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Vancouver city council is hoping to stir up some competition over who can best do away with doggy doo-doo.
Councilor Sarah Kirby-Yung’s motion, “Dealing with Doggie Doo Doo in Support of Vancouver’s Zero Waste Goals and Cleaner Parks and Streets,” garnered unanimous, unamended support at the last meeting.
“We’re heading into summer and planning the next budget, so this was our window to ensure this initiative happens in 2020,” explains Kirby-Yung. The motion stems from her work as Vancouver Park Board commissioner last term , when she launched the People, Parks and Dogs Strategy.
One of the goals of the strategy is to expand Vancouver’s red-bin pilot program, which aims to divert dog waste from the landfill, where it releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Only six parks have had dog-waste collection carts installed since the pilot began in 2016, and the initiative fails to reduce the usage of plastic bags to pick up poop.
Additionally, Scooby’s Dog Removal Service is the region’s only vendor that provides the unpleasant service of manually debagging waste once it’s properly disposed. City by-laws prevent dog owners from tossing bagged business into garbage bins due to health concerns. But considering Metro Vancouver’s estimate that 350,000 dogs doo-doo each day, many people ignore this law or end up stepping in the messes that owners fail to clean up.
“I’m a big supporter of competition breeding innovation, and I want to get the conversation going around biofuel,” says Kirby-Yung. “As the populations of both people and dogs grow in Vancouver, new technologies could help us meet our zero-waste goals while channeling alternative energy sources.”
Kirby-Yung says she has already been contacted by Recycling Alternative, a company looking to develop anaerobic digestion (AD) and composting methods to deal with dog waste. Using a combination of these technologies would allow methane to be turned into energy while allowing biosolids to be transformed into fertilizer.
It’s up to Metro Vancouver to meet the demands of a growing dog population before shit hits the fan.
Solutions to the urban dog waste problem have already seen success throughout Canada. In 2017, Waterloo installed Ontario’s first dog waste containers in three parks, redirecting 2,350 kilograms of excrement from landfills in the course of four months. Once that waste was converted into energy at an organic plant, enough electricity was created to power 100 homes in a month.
Each year, the average dog produces up to 124 kilograms of excrement. By not converting waste into biofuel, we’re wasting much needed opportunities to tackle climate change. And while the future may be feces, the fight to improve dog waste disposal methods began over a decade ago for one B.C. MLA
Like Councillor Kirby-Yung, MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert served as Vancouver Park Board commissioner from 2005 to 2008. At that time, the Park Board was only starting to consider providing compostable bags with waste bins, and the cost of a service that would separate waste from bags was deemed too high.
“Creating power from green fuels and biofuels is much more commonly understood now, but it was unusual at the time,” says Chandra Herbert. When he first pitched the idea of converting dog waste into biofuel, there were concerns over whether enough excrement could even be collected.
As a father of a two-year-old, Chandra Herbert has heard plenting of horror stories from parents around the playground about times their children have encountered undisposed-of dog waste. “Vancouver is united by its distaste,” he says. “No one thinks we should have to step in dog waste when we go play in the park or walk down the street.”
Council’s motion has all the makings of a political winner, and now it’s up to Metro Vancouver to meet the demands of a growing dog population before shit hits the fan.