Waterloo to turn dog poop into power, through new pilot program

The Ontario city best known for headquartering BlackBerry may soon be known for an entirely different commodity: dog poop. Waterloo will soon be the home of a pilot program that will turn dog waste into energy, through anaerobic digestion.
The city of Ottawa is considering allowing dog owners to deposit plastic bags and dog poop into green composting bins.
Municipal litter bins are between 40 and 80 per cent dog waste, according to Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

The Ontario city best known for headquartering BlackBerry may soon be known for an entirely different commodity – dog poop.

Waterloo will soon be the home of a pilot program that will turn dog waste into energy, using a process called anaerobic digestion that happens when organic waste breaks down in an environment without oxygen.

The city's mayor, Dave Jaworsky, said this is one the first times this sort of program – which he jokingly calls "poop power" -– will be implemented in a Canadian city.

Jaworsky said it's eco-friendly and should help curb the amount of litter produced by the city of about 100,000 people.

"It's actually a big issue, dog waste. If you look at our municipal litter bins ... it's 40 to 80 per cent dog waste," he said, adding that the city collects about 115,000 kilograms of trash every year.

He said the process for harvesting dog waste and turning it into power is fairly simple – and it's not entirely new.

"In rural townships, this isn't an uncommon technique to deal with manure and that kind of thing," he says. "So, it's really just bringing the rural technology to the urban environment."

Special dog waste receptacles

It works like this: a dog-owner walking their pet will scoop up its waste, just like they would normally. But instead of throwing the bag into a trash can, they pop it into one of these special receptacles.

The City of North Vancouver is piloting a special dog waste bin program. Its receptacles look like organic waste bins, except for the colour and signage. (City of North Vancouver)

Jaworsky said they look something like a "rural post box" – but they're bright green, and the opening is dog-shaped.

The bags of dog poop are stored in an underground container for 10 to 14 days, Jaworsky said, and then vacuumed out and sent to a processing plant outside of the city, where it will be combined with other organic waste.

Through anaerobic digestion, it will create a biogas, which can then be burned for heat and energy. Any of the leftover waste is then used for fertilizer.

Idea comes from local resident

Jaworsky said the idea came from a local man, who works in general construction and owns a dog.

"He just thought, you know, 'There must be a better way to do things,' and came up with this idea," he said.

He said the man took the idea to the American groundwaste company Sutera, which will be running the pilot.

Jaworsky said the program may expand into other cities across North America.

The project will begin rolling out in the coming weeks in three parks throughout the city – including a leash-free dog park.