ASK TRASH QUEEN
ALEX KIRKHAM MARGARET Alex Kirkham is a waste specialist. Wondering what to do with waste? Email Alex at email@example.com
Stuff NZ Newspapers
KA MUTU / LASTLY
Q What should we do with pet waste? We flush her waste down the toilet as much as possible, but what about kitty litter? Can it be dug into gardens or compost? Or disposed of in green waste? A I had to do a bit of research for this, it seems that kitty litter and waste divides communities on environmental values, depending on which method you choose. Kitty litter disposal methods vary depending on what the litter is made of. Anything crystal-based, or scented is not garden friendly. It is also made from silica, which is derived from sand, a non-renewable resource that we don’t want to be using and throwing away. If you choose this one, it needs to go into your refuse bin. Clay-based litters that are designed to clump are made from bentonite, and have a significant environmental footprint, because the process of mining these clays does a lot of damage to the land, scraping good topsoil off to get to the clays below, and then the valuable topsoil is lost under piles of waste clay. The dust is not great for your health or your cat’s either. Bentonites are often mined from countries in the global south. Impacts include air and water pollution, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, and loss of economic wealth from the land that is left unusable. Other non-clumping clay litters are not bentonite-based, but you end up throwing a lot of it out, and much like Roman pottery, clay is baked and will stick around for thousands of years. There are an increasing number of plant-based litters on the market, such as recycled paper, pine, walnut shells or corn cobs. These ones can be composted, but be sure to keep this compost pile completely separate to any compost you might be using on parts of the garden you eat vegetables from. Cats can carry a disease called toxoplasmosis, a parasite which can infect humans when cat faeces make contact with food from the garden. It’s very dangerous for some people, particularly pregnant women and those with impaired immunity. Give your kitty litter compost pile a good year in a hot compost to kill off the parasite, and only put this compost onto flower beds or around the base of trees, not near any of your edibles. Definitely don’t put any cat litter in your green waste or food waste bins as this would make it a health risk to others when that compost product gets used.