Few people consider that mortality waste can be considered as hazardous waste. Further to this, these remains can generate large amounts of leachate if disposed of in landfills as solid waste. This appears to be the case in cities such as Cape Town where animal welfare organisations generally cannot afford incineration and euthanised animal carcasses are disposed of at properly classified landfills. But now, a new disposal method for animals that have died or been put down to return to the earth and become compost is being tested.
Melanie Jones, a former vet and now the CEO of Zero to Landfill Organics, is working with a group of animal welfare organisations to bring the method, known as animal mortality composting, to the Western Cape.
According to Jones, carcasses are placed in thick black bags and disposed of at Vissershok landfill and this disposal is handled by a third party. This, says Jones, is not a viable solution as the carcasses have no way of decomposing naturally.
“The bag begins to fill with methane gas and finally bursts, leaking hazardous liquid into the soil.”
The method of mortality composting takes place above ground. Carcasses are placed between layers of soil, wood chippings and horse manure, which catalyse decomposition. This process generates heat which not only sterilises the bodies but also breaks down any harmful chemicals and this nutrient-rich compost can be used for landscaping.
This method has been successful in both the United States and in Canada where road kill or livestock are disposed of in this way. Research conducted in the United Sates shows that this method of disposal breaks down medication and even the chemicals used in the euthanisation. The method however, says Jones, must be tested in South Africa as only livestock and animals such as deer and foxes were used in that country. Cats and dogs have their own diseases and viruses and these need to be monitored.