The power of poop: Ottawa looks at turning dog waste into energy

It's a sight dog owners know well: garbage cans in parks piled high with full plastic poop bags. What if the city could make energy, heat and fertilizer with the waste?

Process called anaerobic digestion creates energy, heat, fertilizer using feces

A growing number of cities in the country are testing out projects that turn dog waste into power. (CBC)

It's a sight dog owners know well: garbage cans in parks piled high with plastic bags full of poop.

It's a lot of trash, and as dog ownership increases, so will the amount of waste produced by our furry four-legged friends.

But there's technology that can turn your dog's excrement into a valuable commodity — and the City of Ottawa is looking into it.

Waterloo already on board

For the past year, Waterloo, Ont., has been testing a program that turns dog waste into energy using a process called anaerobic digestion, which happens when organic waste breaks down in an oxygen-free environment.

The process creates a biogas — which is produced at a plant in Elmira, Ont. — that can be burned for heat and energy. Any leftover waste is used for fertilizer.

A number of cities are following Waterloo's lead, and Ottawa could also be on board.

A city official said staff have been talking to a company called Sutera and are looking at the implications of creating a similar program. 

"City staff have had conversations with Sutera regarding their pilot programs in other municipalities across Ontario," wrote Laila Gibbons, Ottawa's director of parks, forestry and stormwater services, in a statement. 

"Staff will be contacting these municipalities once they have gained some experience with this system in order to get a better understanding of the benefits that the program may offer and how they are managing the disposal of the dog waste if they do not have access to a bio-digester facility as they do in Elmira," Gibbons added. 

It's a gross, smelly mess in parks. Turns out dog poop is also a growing cost for cities. What one Ontario city is doing to turn that waste into energy. 7:24

Mississauga's poop pilot project 

Christopher Pyke, a waste diversion supervisor in Mississauga, Ont., will be installing waste receptacles for dog poop across his city as part of a pilot project.

He told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Thursday that people using city parks are frequently stuffing dog poop into recycling bins, forcing the city to take the contaminated recycling to landfills instead.

"So all of the recycling that was being done in our parks was contaminated and was kind of destined to go to the garbage as opposed to being recycled, as we were trying to do," he said.

"That's a big problem for us."

As for the plastic poop bags, Pyke said the material gets ground up and separated from the poop as part of the biogas production process.

Mississauga plans to install 14 in-ground waste containers in eight city parks — at a cost of $90,000 — and hopes to collect 60 metric tonnes of dog waste in a year.

CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning