The future is bright, and it’s because of your dog

January 15, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Vicky Boyd

Producing electricity from dog waste is now a possibility with anaerobic digestion, and the City of Waterloo is leading the way.

Since May of last year, Waterloo has collected dog waste from 3 dog parks and then converted the waste to biogas, a renewable energy source. The project, the first of its kind in Canada, has been deemed a success, begging the question of when and where it should expand to next.

Orangeville may very well be that place.

There are about 1500 licenced dogs living in Orangeville, according to the Orangeville OSPCA. That means there’s a lot of dog waste.

Not only is it unsightly to see garbage bins overflowing with dog waste, but it’s also harmful to you and to the environment. Dog waste, whether left on the ground or sent to landfills, ends up contaminating our water sources and releasing into the atmosphere methane—a greenhouse gas with a high global warming potential.

The growing problem of dog waste is not lost on the Town of Orangeville. In addition to finding a permanent location for the dog park (currently located on Hansen Boulevard), Charles Cosgrove, the Manager of Facilities and Parks, says, “We have been looking at different ways to divert dog waste and the cost associated with this type of program.”

It’s those costs that may be the biggest obstacle in getting this project moving because the initial investment into renewable energy is not cheap. But, once that hurdle is overcome, the result could be that people save money since, like other renewable resources, biogas reduces the leading cause of climate change, that being the burning of fossil fuels.

Biogas does need to be burnt to produce energy, but unlike with burning fossil fuels, biogases don’t increase the net amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. When methane is burnt, carbon dioxide is released, which is a far less potent greenhouse gas than is methane. The result is less money from our pockets being spent to clean up the environment.

So, how does dog waste become energy?

The process starts with the collection of dog waste in underground receptacles. Once the receptacles are filled, the dog waste is transferred to a facility where anaerobic bacteria turn the solid waste into many by-products, most importantly methane. Further refinement of the methane leads to the creation of a fuel or to its burning for electricity.

Now, making energy from waste isn’t new. It commonly takes place in rural communities with farmers sending their livestock’s manure to anaerobic digesters.

What’s new is the application of waste-energy conversion in urban environments.

Just think of the potential that bioenergy has in Orangeville, a town striving for sustainability. Do a little travelling and you will soon realize that not every community is as committed to our future as Orangeville is. We recycle, we compost, and we limit our garbage. I’m proud to be a citizen of a town that has community gardens and a power meter lending program. 

Let’s all encourage Town Council to keep Orangeville on this path of resilience.

With all the sustainable initiatives already happening in Orangeville, it seems to me that dog waste recycling would fit in quite well.

Vicky is an Ecosystem Management Technology student at Fleming College in Lindsay, ON.

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