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What happens when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media?

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Dog poo turning green – the power of science

Hey Julie,

Thanks for the run down on ScienceOnline and ‘Lend a Paw’ month

I completed the survey about my cat’s behaviour, it was quick and easy to do. 

I also liked your stroking video, but I’ll get back to that later, right now I need to tell you how dog poo (I think you usually say ‘poop’ in the USA?) is turning green.

Dog poo is turning green

It’s turning green and it’s thanks to the power of science. Or perhaps it’s the science of power? It’s easy to get confused. 

(source)
The important bit is that a Melbourne-based entrepreneur, Duncan Chew, received funding in 2012 from the Inspiring Australia strategy for his idea to turn dog waste into energy to light up parks around Australia. Titled Poo Power!, his project is using science to help our communities live more sustainably.

How big is this issue?

In Australia, we have one of the highest incidences of pet ownership in the world with over 60% of households owning a pet. The average dog produces 0.34 kilograms (that’s 0.75 lb) of faeces per day.


Do the maths, and that’s around 1.4 tonnes of dog poo needing to be disposed of DAILY in Australia, which adds up to a colossal 490,000 tonnes each year!


490 MILLION KG!  That’s 1,080,270 MILLION lbs!
(or almost 20 million labradors if you were following my pre-post riddle clues on our Facebook page!)

The USA have more than 20 times the number of dogs as Australia. Just saying.


The issue of dog waste disposal (what I like to call Poo-llution!) is an especially important issue in areas of growing urbanisation, cities with limited park spaces and in light of declining landfill site availability.
Using our love of dogs to brighten the future
Dog poo light? Not as silly as it might seem! (source)


The project will see a series of biogas generators turn dog waste into energy for lighting up Melbourne parks, at the same time as engaging audiences on the issue of ‘what is waste?’, and the potential opportunities posed by reassessing waste management practices. 1kg of dog poo will give you about 25-30 litres of raw biogas.

Biogas harvesting is achieved utilising anaerobic digestion (where a bunch of microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen) to produce a renewable energy source that can be used to power lighting. Or cooking! Imagine having a coffee as your dog runs around the park, while the coffee machine was powered by your dog’s poo!


I’m not talking crap (well, I am)

We know this can work. This kind of project has been implemented previously at ‘Park Spark’ in Cambridge, Massachusetts, near MIT. 

Munich Zoo similarly harness the energy of their animals’ faecal output to help power their operations. Imagine if shelters and other kennel facilities could use this system to reduce their power consumption and expenses? That would be awesome!
(source)
Can’t get enough of green dog poo? 
If you’d like to hear more and you happen to be in Melbourne this weekend, a) you should come over to my place, so we can say hi, and b) you can watch Duncan Chew and Melbourne filmmaker James Boldiston talk about the Poo Power! project at 12 midday on Saturday 16 February 2013 in ‘The Big Tent’ at Federation Square as part of the Sustainable Living Festival. Otherwise, you can keep up with further developments at the Poo Power! website. 



I’ll be touching base with you again after I speak at the RSPCA Scientific Seminar
Looking forward to having lots to report about animals and the science of positive welfare – more stroking!


Mia 

Further reading:

Miller R. & Howell G.V.J. (2008). Regulating consumption with bite: Building a contemporary framework for urban dog management, Journal of Business Research, 61 (5) 525-531. DOI:  

Wells D.L. (2006). Factors Influencing Owners' Reactions to Their Dogs' Fouling, Environment and Behavior, 38 (5) 707-714. DOI:  

Okoroigwe E.C., Ibeto C.N. & Okpara C.G. (2010). Comparative Study of the Potential of Dog Waste for Biogas Production, Trends in Applied Sciences Research, 5 (1) 71-77. DOI:  

Nemiroff L. (2007). Design, Testing and Implementation of a Large-Scale Urban Dog Waste Composting Program, Compost Science & Utilization, 15 (4) 237-242. Link: click here to view PDF

© Mia Cobb 2012