Poo progress for researcher composting canine waste
Published:03 November 2020
CQUni PhD candidate Emily Bryson is investigating whether dog poo can safely be added to household compost.
Australia’s 4.8 million dog owners are used to scooping poop, and a CQUniversity researcher hopes to make composting dog poo the next step of responsible dog ownership.
CQUniversity Environmental Science PhD candidate and dog owner Emily Bryson has spent two years analysing decomposing dog poo for her research – and COVID-19 restrictions have meant the project is true backyard science.
Ms Bryson has shared her progress on the latest episode of CQUniversity’s podcast IMPACT, a weekly conversation exploring ground-breaking research projects and their real-world impact.
The Adelaide-based researcher has been collecting industrial quantities of dog faeces from doggy day care centres for initial lab analysis, then managing the compost process at her home.
“When I set up the project in January, I had 27 kg of poo sludge to separate into bins, and in very hot conditions because it was a heat wave – so dealing with the smell was a priority!” she said.
Luckily, introducing sawdust to the mix meant it was odourless within a week, and Ms Bryson hopes the current compost trials will be fully matured by the end of the year.
“We know dog poo can contain bacterial pathogens, for instance food-borne bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, things that cause gut problems, and also parasites like hookworm,” she explained.
“So, I’m testing for those things before the composting, and then again once the compost is mature.”
“At the moment, if you Google ‘composting dog poo’, the general consensus is ‘just don’t do it to be safe’, but there’s no evidence that advice is correct.”
“And we need to know, because if we could compost dog poo that would actually be really, really good for the environment.”
Ms Bryson started her investigation to better manage the output of her own dog Bailey – and her research has found plenty of other owners are keen to do the same.
Earlier this year her dog owners survey attracted 1100 responses, with dog-lovers across Australia sharing their poo management habits.
“I found almost of a quarter of people who responded do take their dog’s poo back home to dispose of it – so that’s already a lot of potential for how they could then dispose of that poo sustainably,” she said.
“One thing people wanted to know was if they give their dog a worming tablet, does it have an impact on earthworms in compost – and that was a great question, but the answer wasn’t out there,” Ms Bryson said.
So, her research has now extended to a worm trial – in her laundry.
Ms Bryson hopes her research can pave the way for cleaner and greener pets.
“When people and councils think about responsible dog ownership, what they’re expecting is for people to remove dog poo, to take it away and put it in the bin,” she explained.
“But that’s not truly responsible, because it’s contributing to greenhouse gases, it’s adding to plastics in landfill – so there’s so much potential for a big solution here.”
Listen to the full podcast with Emily Bryson here, search CQUniversity Podcasts and subscribe to get new IMPACT episodes in your podcast app every Tuesday.