Feature Article - January 2011
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Dog Parks 2.0

Taking America's Dog Parks to the Next Level

By Daniel P. Smith

Ithaca Dog Park Turns Waste Into Compost

As the plastic bags with dog waste began piling up for a trip to the landfill, dog owners in Ithaca, N.Y., home to both Cornell University and Ithaca College, began wondering if there wasn't a more environmentally sensible way to dispose of the dog poop.

Turns out, there is.

At one of the city's dog parks in the Treman Marine State Park, dog waste is being turned into compost, an early trial with already-intriguing results. Visitors can use special corn-based bags to pick up after their dog. After putting the bag and its contents into large bins near the park's entrance, a local compost company, Cayuga Compost, ventures to the park weekly to empty the bins.

Cayuga's Mark Whittig said the two-year-old collection of pet waste is nearly done composting. The first year's collection of nearly 12,000 pounds of dog waste, a $6,000 project funded by private donations, is now about one pickup truck worth of compost. In early 2011, samples will be sent to a lab to test for pathogens and determine nutrient profile for possible usage.

"It's unique material, not in its characteristics, but in its origins. That makes it interesting commercially. There's an opportunity for a nonprofit like the dog park to use it as a product for fundraising," said Whittig, whose company is still collecting 250 pounds of dog waste each week from the dog park's bins.