As mayor of one of Canada’s most famously inventive cities, Dave Jaworsky has a lot of fresh ideas.
While Waterloo, Ontario, staked a worldwide reputation as the cradle of BlackBerry Inc, the city with a population of around 100,000 still churns out a dizzying number of tech startups.
“So when I get a call, I listen and I listen carefully,” he tells iHeartDogs.
But when a local businessman recently tried to sell him on the idea of squeezing energy from dog poop, Jaworsky admits to a little hesitation.
“At this point, I said, ‘Okay, you’ve got my interest … but not really,’” he says with a laugh.
But Jaworsky only needed the numbers to convince him that something had to be done about the 125,000 pounds of dog waste collected from city garbage bins every year — all of it going to a landfill.
Besides, he learned, rural areas have long been breaking down animal waste and turning it into electricity, heat and fertilizer. But that waste comes from large farm animals — often in bulk and relatively simple to process.
How do you collect the pitter-patter of poop from countless dogs across the city?
Well, as Jaworsky soon learned, it would start with a humble bin, placed over a large hole in the ground.
“It looks like a rural mailbox and you drop it in,” he says. “And then you have that dog waste stored underground.”
“Then we bring in a vacuum truck, much like a septic tank truck, and it removes that waste, takes it to the generation facility and then we generate electricity from it.”
The idea of converting dog waste into energy has been around for a while. The lamps at a park in Cambridge, Massachusetts are powered by it.
And, in fact, there are several ways to turn human poop into electricity.
But the potential scale of this project — if the pilot is successful — could be a bright beacon of hope for cities across the globe that increasingly find themselves mired in dog poop.
The city plans to install three poop-collecting receptacles in parks over the next few weeks.
“What I like about this idea is we’re using a rural technology — energy from waste — to solve an urban problem,” Jaworsky says. “You’re turning it from a problem into a resource.”
And then, well the proverbial, err… excrement hits the fan. Literally. The energy goes into the electrical grid, helping power the entire province of Ontario.
“It looks highly promising,” Jaworsky adds. “The lesson is, you never know where good ideas will come from.”