I live in an apartment in an urban area that doesn't offer municipal compost. I store my food waste in a paper bag in my freezer. When the bag is full, I run it over to Whole Foods and dispose of the whole bag in their compost bin. This bin is probably meant to only take food waste from people eating in their cafeteria and I don't want to feel like I'm taking advantage of them, so I'm looking for other options.

One option might be to throw the bag in the large river that flows through our city. Would this be bad for the river?

Along a similar vein, I walk my dog along the river daily and I'm considering buying compostable poop bags. Instead of throwing the poop bags in garbage cans along the walk (where they will end up in a landfill), would it be better to toss them in the river too?

  • 4
    You should return compost on the fields, where food is grown. Buring biogarbage into the river you destroy both the river and deplete the soil that provides your food. Do not buy the disposable bags. The only 3 green rules are "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle". Disposing piles of bags in the river does not match any of them.
    – Val
    Commented Mar 8, 2014 at 10:33
  • If everyone through their dog waste in the river what do you think would happen to that ecosystem? To the people that used that river? To the animals that rely on it and live in it? There may be worse things in that river than a little bit of dog poop but that doesn't make it any better.
    – hortstu
    Commented Mar 9, 2014 at 5:02
  • @Val How do I return my compost to the fields where food is grown? Why should I not buy disposable bags?
    – drs
    Commented Mar 9, 2014 at 21:36
  • 1
    @hortstu I don't know what would happen to the ecosystem if everyone threw their dog waste into the river. That is why I'm asking the question. That is the purpose of this site, to help people understand their impact and make more informed decisions. Why is your reaction to this question so condescending?
    – drs
    Commented Mar 9, 2014 at 21:47
  • You can build up an anaerobic digester for organic waste, it is good idea, you also can generate gas from it.
    – user1243
    Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 1:33

5 Answers 5


The opther answers are all basically ok, but I want to add some details.

The first issue is nutrients: By adding your leftovers to the river, you practically add fertilizer that can lead to algae blooms and, ultimately, eutrophication. Of course, fish also poop in the river, but they also eat from the river, so they don't add much nutrients. Soil ecosystems have different problems with too much nutrients, but generally you have to watch out for surface water far more. Also consider this question and it's answers for more background.

The second issue is health and parasites. You can add and spread pathogens with your waste. Proper composting, done by you or others, will destroy most pathogens. But based on your amounts I would not stress this point too much.

So, what to do?

  • Stop freezing your waste. This costs serious energy, find another solution to avoid smell in your flat - look around this site, and maybe ask another question

  • Consider to keep using the Whole Foods compost bin. You don't cost them much, and it seems to be the easiest way for you to properly compost your wastes. And always remeber: Sometimes it's easier to ask forgiveness than seek permission.

  • I don't know if I agree that freezing my waste costs serious energy in the winter time. The energy that the freezer uses to cool the waste is converted to heat, which gets distributed throughout the room and helps keep the apartment warm. The only waste energy is a) the heat that remains stored on the components of the freezer and b) the difference in energy of producing heat via electricity vs. the apartment heater (natural gas in my case). I imagine the latter is the greater source of waste, but I would still expect it to be negligible.
    – drs
    Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 17:22
  • Electricity is higher value than gas, and I assumed that also freeze your waste in summer. That may be a separate question.
    – mart
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 14:46
  • 1
    Assuming the freezer runs year round, keeping your freezer full uses less energy than keeping it partially empty. When you open an empty freezer, assuming it isn't a chest freezer the cold air pours out and you close the door and the freezer has to start all over again. If you have solids in the freezer they'll hold their temp and the freezer might not have to kick on every time you open it.
    – hortstu
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 3:51


First, if you throw things in the river, especially waste, you'll likely be cited for dumping and/or littering.

Second, there are definite environmental concerns to doing so. Dog waste is quite unhealthy; there are definitely bad bacteria and potentially bad parasites in there. Dogs don't poop in rivers naturally; do not put it in there. Also, adding any kind of organic waste is going to contribute to algae blooms.

For household food processing, have you considered vermicompost? That can be compact enough for an apartment. I know there are enzyme kits for safely composting dog poop, but I don't know much about them. Flushing it down the toilet might be an option.

  • 3
    vermicompost = worm farm, for anyone who's not familiar with the term.
    – Móż
    Commented Mar 8, 2014 at 1:51
  • Dogs don't poop in rivers, but they poop near rivers. Furthermore, fish, water fowl, and river mammals do poop in rivers. Do dog droppings have unique parasites or chemicals that the river ecosystem can't handle? Does dog manure not decompose well underwater?
    – drs
    Commented Mar 9, 2014 at 22:01
  • 1
    Drs, it is a question of balance. The creatures that poop in rivers are also living and eating there. They are part of a closed cycle. The dog is not subsisting off of the river, so the nutrients in the poo that she would leave behind would be additive, which is not a good thing for a balanced ecosystem. Where I live, the local rivers and lakes are an algae bloom disaster because of dairy farm manure runoff. Granted, one dog's waste would not have the same effect.
    – michelle
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 13:02

Absolutely not

To expand on Adam Miller's excellent answer, consider that there are precedents of the consequences of dumping organic waste in rivers - even if the river is polluted already. Consequences beyond legalities (which could be very severe).

Information from the World Health Organisation document, Waste disposal and landfill: Information needs (Taylor and Allen) suggest that, in regards to dog poop:

The main health concern with human and animal wastes is the high concentrations of pathogenic organisms associated with this type of waste, and the potential it has to spread disease.

and in regards to organic waste - in itself, is not toxic, but

decomposition of organic matter can alter the physico-chemical quality of groundwater and enhance the mobility of hazardous chemicals including metals and solvents

So, asides from polluting the river and all aquatic systems downstream, such disposal can also result in primary and mobilised contaminants leaching into surrounding soil, disrupting nutrient cycles and degrading the soil.

  • I thought it was natural for organic waste (food and mammal droppings) to decompose in soil. If so, why would it be considered a contaminate if it's thrown in a river first and then leached into the soil?
    – drs
    Commented Mar 9, 2014 at 22:06
  • 3
    @drs, adding too many nutrients to rivers causes unwanted changes to ecosystems, affecting fisheries and biodiversity, and leads to bad smells and various other negative effects. Some more details here: cep.unep.org/pubs/Techreports/tr43en/Impacts%20of%20Organic.htm Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 0:30

In addition to what the other answers said I want to add some details about historical problems of organic waste and rivers, as well as issues here in Indonesia today.

You have basically a number of problems that come with throwing waste into the river. These include downstream:

  1. Downstream effects on water quality
  2. current and downstream effects on water flow
  3. pathogen issues.

On the third I don't have anything to add that hasn't been said before by others. I will say that water tends to be assumed to be contaminated before treatment, but greater turbidity interferes with water treatment and so the effects on water quality generally also make it harder to treat the water and make it safe to drink.

The downstream effects on water quality have been a problem that has long been known and where prevention strategies have long been required by law. For example, linen production requires underwater rotting of flax to separate the fibers and while running river water is supposed to provide the best water for this process, it was known that this would foul the water, leading to fines for anyone who retted linen in a river. The alternative was basically small man-made ponds specifically for this purpose even back into the middle ages.

So water quality is a big issue, and this is particularly the case when you start dumping nitrogen-rich waste into rivers. While this is anecdotal, I found the water in my fish pond cleared up when I added stuff to start soaking up nitrates. I assume aquaculture folks here can probably attest to the role of nitrogen in water clarity/lack of turbidity.

Keep in mind that people downstream may try to effectively sanitize and drink what you throw into the river.

The second big issue is that of waste and river flow. One thing that makes flooding worse in Jakarta is that the rivers and storm drains get clogged with sediment and garbage. Adding waste to the river is never a good thing and sediment resulting, as well as pieces not yet decomposed, can settle to the bottom, ensuring that when water levels rise, they rise further than they have before such dumping.

So the short answer is no, and in fact this is a really bad idea.


Not at all. And stop to put any organic waste into the freezer.

if you throw it into the river, you re just as in India, there is not possible to touch the water of the river without being infected.

Freezing the waste is another anti-pattern for sustainable living. You spending energy to freeze something what you want to throw away.

Please find another way how to handle the waste.

  • 1
    I'm wondering about freezing the waste, which others have mentioned. If I have a freezer that I will be using energy to keep cold running already and I am making sure that the scraps are cool before adding them to the freezer, how much extra energy could it possibly take to store them in the freezer? Now, if you're adding extra freezer capacity to make room, I understand that would be bad, but if you are not - would the energy use not be negligible?
    – michelle
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 13:05
  • @michelle, _stand, that energy consumption is not a strong argument, but relevant to SL. Additional consumption is little, but not zero. Reason, why I used it was to prevent other arguments, that it is not enough hygienic to store waste in the fridge, and best solution to that is to get married... but if you wonder, here is it.
    – Dee
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 13:32
  • 1
    Also not understanding the non-hygienic part of the answer. He said he is storing kitchen waste in the freezer, so I assume he means food scraps. I store vegetable trimmings, old bones, cheese rinds, etc., in the freezer to use for soup broth without issue - not sure how storing kitchen waste would be any worse...
    – michelle
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 18:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.