Pet com­post can be a liv­ing mem­ory of your best friend

Pretoria News Weekend - - NEWS - KARIN BRULLIARD

YES, OF course, all dogs go to heaven. Their bod­ies, how­ever, are an­other mat­ter. And when deal­ing with those, pet own­ers have op­tions aplenty: Cre­ma­tion, burial at a pet ceme­tery, taxi­dermy, even freeze-dry­ing or turn­ing their ashes into syn­thetic di­a­monds.

Now comes an­other: Com­post­ing. A start-up in Wash­ing­ton state, Rooted Pet, says its new ser­vice is some­thing the “pet af­ter­care space” has been lack­ing – and one own­ers can feel good about.

Let­ting kitty de­com­pose in a mix­ture of or­ganic mat­ter uses less en­ergy than fir­ing up a cre­ma­tion oven, re­quires less land than a grave­yard and is a poignant, dustto-dust type of process, gen­eral man­ager Paul Tschet­ter says.

With cre­ma­tion, “you’re quite lit­er­ally va­por­is­ing the soft tis­sues… it’s pul­verised and put in a cute box and given back”, said Tschet­ter, whose firm is lo­cated out­side Olympia, Wash­ing­ton. “I feel like we’re adding more mean­ing back into this whole death process.”

This could be a men­tal hur­dle for many griev­ing pet own­ers, but Tschet­ter is prob­a­bly on to some­thing. The $67 bil­lion (R960bn) pet in­dus­try in­cludes a grow­ing af­ter­care seg­ment cater­ing to own­ers who, af­ter spend­ing lots keep­ing an­i­mals they con­sider fam­ily mem­bers happy and alive, are will­ing to go to ex­tra lengths when the pets die. More than 700 pet ceme­ter­ies and cre­ma­to­ri­ums in the US are one tes­ta­ment to the de­mand.

Tschet­ter de­scribes him­self as a “se­rial en­tre­pre­neur,” who, along with a friend who had years of ex­pe­ri­ence in waste man­age­ment and com­post­ing, re­alised a few years ago that there might be room for new ideas in this mar­ket.

Com­post­ing an­i­mal car­casses, they knew, is far from un­usual – it’s the method many farms use to dis­pose of de­ceased live­stock, and it’s how some states now con­tend with road kill.

Do­nated farm an­i­mals, as well as some col­lected road kill, were what Rooted used as “test sub­jects” for their com­post­ing sys­tem, said Tschet­ter. The sys­tem is based at his busi­ness part­ner’s farm, but it’s all in­doors, which helps the com­pany avoid some reg­u­la­tory hur­dles that would come along with com­post­ing bod­ies out­side. Pet car­casses are placed in box­like “pods” with wood chips and other or­ganic mat­ter, Tschet­ter said. Six to eight weeks later, the cock­tail has mor­phed into rich soil that looks, smells and feels like any other com­post, he said.

“We’re lit­er­ally tak­ing what hap­pens in na­ture and speed­ing it up,” he said, re­fer­ring to the de­com­po­si­tion that would oc­cur if you buried your pooch in the back­yard (which many ju­ris­dic­tions do not al­low).

But, he ac­knowl­edged, “it’s a newer thing and it’s go­ing to weird some peo­ple out”.

Peo­ple who de­cide com­post­ing their dead pet is right for them can choose from sev­eral end prod­ucts.

Let Rooted keep the com­post and it will use it on its farm or on a tree-plant­ing project.

Get your com­posted pet back (alone or, for a lower price, mixed with other pets), and you can use it to nour­ish a new tree in your yard.

If that seems a bit too hands-on, Rooted can send you a house plant grow­ing in com­post cre­ated from your beloved an­i­mal’s re­mains.

It would be, Tschet­ter said, a “liv­ing me­mo­rial”. – The Wash­ing­ton Post


Rooted Pet com­posts dead pets at its farm in Wash­ing­ton state.

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