The most common way to dispose of paper cat litter is to scoop, bag, and throw in the trash — ideally using a plant-based, biodegradable bag. Composting is an environmentally friendly alternative for additive-free paper litter.
How do you dispose of paper cat litter?
Disposing of paper cat litter, whether pellets or granules, isn’t much different than disposing of any other type of litter. The most common method is to simply scoop, bag, and toss in the garbage.
For a vast majority of cat parents, this will be the most realistic option. Though those with more land and more time may opt for composting.
But why does cat litter need to be disposed of in such a specific way?
Among other transmissible pathogens, cat feces sometimes contains Toxoplasma gondii, the infectious parasite that causes the disease Toxoplasmosis. When cat waste isn’t disposed of properly, T.gondii can be spread — putting wildlife, people with weakened immune systems, expecting mothers, and their unborn children at risk.
To reduce these risks, soiled cat litter should never be flushed down the toilet or dumped outside.
Most wastewater treatment plants aren’t equipped to handle Toxoplasma gondii. As a result, flushed cat waste can spread T.gondii to local waterways. Not to mention that flushed litter can cause clogs or damage pipes and septic systems.
Dumping cat litter outside can spread T.gondii and other potentially harmful pathogens to wildlife or anyone who happens to stumble upon the waste. Not to mention, dumping cat litter is illegal in many jurisdictions.
Is paper cat litter biodegradable?
Yes. Because paper cat litter is plant-based and typically only contains natural ingredients, paper pellets and granular paper litters are biodegradable.
Like other plant-based options, paper cat litter provides an eco-friendly alternative to damaging clay litters.
But the exact method of disposal can have a pretty drastic effect on just how much of an impact you’re actually making.
If you choose to bag and trash your paper litter, you’ll end up sending quite a few single-use plastic bags to the landfill.
One way to reduce the burden on our planet is by repurposing other trash. Try emptying litter into empty chip bags, paper towel wrappers, etc. that would already be heading to the landfill.
Biodegradable bags also offer a better, but not perfect, solution — allowing completely plastic-free litter disposal. Opt for plant-based bioplastic bags rather than those made from petrochemicals — which break down quickly, into a potentially harmful chemical slime.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple.
While paper litter and plant-based bags are biodegradable, they may not actually end up biodegrading when sent to the landfill. At least not very quickly.
For something to decompose, it requires certain conditions — enough light, oxygen, and moisture to encourage the microbial activity needed to break down organic matter.
The typical anaerobic state of a landfill doesn’t provide these conditions.
A biodegradable litter in a biodegradable bag sent to a landfill can sometimes remain in its current state for decades before decomposing.
But don’t get us wrong, paper litter is still a much better option for the environment than traditional clay litters. And plant-based bags are still a much better option than single-use plastic bags.
After all, they’re made from renewable, often-recycled resources. They aren’t harvested through the incredibly damaging process of strip mining. They don’t decompose into microplastics. And, while slower than we may like, they will eventually decompose.
Can paper cat litter be composted?
Additive-free paper cat litter can be composted. But because of the risks associated with the pathogens and parasites sometimes found in cat waste, it’s not as simple as compositing food and yard scraps. You’ll need to take certain precautions.
T.gondii is particularly concerning, requiring your compost to reach 165° Fahrenheit to be eliminated.
Unfortunately, for the average home composter, it’s nearly impossible to be sure that your entire compost heap has reached the needed temperature.
To be safe, compost containing cat waste should only be used with ornamental plants, and well away from any edible plant life.
Paper cat litter containing baking soda and other additives should never be composted. Baking soda acts as a potent fungicide and will ruin your compost pile.
For a more detailed guide on safely composting paper cat litter, check out our guide on How to Compost Cat Litter.
Can paper cat litter be recycled?
While paper cat litter is made from recycled materials, it isn’t actually recyclable itself. At least not by standard, curbside recycling programs.
Composting is essentially nature’s way of recycling, transforming soiled paper cat litter into a nutrient-rich humus that can be used to nourish ornamental plants. Compost containing only unused paper cat litter is safe for use on any plant life.
Oftentimes, the paper bag or box that your paper liter comes in is recyclable as well. Though you’ll need to refer to the specifics of your local recycling program’s guidelines.
Paper cat litter can be disposed of by bagging and throwing out with the trash or by composting. Composting is the more environmentally friendly option but requires strict handling to prevent the spread of harmful pathogens.
About Matthew Alexander
Matthew lives in Maryland with his two cats, Puff and Pancho. He’s been caring for and fostering cats with various special needs for more than fifteen years. He hopes to pass some of the insight and knowledge that he’s gained on to the readers of Pawmore.