02 July 2015

Vancouver man raising a stink about dog waste going into landfill

Dedicated bins like those in Pacific Spirit Regional Park urged Doo’s & don’ts:

 By Cheryl Chan, The Province July 1, 2015
Raymond Greenwood is hounding the city to fix a crappy situation.
He has a bone to pick with all the plastic-bagged dog feces discarded in garbage containers in Vancouver.

With more than 100,000 dogs in the city, each producing an estimated average of 370 grams of feces a day, that amounts to a lot of smelly stuff that needs disposing.

“You see bins absolutely full of dog poo in bags and that’s just the way it’s done,” said Greenwood. “Here we are doing such a good job on the food waste, so why aren’t we doing it for dog waste, when it’s so easy to do?”

Dog waste dumped into garbage bins ends up in the landfill, where conditions aren’t optimal for decomposition and can contribute to methane gas production.

Greenwood, a Vancouver resident, wants the city to put designated dog waste bins in some dog parks on a trial basis, similar to bins at some parks in Auckland and London and at Pacific Spirit Regional Park where he often takes his spaniel Pip and Yorkshire terrier Bell.

Pacific Spirit has 22 red bins dedicated to collecting dog poop. They’re well used and have diverted tons of waste from landfills, said Greenwood.

The ideal solution — taking bags of dog waste home to flush down the toilet and then putting the soiled bag into the trash — is a hard sell: “Give yourself a shake,” said Greenwood. “Is that going to happen?”

Metro Vancouver, which manages Pacific Spirit Regional Park, started using the red bins more than a decade ago in a bid to cope with the excrement left behind at its parks, which in 2010 saw an estimated 2.4 million visits by people with dogs.

It has installed dog toilets at some parks and septic tanks at others.

At Pacific Spirit, where 75 per cent of waste is dog poop, the red bins have been effective, said Richard Wallis, Metro Vancouver park operations supervisor for the west area. Usage is high. “From our observation, it’s very successful. We’re getting separation at the source,” Wallis said.

Last year, Metro Vancouver collected 21,000 kilograms of dog feces from 54 bins at eight parks. The bins are collected by contractors, who open each bag by hand and remove the dog waste, which is discharged into the sewer system at the Iona waste water treatment facility.

One drawback of the program, Wallis said, is cost — $23,000 a year at Pacific Spirit alone.
It’s something Metro Vancouver is committed to doing, he said, but it’ll continue to “evolve” as they “try to find other effective and efficient ways of doing this at a reasonable cost.”

At city hall the response to Greenwood’s dogged efforts has been lukewarm.

Albert Shamess, Vancouver’s head of waste management, said it is monitoring Metro Vancouver’s program to see if it’s sustainable, but there are no plans to implement a similar program in the near future.

Shamess said he is concerned about the logistics and processing of the program, as well as its efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

“How practical is it in the long term to have people sitting around cutting bags open and getting the waste out? It seems to be a very difficult long-term solution.”

Only a small portion of Vancouver’s dog feces goes into the landfill, where “it’s controlled, well-managed, and dealt with safely,” he said. The real issue, he added, is the number of dog owners who don’t pick up after their pets.

Vancouver Park Board commissioner Stuart Mackinnon said the proposed disposal method is labour-intensive but is a step in the right direction. He wants the city to look into best practices in other jurisdictions.

“I’m disappointed we can’t even start trials,” Mackinnon said. He acknowledged trials cost money, but said: “I don’t think (the current process) is the green thing to do. This is stuff that can be better disposed of.”

He and fellow Green Party commissioner Michael Wiebe have motions on this “ready to go,” said Mackinnon, but they’ve been asked not to bring it forward until a report on Vancouver’s “dog strategy” is released later this year or next year.

In the meantime, Mackinnon said he has asked staff about getting trash containers in parks cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis because of the stench.

“With the weather we are having right now, it’s even worse — it simply bakes in there.”

Do scoop your dog’s poop and deposit it in a red bin or trash container. Otherwise, the feces gets swept into storm drains and carried into waterways where it can create bacterial contamination.

Do bring the bag home and empty it into the toilet, then throw the plastic bag into the trash. Gross factor aside, this is the best disposal method.

Do compost. You can build a compost pit at home or use store-bought dog poop compost bins.

Do not leave dog poop in yards or bushes. Dog poop isn’t fertilizer. It’s rich in bacteria and nitrogen that can be harmful to plants, aquatic life and people.

— Metro Vancouver, David Suzuki Foundation


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