Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Poo Power

SUMMARY: A practical use for dog waste.
Some of you may know that I am a Master Composter for the County of Santa Clara. Means, yes, I teach occasional workshops on backyard composting, and, yes, ask me questions about yard waste and composting and voila I answer. Usually.

I just don't have really good answers about what to do with doggie droppings. Here are some answers, none of which are completely satisfactory (depending on where you live and your resources):
  • If it's Tika's, pick it up quickly or Boost will either roll in it or eat it. (I know you wanted to know.)
  • Don't compost it in your yard waste compost bin--same reason you don't want to compost human waste: Carnivore/omnivore waste contains pathogens that aren't easily destroyed. So the poop might go away but not necessarily the nasty bits, and if you're putting it all into one place, it might concentrate that, and if you're using the compost for your food garden--well--I wouldn't put dog poop in it.
  • That said: It is organic matter and it will decompose. I've heard from many people that Just Do It: Put it in the compost and don't worry about it.
  • If your yard is large enough, let it decompose where it is or off to the side somewhere; Ma Nature is very good at dealing with that sort of thing.
  • There are doggie doo digesters;  Basically a plastic bin with no bottom that you bury in the ground and add the appropriate digester enzymes and water. I tried one for about 3 years and it never worked properly for me. A neighbor in my new neighborhood had no luck with one, either. I have read about them working for others.
  • There is another commercial product that claims to handle dog waste. They made a presentation at a Master Composter meeting and it was all hype, not hard info, and they weren't willing to let the composters have one to test it. Don't remember its name. Seems extremely dubious.
  • Add a direct sewer connection and shovel it into that.
  • Dump it into your toilet.
  • Hire a dog poo service and let them deal with it.
  • Bag it and toss it in the trash. (That's what I now do. I've been told that some municipalities prohibit that.)

But now here's a very cool idea for places that have larger amounts of dog waste: A digester that produces and uses methane on location!
http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-09/fidos-poo-powers-streetlight-massachusetts-dog-park
Would be interesting to know how much input it requires to provide useful amounts of output. As of yet, it's just a demo; no commercial models are available. But what a great idea!

15 comments:

  1. Yeah, I had one of those doggie doo digesters and it didn't really digest, but I didn't have all that much to digest, so it did a fine job of letting me get it off the lawn and out of the way till it finally broke down naturally. Bottom line -- not all that effective, as you've noted.

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  2. I'm all for being green and saving the polar bears and all that fun stuff but taking dog poop into my house and putting it in the toilet is not going to happen in this lifetime. At least not at my house, I gotta draw the line somewhere and that's most certainly it.

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  3. Elayne: I agree; you won't see me carrying poo through the house. I'm clumsy enough just carrying it across the yard to put into the little garbage can. But in areas where it's against the law to put it into your garbage, I dunno what else people can do.

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  4. Just yesterday morning I had a nasty note from my garbage man saying, "NOT PET WASTE ALLOWED". WTF am I supposed to do with it if I don't put it in the garbage??

    Your post had good timing, but sadly wasn't much help in coming up with a solution since I'm also not carrying it through the house and the doggy doolie thing seems to be out. I have too many dogs to just leave it and I don't have a compost. Maybe I should consider one... I guess I could always toss it in the neighbors yard!

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  5. That's very interesting--don't you live in San Jose? I wasn't aware that there was an issue. I wonder how he even knew--don't they use the automated truck thing to lift the garbage cans? Are you bagging the waste? Maybe double-bagging it so it doesn't split? I'm a little stunned; I didn't realize it was an issue in our area. I'll have to look into this because I'm sure the question will come up if there really is an issue.

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  6. OK, I see that you're in newark. I'll try to find out more about this.

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  7. I'm lucky enough to have almost an acre, and I just dig a hole out in the corner of our small orchard and dump it in. I try to dig the whole pretty deep, and each time I dump my "gathering" bucket in, I cover it with dirt. When that hole fills, I dig another nearby, etc., etc. Thought about getting one of those composter thingys, but sounds like it's not worth it!

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  8. Vero, that sounds like a great idea if you have the room and the energy to keep digging holes.

    I browsed around on the web a bit and found an interesting article about making your own digester from an old garbage can. This would be MUCH bigger than the one I had, so maybe it would work. I'm inclined to take an old full-size garbage can and give it a try so I can report on it, but of course that could take months for me to know how well it really works.

    FYI, here are a couple of links about it:

    http://www.plantea.com/dog-waste-compost.htm

    http://homepage.mac.com/cityfarmer/PhotoAlbum22.html (interesting to note--the photo looks like a smaller garbage pail, not a full-sized garbage can; our old digester was maybe 2' high by 18" across) (also interesting that they say they tested with "one small dog." So not sure how well it scales.)

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  9. Aha, this is what we had:

    Doggie Dooley--we had the "deluxe/large/model 2800--up to 4 [small] dogs" (I had 2 dogs, 50 lbs & 36 lbs).

    http://www.doggiedooley.com/Order/Models.htm

    Says "works well in all soil conditions except hard clay." well, we do have heavy clay soil around here, but it drains well, so not sure whether that as the issue.

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  10. And here's a link to a really cool way to make use of all that doggie doo!

    http://www.coolest-gadgets.com/20100915/dog-poop-powered-park-lamp/

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  11. Well, that's what I said in my post! Maybe no one got that far. :-)

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  12. I saw this product at Cow Palace last year. If I couldn't throw my dog waste away in the trash, I'd give this a try.
    http://www.doggiedoodrain.com/home.php

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  13. Another great idea that I hadn't encountered before! Hmm, I wonder where my clean-out is. At my last house, the clean-out was so frozen shut that even the plumber couldn't get it open. I'll have to go looking for it tomorrow when it's daylight.

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  14. Recently my city introduced the Green Bin program -- now instead of composting things in our own backyards, they have a whole fleet of trucks driving around spewing out emissions to collect our compostable waste for us!

    Actually, I'm happy about the Green Bin program as I sadly dismantled my compost a few years ago due to not being able to make it work.

    Anyway, I was so excited because when they first announced the program, dog waste was to be included in the allowable items! Not the plastic bag, but the poop itself. Turns out they changed their mind on the dog poop. But, for some reason they do allow cat litter, which really surprises me.

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  15. Cat litter--that's interesting, considering how much we've had drummed into us about how dangerous some of the things in cat output can be. Maybe there's enough other material (the litter) to help really decompose things sufficiently.

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