Bag it and put it in the trash.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Jennifer Bowker and her dog, Henry, pass by a garbage can with a curious sticker in Lower Queen Anne.", "fid": "144480", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201805/file-2.jpeg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Anna Boiko-Weyrauch"}]]KUOW listener Jennifer Bowker of Belltown knew that’s what she should do as a responsible dog owner. But one trash can in Lower Queen Anne threw her, and her mutt Henry, for a loop.

A big sticker on the front reads: “Attention Animal Owners: Please do not use this receptacle for animal waste as it creates a significant health hazard.”

The can’s called a BigBelly Solar can. It has a handle like a mailbox.

“Why is this sign here?” Bowker asked, “Why isn’t it on other places?” Not all cans of the same make have the sticker in the neighborhood.

She reached out to KUOW to answer that question, and we looked for the scoop.

It turns out, you actually *can* throw away dog poop there. King County Metro owns those cans and the stickers on them forbidding dog poop are a mistake, according to Metro spokesperson Jeff Switzer.

What happened was some volunteers who take care of those small, open trash cans at Metro stops didn’t want people to throw dog poop in those cans. So Metro made stickers. But then someone got a little carried away.

“It looks like these stickers ended up on more garbage cans than we ever intended,” Switzer said.

Metro will remove the stickers, and verify they’re all gone, within the next few weeks.