Dog Waste Equals Renewable Energy

Teresa Madaleno

We just may have one more reason to call dogs “man’s best friend”. The canine could become part of the solution to climate change.

Last spring Waterloo city officials announced a pilot project that would see dog waste put through anaerobic digestion and turned into biogas to be used as a renewable energy source. So far the program seems to be working well so communities across Canada are now wondering if they might be able to do the same.

Dog waste accounts for anywhere between 40 and 80 percent of what is found in municipal litter bins. The Orangeville Citizen recently ran an article that suggested the town in south-central Ontario would be a good place for dog poop anaerobic digestion. Orangeville has about 1500 licenced dogs, which translates into a whole lot of waste.

While we don’t have data on exactly how much dog waste impacts the environment, we do know that even if you scoop up the waste, it gets left in landfills and has the potential of contaminating water sources and releasing methane into the atmosphere. Yes, you might love Fido, but he’s contributing to global warming.

If your community was going to use dog waste to produce renewable energy this is how it might work: dog waste would be collected and stored in underground containers. When the containers are full, the waste would then be transported to a facility that has an anaerobic digester. Anaerobic bacteria turn the dog waste into by products, including methane. That methane is refined and becomes fuel. The reality is that farmers have been doing this for years, only with livestock’s manure.

Setting up a facility that can handle anaerobic digestion isn’t cheap, but once the process gets going, it can actually generate and save a lot of money. Waste-energy conversion may be nothing new, but it is attitude about the application that seems to be the biggest hurdle. What proponents like to remind us is that this has worked for farmers for years so it is just a matter of bringing the concept to urban environments.