In the U.S., approximately 78 million dogs leave behind 10.6 million tons of dog waste each year. Three years ago a park in Ithaca, NY launched a plan to lessen that environmental impact by composting dog waste. Now the first batch of dog poo compost is complete after 18 months. The results are, literally and figuratively, mixed: 12 tons of dog waste have been diverted from landfills, yet the end product is only two truckloads of compost – not enough to sustain the program through sales.
When the Allen H. Treman Marine State Park (pictured above) project started in 2009, a local dog owners group and Cayuga Compost teamed up to market the dog poo compost. Canine-loving Ithaca faces the same problem that municipalities across the country confront with dog waste. Full of pathogens and parasites, dog poo is a health hazard if left on city streets, can contaminate water if left on park trails, is not suitable for vegetable or flower gardens, and takes hundreds of years to decompose in plastic bags when left in landfills.
The experiment first involved dispensers with corn-based compostable pet waste bags placed around the park. Dog owners were urged to place their dogs’ waste in special receptacles that in turn Cayuga Compost emptied weekly. The company then mixed the waste with both yard and wood waste. The result is pathogen-free and nutrient-rich compost.
Despite all that dog poo, Cayuga Compost cannot generate enough compost for the operation to be commercially viable. According to Cornell University professor Leon Kochian, uses for this batch of dog poo compost include fertilizing the park’s new trees on Earth Day or even raffling it off as a fundraiser. That could help recoup the cost of the donations-funded project, which amounts to about $5,000 a year.
Via New York Times
Photos courtesy Wikipedia, Leon Kaye