Do you know what happens to your dog's poop after you dispose of it?
In Vancouver, the majority of dog waste is still going to landfill — leading to the release of greenhouse gases — despite the efforts of a poop processing program.
Since 2016, the City of Vancouver has been running a dog waste collection pilot project. In 2020 alone, it diverted 31 tonnes of dog waste from the landfill.
But Bill Droeske, the owner of Scooby's Dog Waste Removal, thinks that only scratches the surface of Vancouver's dog waste problem.
Scooby's handles all of the dedicated dog-waste bins in eight municipalities across the Lower Mainland, including Vancouver, as well as in all Metro Vancouver parks, collecting the waste and processing it into fertilizer and fuel.
"We're probably only taking maybe five or 10 per cent of the dog poop that is in garbage cans to treatment as opposed to landfill in Vancouver right now," says Droeske.
He thinks that every dog park in Vancouver should have a dedicated bin for waste.
Currently, about 20 of the dedicated bins can be found in eight of Vancouver's dog parks. They are easy to spot by their red-orange colour and a stick-figure image of a dog on the front.
After they pick up the bins, Scooby's employees take them to a processing facility in Surrey. There, the poop gets separated from the bags and loaded into 10,000-litre tanks, where it's mixed with water and enzymes and then agitated by air bubbles for a week.
Finally, it gets pumped into a vacuum truck and is taken to its final destination, the Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant in Richmond.
There, it gets turned into a type of soil fertilizer and the methane emitted is turned into biogas that powers the plant.
On the other hand, when dog waste goes to landfill it can't properly compost, according to Love-Ese Chile, a bioplastics researcher and owner of Grey to Green Sustainable Solutions.
"Dog waste often has a lot of moisture inside of it. In the non-oxygen environments in many landfills, it will degrade in an anaerobic way to form methane and water," says Chile.
"If it's just released into the environment, then it ends up being a greenhouse gas, which is leading to our climate problems."
In an email to CBC, City of Vancouver engineering services said there were no plans to expand the dog waste collection pilot project at the time of writing.
Just pick it up
But the dedicated dog-waste bins appear to be more common in other municipalities, Droeske says.
Droeske said every dog park in North Vancouver has at least one dedicated bin. He thinks a creative advertising campaign might be responsible for some of the program's success there.
"They had a little Tinker Bell on a picture, saying there's no poop fairy, no one's gonna come and pick up the poop for you," he said.
Some dog owners might think leaving their dog's poop on the ground is an environmentally friendly solution. But whether you put your dog's waste into the red bin or the garbage can, picking up your dog's waste is still the right thing to do, experts say.
Karen Storry, a solid waste engineer with Metro Vancouver, says the micro-organisms in dog waste can cause harm down the line if it's left unattended.
"If you leave your dog waste in the environment, it has pathogens and E. coli that can make their way into streams and rivers and in places we don't want those pathogens to go," Storry said.
"We're actually encouraging people when they don't have the option of the red bin program in one of the parks to put the dog waste into the garbage."