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