Colorado city testing environmentally friendly solution for dealing with dog waste

The dilemma of how to handle dog waste in an environmentally friendly manner is taking a big step forward in Boulder, Colo., where city officials have initiated a program to compost tons of the material.

The city of Boulder will make available compostable bags for people to collect dog waste, as well as install compost bins at the trailheads of three popular open space areas. Colorado-based company EnviroWagg will be responsible for turning the waste into compost.

According to the Boulder Daily Camera, EnviroWagg already provides its composting services to veterinary hospitals, animal shelters, and dog-friendly bars in the surrounding areas.

The primary goal is to do something beneficial with even a small portion of the enormous amount of dog waste dumped into landfills annually. According to the EnviroWagg website, 83 million dogs generate more than 11 million tons of waste each year in the U.S. Much of this waste is sent to landfills, where it releases harmful methane gas into the atmosphere as it decomposes.

During the composting process, EnviroWagg deposits the waste into its large tumbler and turns it into a product called Doggone Good Compost. Because dog waste can contain more pathogens than more traditional sources of manure, EnviroWagg says the Colorado State University Environmental Quality Laboratory tests each batch to ensure it meets EPA pathogen requirements for treated biosolids.

The idea of using dog waste for other purposes such as energy or compost has been proposed or attempted in a few U.S. cities, but has been slow to produce significant results. EnviroWagg pointed out a proposed project in San Francisco to turn dog waste into an alternative energy source. And in Ithaca, N.Y., a pilot program launched in 2009 turned 12 tons of dog waste from the park into two truckloads of compost in 18 months. 

Phil Yates, parks and open space spokesman for Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks department, told the Daily Camera he expects the city's new open space compost bins to provide plenty of composting material. According to Yates, the open spaces receive about 2 million dog visits each year, and crews remove 25-30 tons of dog waste from open space trash cans annually.