Many livestock farmers have anaerobic digesters on the farm that turn chicken, cow and pig manure into methane, which is usually burned on-farm to generate electricity. In the city, wastewater management facilities often capture methane that results from the processing of human waste collected from the flush of toilets.
Walk to an urban dog park and it’s a different story. If you’re not stepping on a pile of poop, you’re likely picking a load of it up with a vanilla-scented plastic bag that’s typically tossed into the nearest (usually overflowing) garbage can.
Make no mistake – dogs love unconditionally and make their owners happier citizens. The problem is, they poop. According to a recent report in The Economist, the average dog is responsible for twice the amount of feces a human produces. This works out to about 275 pounds a year, per dog. If you’re a city like New York, with over 600,000 pooches, that’s some serious crap – about 100,000 tons a year.
Ron Gonen, NYC’s former recycling boss, sees opportunity in those droppings. He has created a program called Sparky Power, which aims to use small anaerobic digesters at dog parks to turn poop into methane, which can be used as fuel to power city park equipment.
City staff are weighing Gonen’s proposal for a pilot project. Similar projects have been proposed in Boston, at Arizona State University and in a handful of Australian and U.K. municipalities.
In most cases, officials have poo-pooped the idea.