City of Waterloo: Poop Power

Project Leads: Rhonda Fetterly, Parks Technologist

Dog waste, while it is a small price to pay for the glory that is dogs, is a stinky reality. It collects and overflows in garbage receptacles in parks everywhere. This collection method attracts flies, detracts from park aesthetics and diminishes an otherwise enjoyable park experience. Collection also presents a workplace hazard for staff, as it is both a biohazard heavy. There are also the costly tipping fees at the landfill. These are the issues the mayor of Waterloo, Dave Jaworsky, and local business leaders discussed at an event in town.

Just about everyone could agree, the status quo was not working well and a change needed to be made and a solution was proposed. It was suggested the city scoop up the services of a local firm and allow it to do its business. Sutera, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Waterloo-based company Melloul-Blamey, was born out of a desire to improve upon traditional dumpster waste collection. The idea was simple: Waste stored underground stays cooler, takes up less space, and eliminates pests. Sutera’s work expanded to developing waste receptacles that could build upon underground storage models adapted for pet waste.

While underground waste storage is a familiar technology, the majority of Waterloo parks still relied open metal drums; which meant different waste streams were contaminated by dog waste.

The mayor championed the new idea within the organization and community. Senior management supported staff taking the initiative to research the feasibility; How would the product perform in winter – would the waste freeze make removal impossible? Would the Ministry of Environment support the idea? Could the city explore this pilot under current Procurement policies? What legal considerations are there in working collaboratively with local companies such as Sutera and Bio-En Power Inc? How would workers respond? How would the public respond? A pilot project was launched in May 2017 to try and answer the question “Who’s a good dog pilot project?” Units were installed in 3 Waterloo parks.

In the end, the possibility of collaborating on a pilot was supported by senior management, and staff began researching the feasibility of such a project. Once it was determined the project was feasible, staff selected the first 3 sites based on a number of criteria: dog waste volume, size of park, existence of other amenities, and identified problem areas. The City of Waterloo signed an agreement for 1 year (May 2017-May 2018) for the pilot project and assessed success.

The project has been identified as a great benefit to  community parks and local green economy, with local business Bio-en Power Inc playing an important part of the effort behind the scenes converting the waste into fertilizer and electricity via anaerobic digestion.. In one year May 2017-May 2018 the Poop Power project  removed 0.71 tons CO2, produced enough electricity to power 14.17 homes, fertilized 0.4 acres of land and kept the equivalent of 0.67 cars of the road for the year and 268 litter bins full of litter did not need to be lifted – or treated as bio-waste.

So a big bark-out to Waterloo for showing when can be achieved when a city chases a green future, instead of a garbage truck. It’s a great success: 6 more parks will see these units installed in Waterloo before the end of the 2018 and other communities are already sniffing around.