February 21, 2006

San Francisco to test turning dog waste into power

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - San Francisco, a leader in urban
recycling, is preparing to enlist its canine population for a
first in the United States: converting dog poop into energy.

Norcal Waste Systems Inc., the city's garbage company,
plans to test collection carts and biodegradable bags in a
city-center park popular with dog walkers.

A city study found that almost 4 percent of all the garbage
picked up at San Francisco homes was from animal waste destined
for the city's landfill, Norcal Waste spokesman Robert Reid
said. San Francisco has an estimated 120,000 dogs.

"The city asked us to start thinking about a pilot program
to recycle the dog poop in order to cut back adding more waste
in landfills," Reid said.

Dog feces could be scooped into a methane digester, a
device that uses bugs and microorganisms to gobble up the
material and emit methane, which would be trapped and burned to
power a turbine to make electricity or to heat homes.

Dogs and cats in the United States produce about 10 million
tonnes of waste a year, Will Brinton, an environmental
scientist and owner-director of Woods End Laboratories in
Maine, said.

"As much as we love them, our pets leave a lot of manure
behind them in yards and on the street and that can be a major
source of contamination of groundwater," Brinton said.

European cities such as Zurich, Frankfurt, Munich and
Vienna are operating biomass programs to turn waste into gas,
he said.

San Francisco runs an aggressive program to recycle
bottles, cans, paper and other trash and now diverts two-thirds
of its garbage away from landfills.

The city's goal is a 75 percent diversion by 2010 and zero
new waste in landfills by 2020.