Feature

Poo power!

Green Lifestyle

Powering park lights with methane from dog poo is a great new idea helping Australian pet owners live more sustainably.

poo

Duncan Chew, founder of GreenNation sustainability consultants and the Poo Power! project.

Credit: Marty Friedel/Digital Cookie

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Up to 15% of people never pick up after their dog. That's about 200 tonnes of poo left to pollute our parks and rivers – and it's a resource that's worth harvesting.

Duncan Chew, founder of GreenNation sustainability consultants, had a bright idea to harness that energy. Chew established Poo Power!, a project aimed at making renewable energy accessible and engaging, while utilising the energy created by Australia’s pet dogs.

The idea came to Chew a few years ago when he was walking Diesel and his other dog, Sally, in the park. “I was watching dog owners bag poos and stuff them into bins ready to go to landfill,” Chew says.

“I thought, surely there must be a better way. And so Poo Power! was born, through a love of dogs that will guide us into a brighter future.”

According to Chew, Australia’s four million pet canines create an estimated 1,350 tonnes of waste daily, with 20% washing into waterways or ending up on the sole of your runners, creating an environmental biohazard.

Chew’s poo processers will turn waste into power while also educating dog owners about the importance of picking up after their pooches.

Chew’s first Poo Power! prototypes are being developed with the support of three metropolitan councils in Melbourne. The first, which Chew aims to launch this summer, will harness 5,000 litres of dog waste – the average volume of dog poo dumped across a council area every day.

Chew’s doggy-do energy machines work by turning poo into biogas via an anaerobic digestion process. Dog owners collect their pets’ poo in fully compostable bags, then pop it into the Poo Power! digester, where it’s broken down by bacteria. This process creates gases and sludge. The gases are stored and used to light gas lamps throughout the park. The sludge can be used onsite in the park, reducing the need for artificial fertilisers.

Chew says he has been inundated by other councils and kennels keen to order Poo Power! digesters. He’s also introducing the concept to schools, where children’s lunch scraps could be converted to energy, demonstrating sustainability in action to our youngest generation.

In the meantime, Chew is finessing his free Poo Power! app, supported by Melbourne Water and Inspiring Australia. It encourages users to identify poo ‘hotspots’ to help plan for future Poo Power! stations. You take a photo of a dog poo, rate it – yes, seriously – and upload it onto the Poo Power! map.

Chew’s playful take on serious environmental education and outcomes is taking poo power to new heights.

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For more ideas on greening-up your pet, check out our feature, 8 ways to lighten your pet's footprint.