Is dog poo on the sidewalk a resource?

Is dog poo on the sidewalk a resource?

Photo by Victor Grabarczyk on Unsplash

Animal Medicine Australia estimates there are 5.1 million dogs in Australia. Most of these will be family pets and companion animals that make a difference to wellbeing.

What does it cost to keep all these pouches? 

Dog ownership costs roughly $1,500 a year and perhaps $25,000 in the lifetime of the cuddly family member. All up Australians fork out $7.6 billion a year on their dogs. Just for perspective, NSW, where 8 million Australians live, spends roughly $4 billion on its police force each year and $24 billion on public education.

It seems that the dogs are up there with the essential things in people’s lives.

What about the hidden costs? 

A single dog produces approximately 340 grams of waste per day. That means Australian dogs drop a mind-boggling 1,734 tonnes of turds a day.

That is as heavy as 137 double-decker buses or the take-off weight of three Airbus A380 aircraft with 1,500 people on board.

This weight of organic smelliness dropped on Australian sidewalks and parks is small compared to global output.

The data here are rubbery as the actual numbers are hard to find, not all countries keep records, and many dogs are strays, but there are probably around 470 million dogs worldwide.

A380 commercial flights pre-COVID were around 300 per day. This is just about enough take-off weight to airlift a day’s worth of dog poop.

This mass of manure is clearly significant given we need every ton of organic matter to keep soils productive.

Is dog poo a resource?

Dog faeces (and those of cats) contains about 0.7% nitrogen, 0.25% phosphate and 0.02% potassium.. This chemistry means dog faeces are poor plant fertilizer, plus they often smell, stick to shoes, and contain pathogens. In its unweathered state, dog faeces are not useful, let alone fertilizer. 

Most dog waste breaks down naturally in the environment where the dog left it.  Some cities collect and incinerate waste with composting avoided.

So maybe the excreta of our omnivorous poodles is not such a resource after all.  

An idea for the poop mountains

Perhaps the modest plant nutrients, the challenge in collecting it all, and the considerable smelliness take all the fun out of composting.

What about converting the raw material? 

One company in the UK that makes small-scale incinerators for medical waste recognises the possibilities for dog poo in the waste to energy market

Rather than just energy, what if the incinerators burnt the poop in low oxygen (pyrolysis) to create biochar such as these Mobile Pyrolysis Plants in Australia.

Biochar is a wonder product that increases carbon levels and helps retain moisture and improves nutrient exchange when applied as a soil amendment.

A conversion of poop to biochar would get around all the problems of composting pet waste for use in agriculture.

Dog poo on the paddock. Now that is an excellent idea.


Please share this idea with your next pet post

Yippee! There are 500 posts on Alloporus

Yippee! There are 500 posts on Alloporus

Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash

Well, who would have thought that after 13 years and a handful of readers that this blog would reach 500 posts? 

Not me, certainly. 

I am amazed and a little proud of myself for keeping it going all this time. 

When I started, the blogosphere was the online space. There were prospects for a wide readership and perhaps even a side hustle from the proliferation of traffic. Then Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and a host of other online distractions hogged the breeze, and what was left was quickly mopped up by aggregators like Medium. Bloggers do it now for personal satisfaction, with only a handful of the early adopters maintaining their readership.

I can’t complain because I write rather than read blog posts, and it seems unfair to lament a lack of traffic. So the blog ticks along with 50 to 100 visitors a month. 

Anyway, low traffic volume just needs a few viral outbreaks to explode. We live in hope.

A huge thank you to those kind folk who stumbled onto this blog over the years and read a post or two. And especially the few regulars who clicked the RSS. 

It is nice to know that there are real people in the ether.

What did I blog about?

Not surprisingly, for an ecologist, the environment was the most popular category (142 posts), chased by awareness (135) and the Big Picture (127). 

I did not expect to write about leadership (88 posts) as much as I did. But the political debacle that Australians have lived through in the last decade meant that laments on the absence of leadership were inevitable.

If any of these whinges offended, then good. It is beyond time that we woke each other up with a cattle prod and did something about the ugly, shameful behaviour that passes for political leadership in this country. 

This week, I watched Strong Female Lead, a documentary film billed as “an exploration of gender politics during Julia Gillard’s term as Australia’s first female prime minister”. 

It was harrowing to see grown adults dispense abuse to a colleague without the slightest remorse. I might have looked for the nearest bus if it wasn’t for this documentary’s hopeful ending.  Let’s just say those 88 posts came about because the nation’s moral compass is buried six feet under. 

No doubt there is more to say about our vacuous leaders.

I have always believed that awareness is essential to human wellbeing. No surprise that several posts were tagged thus. Our personal and social lives are better if we pay attention to each other.

Knowledge and perception of the bigger picture are more tricky. 

Dissonance, denial and disbelief are much more accessible than confronting the truth of a finite planet with close to 8 billion eager people. Ostrich behaviour makes it hard to raise awareness without sounding pessimistic or preachy. But we all must confront fears, or our grandchildren will have a terrible and short time on earth.

I am working on some practical tools to help with awareness. It is a little early to announce what they are, but the intro has begun over at our new website sustainably FED.

What happens next for Alloporus?

A blog with 230,000+ words of depressing content should have run its course.

After a break from posting through 2010, I tried to reset Alloporus onto a more positive path, and it lasted for a month or two before returning to the usual laments. It seems I am stuck with the frustration of the information age being full of worthless detail. 

Why can’t we see that food security is critical to the future of humanity, not climate change or koalas? 

Humanity needs 23 trillion kilocalories per day, for goodness sake, just to keep the people alive, let alone the pets — by 2030, it will be 32 trillion.

There is a therapeutic effect of writing about the world in this way. It makes for depressing reading, but it helps to get it off my chest.

I am semi-retired now, too — phew, that was an admission I have been avoiding — so there should be more time to craft more engaging pieces.

So I will continue to post once a week in the hope of seeding some healthy thinking.

Thanks again for reading,

it means a lot to me.

Alloporus