Vancouver is home to more anywhere between 35,000 and 50,000 dogs, and all of them create waste that needs to go somewhere.
But the way that dog poop is disposed of these days could be considered one of the grossest jobs around, forcing the city to admit that a better solution needs to be found.
Since summer 2016, red bins have popped up in six Vancouver parks that are specifically meant for collecting poop bags.
But because those bags aren’t compostable or biodegradable — despite what their packaging might say — each bag has to be cut open by hand, the contents liquefied and put straight into the city’s sewage treatment plant.
That nasty work is provided by Scooby’s Dog Waste Removal, which is contracted by the city to collect the contents of those red bins.
Even the company, which also provides private services to homeowners and stratas, admits the process is not ideal.
“It is really labour-intensive, and it’s not cheap,” owner Bill Droeske said. “There’s a lot of labour costs.”
LISTEN: Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung talks dog waste in Vancouver
Droeske says he immediately got a benefits plan for his employees as soon as the company began turning a profit. Add that to the fair wage of $22 to $28 an hour, and the costs to the city have quickly added up.
The red bin pilot program has been effective, however, Since its introduction, roughly 25 tonnes of waste have been diverted from Vancouver landfills.
Across Metro Vancouver, an additional 125 tonnes have been diverted every year thanks to similar programs.
But because the bins are only in six parks out of the city’s 200-plus, most dog poop still ends up in household garbage and landfills, which Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung says creates an environmental hazard.
“Dog waste creates methane, which is a greenhouse gas,” she said. “If it’s not treated, it can end up in our waterways and oceans as well. And we have a lot of dogs.”
The city has now put out a request for proposals to innovators who may have a solution to handling the waste and keeping it out of regular garbage, after council passed Kirby-Yung’s motion in May asking staff to look into the issue.
“We need to be able to look at what a full-scale city-wide program might look like,” said Vancouver’s solid waste program manager, Jonathan McDermott.
“We’re really open to technologies and solutions, and hopefully some good stuff comes forward.”
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Kirby-Yung says solutions could range anywhere from providing dedicated dog waste bins to homeowners, to introducing strong paper bags that could break down in compost along with the poop.
“There are a lot of interesting entrepreneurs out there, and I do think technology is advancing now,” she said. “We aspire to zero waste goals, which is part of our sustainability initiative, and I think technology is catching up there.”
Dog owners are also being reminded that there are things they can do themselves to divert more waste from landfills, including flushing it down their toilets themselves.
“It cuts out the middleman, really,” Kirby-Yung said. “They’re treating it with water already, but you can do that yourself at home.”
More information about the city’s dog waste program and tips for dog owners can be found on the city’s website.