Number-crunching on dog doo tells woeful tale

Over a year that totals about 18,000 tonnes — more than 1.5 times the weight of BC Ferries’ biggest ship.

It gets more interesting. Across Metro, applying the mathematical formula developed for calculating urban dog populations by the U.S.-based National Council for Pet Population Study and Policy, there should be an estimated 500,000 pet dogs. These canines would produce about 167 tonnes of excrement every 24 hours — or 61,000 tonnes a year, equal to five BC Ferries the size of the Spirit of Vancouver Island.

And that’s just the solid waste. On average, dogs produce about .75 litres of urine every day, too, which means that across Metro Vancouver they pee enough to fill 55 Olympic-size swimming pools each year.

Much of that poop first goes on the ground, leaving residues behind even where responsible dog owners collect the fecal matter afterward. Almost all the urine is deposited there but is not cleaned up because there’s no practical way to do so.

That means more than 100,000 litres of dog urine a day, equivalent to about nine standard-sized septic tank truck loads, soaks into Vancouver’s lawns, gardens, parks, playgrounds and runs off into storm drains and waterways.

Even dog excrement collected by responsible owners poses a growing problem. While human waste almost exclusively goes into sewers for proper treatment at the region’s five facilities, a significant amount of pet waste goes into the garbage and ultimately into landfills despite bylaw prohibitions. Large quantities of fecal matter entering landfills are cause for concern for several reasons:

• First, there are potential health hazards to municipal waste workers from the bacteria, viruses and parasites in the excrement they collect and transport.

• Second, there’s the potential for contamination of soils and waterways should the fecal matter leach into the water table.

• Third, decomposing pet waste is a source of methane emissions.

• Fourth, pet waste is usually dumped in the trash in non-biodegradable plastic bags, which hinders the composting process.

Toronto did a city-wide waste audit in 2006 and discovered park litter bins contain up to 27 per cent dog waste by weight. A followup audit in 2008 found despite educational campaigns, pet waste still comprised up to 26 per cent of the park litter bin contents by weight.

Audits in Colorado found 60 per cent of urban dog waste — approximately 30,000 tonnes — went into trash receptacles while 40 per cent, or 20,000 tonnes, was left on the ground by dog owners.

In Vancouver, disposal of any excrement in garbage containers is prohibited by law and dog owners are urged to flush dog waste down the toilet. However, there’s tacit acknowledgment that a lot of this excrement goes into household garbage and public trash receptacles, so officials admit that out of practicality they must turn a blind eye except for egregious quantities.

Hardly surprising then that Metro Vancouver’s solid waste managers confirm that an audit of the solid waste stream in 2010 identified 16,553 tonnes of pet waste present when it was legally not supposed to be contaminating the region’s municipal garbage.

Leave a Reply