The Park Spark Project, brainchild of conceptual artist Matthew Mazzotta and supported by MIT and the City of Cambridge, has created a piece that combines a small methane digester at a dog park with an “eternal flame” lit from the gas coming off decomposing dog poop.
I am completely on board with the concept: dog waste, picked up with biodegradable bags and deposited into the digester, decomposes over time. The anaerobic conditions inside the digester create methane gas, which is then piped to an adjacent, old-fashioned gas lamp. The lamp supposedly burns continuously, forever showcasing the link between waste and energy. Waste turned to energy – just from walking your dog!
The implications of this project are important: small-scale digestion can work for a relatively small group of people. Dogs certainly create a fair amount of waste in the aggregate (I’ve seen an estimate that pet waste is 4% all landfill material, though that seems high to me), but dogs and their owners are scattered throughout the country, and their density diffuse even on the scale of one city or town. Doggie doo-doo is also one of those waste streams that floats just below the standard of “deserving lots of conscientious thought.”
So more power from poop, I say! The more conventional “waste” streams are turned into power, energy, or something else useful and pleasant, the better off we’ll all be.