As the owner of two boxers, I started Poo Power! in 2010 as a side project to my job as a lecturer as my love for dogs, reducing waste and sustainability are topics I'm passionate about. It's also a fun and exciting project that gives back to the community and brings some much needed levity to the public discussion around climate change.
Domestic dogs have a long-standing and varied role in society. As the number of dogs in Australia continues to grow, so will the issue of dog 'waste' disposal even more so with increasing urbanisation, limited amounts of suitable park spaces and shrinking landfill sites.
Dog waste is also high in bacteria and other pathogens and they are seen as a public health hazard, but on the other hand they are also high in nutrients such as phosphorus which have potential uses in other industries. This provides an opportunity for us to re-think the poop-and-scoop-then-send-to-landfill practice currently in place.
'Ecological sanitation' is where urine and feces are seen as a resource and aims to close natural nutrient and water cycles, primarily to the benefit of agriculture. It is known as a process used to treat human waste, but the principles are transferrable to animal (including dog) waste too. Identified case examples from Canada, USA and Sweden have reported successful project implementation of sustainable dog waste management.
Australians love dogs and we have one the highest incidences of dog ownership in the world with latest data (from 2006) showing that 63% of the 7.5 million households own a pet.
If were to take all the dog poo that is "deposited" and disposed from these 4 million dogs it would be enough to fill the MCG 40% of the way... that's a lot of poo!
The size and shape of the biogas generator can be customised to suit the volume of waste. There will be three tanks: the first is where you drop your dog waste into to start the process, the second for the gas production and the last for storage of the final product.
We are still working on the final design with the Swinburne Design Factory but it won't be an eyesore in our beautiful parks.
Dog waste is not commonly used for biogas production but research has shown that even though not usually largely produced, it can produce methane for heating, electricity, and cooking. For example, 100 watts of light can be obtained from 60 litres of biogas burned each hour.
Yarra is Poo Power!'s pilot site and within this council (Richmond, Collingwood, Fitzroy, Clifton Hill) there are approximately 6078 dogs that generate over 750 tonnes of waste every year - around 150 tonnes which ends up in our parks. So when I apply the energy calculation we're looking at more than 3800 litres of raw biogas produced. Yes, not as viable as solar PV as a renewable energy source, but dog waste can produce biomethane and can be combined with other plant and animal wastes to enhance its viability for biogas production.
This small but important amount of biogas will be used in a City of Yarra park (TBA) in an interactive public installation as a community meeting place for use by dog owners and other citizens.
You can discover more about the uses of biogas here.
The response has been overwhelming positive and looking forward to sharing this exciting technology at a community level.
I like using the metaphor of the seeing eye dogs for the vision impaired - what will this project show us as we explore it together with the community?
This is only the beginning and we're excited where the project will take us. So feel free to keep in touch.
An overview of the anaerobic ‘digestion’ process used to produce biogas from waste is explained by the animation from GreenpeaceUK.
Methane within biogas can be concentrated via a biogas ‘upgrader’ to the same standards as fossil natural gas to become biomethane. If the local gas network allows for this, the biogas may be distributed through the local gas network. The gas must be of a certain quality and be of the correct composition for the local distribution network to accept. This will need to be investigated further.
If concentrated and compressed, the biogas can also be used in vehicle transportation. Compressed biogas is becoming widely used in Sweden, Switzerland and Germany.
A benign secondary waste is also created by the process - this is called 'sludge'. It can be used for agricultural purposes such as a fertiliser and soil stabilisers for nearby community gardens.
You can read more about biogas here.
Firstly, remembering to pick up your dog's poo everytime is the easiest way to ensure that our parks remain clean and that it doesn't enter the waterway system via stormwater run-off.
If you would like to see a Poo Power! station in your local park, show your support by sending a friendly email or letter to your local Council... no packages of dog poo please! In our blog post - You Have The Power! - we provide you with a simple letter that you can use if you're not quite sure what to write, and this link from the Department of Planning and Community Development will provide you with a directory of all Councils within Victoria.
We have had a lot of enquiries from dog breeders, dog shelters, kennels and many more concerned business owners wanting a sustainable option for the mountains of dog poo they need manage on a daily basis. Don't worry... we hear you lound and clear!
With our current supporters - Inspiring Australia and Melbourne Water - we are initially working towards meeting our project milestone of setting up our first biogas generator in a Melbourne park by the end of 2013. We know this only deals with part of the 1,350 tonnes of dog poo discarded on a daily basis but these public installations will allow for the increased awareness of the issues of dog waste and how science shows us a way to use it as a resource.
In 2014 we will be able to work towards meeting your needs, as well as those outside of Victoria. Many of you have signed up for our newsletters which is the best way to keep up to date with any developments but your continued emails and phone calls of support are welcomed.
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