Your dog might seem like an unlikely source of renewable energy. But a new appliance is designed to take a plentiful resource your pet produces–dog poop–and convert it into electricity that can charge household gadgets.
In theory, it’s a way to keep dog turds off city sidewalks by giving owners an incentive to bring the waste home. “I have three dogs,” says Geneva-based designer Océane Izard, who created “Poo Poo Power” as a conceptual design. “I have always believed in the potential of my dogs’ droppings. I’ve also lost count of the times I’ve walked in shit.”
To use the appliance, dog owners place a biodegradable bag of dog waste inside, where sludge-eating bacteria belch out methane that is converted to power. The electricity is stored in detachable batteries that can be used around the house.
The amount of power it produces depends on the dog. “For example, for a German shepherd, the amount of poo is different from that of a beagle,” Izard says. “For a beagle, it creates between 250 and 340 grams of feces per day. This allows you to run a fan for two hours. For a German dog, it’s twice as much. It could almost run your fridge.” (If we wanted to power our homes completely via dogs–a ridiculous scenario that Izard calculated for fun–she says we would need six to seven dogs for every person).
Izard thinks that the appliance would change how dog owners see poop. “For me it should not be taboo,” she says. “Dog owners pick up their dog turds every day. This is certainly an ordeal. That’s why there’s so much in the streets. But with this machine, people will want to bring [home] this precious gift that their dogs do one to two times a day.”
The product could save money for cities like Paris, which cleans up around 12 tons of dog poop off city streets every day. It could also help tackle the overall problem of the scale of waste. In the U.S., dogs produce around 10 million tons of poop each year, and most of that waste goes to landfill–where it pumps methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Dog waste also pollutes watersheds; a study in Seattle found that as much as 20% of bacteria in local water came from dogs.
Izard isn’t the only one to consider using dog waste for power. The city of San Francisco considered a pilot program in 2006 to collect poop at dog parks and bring it to digesters, though the program ultimately didn’t move forward. Another project aims to use dog poop to power streetlights at parks. Other projects, like the U.K.’s BioBus, convert human waste to power.
“My project is an opportunity to say it is possible even at a small scale,” says Izard. “The future of poop is here.”