Ask election hopefuls to sort pet waste discrepancy

Non-toxic pet waste

What are you going to ask your candidates when they come knocking on your door ahead of the May 6 local elections?

A reduction in taxes to help UK residents get back on their feet after Covid? That’s national level politics. There must be an abundance of issues that Reigate and Banstead borough, or Surrey County, councillors could affect, from elderly and social care to education and rubbish.

It might seem well down the list for many people. But I was glad to see someone else, via Twitter, have a moan that Reigate and Banstead Borough Council do not collect organic pet waste.

On the “no thank you” list for the brown garden waste bin, Reigate and Banstead lists “animal or pet bedding”. The reason is that they do not want cat or dog waste, because it is toxic. Witness when you have to remove stray feline excrement from the vegetable patch!

Organic waste

However, many pets – such as guinea pigs or rabbits – produce waste which is organic and can be used, therefore, in compost. There might be dozens of reasons councils cannot guarantee that what goes into a herbivore’s diet or bedding (waste, one way or another). But there must be something else they can do.

Having educated the population about how and what to recycle in the first place, there is another push that could be made.

If it isn’t a simple case of adding a few lines to the directives – both online and on the annual four-page leaflet that comes through the door – allowing people to recycle organic pet waste, with garden waste.

What happens to it at present, if you take it to the tip or put it in the general waste bin, is that it ends up in an incinerator. From there, it does become energy. But having watched a Dispatches episode that suggests not all the collected plastic recycling ends up as more plastic. Some of it goes to incinerators. Which is in itself a talking point for your councillors. While 87% of households say they do some sort of recycling, 11% apparently ends up in an incinerator.

Use for gardens

I am one of the public who owns a guinea pig. I use some of the waste and bedding in my garden composter (which I quaintly call a dalek, because it resembles one of Dr Who’s arch enemies). Not a huge amount, because the wood chips don’t break down particularly quickly. I also dig some into the garden, as a more direct way of composting. It is very effective, breaking up new or old ground and adding nutrients back into the ground. I have even found an allotment owner who will take some from time to time.

There, perhaps, lies the answer. If councils wish to continue to discriminate against all pet waste, so that toxic is not mixed with that which is perfectly fine, surely a system could be devised where this is diverted to such places. Farms. Allotments. And at that point, why not just allow it to be recycled in the garden waste bin and turned into compost?

Proactive giveaways

There is an alternative, of course, to asking our prospective council candidates to help with something which might seem a long way down the list of priorities. We could take action ourselves. Just like with finding out via TerraCycle where we can recycle crisp packets and many other items (via appointed collectors), perhaps we could simply approach allotment holders? Or tap into Facebook groups, WhatsApp friend groups, Nextdoor listings. There are many items offered free on such forums.

We might even use other less virtual ones, to see if local people might want this organic waste? Local political candidates might be able to open doors, because they know people. Ask them. But we could be more proactive by approaching allotment users, perhaps. Pet waste, even organic, seems an odd item to leave outside our own properties with a sign saying “please take if it is any use”. However, plenty of items are offered to others in this way. For example, I have already seen fledgling raspberry plants put out in a box on a driveway. It is hoped the “community plant swap stall” that was hugely popular last year, will come again.