Separate dog poop bins here to stay in Metro Vancouver regional parks

Regional district intends to keep paying for specialized retrieval service that takes excrement to sewage treatment

A dog waste receptacle on a dog walking trail in Metro Vancouver's Tynehead Regional Park in Surrey.

Metro Vancouver will keep paying contractors to cut open bags of doggie do that are deposited in bins in Metro regional parks so the excrement can be treated as sewage instead of going in the garbage to be landfilled or incinerated.

It started as a pilot project more than three years ago but officials now say it will continue on a permanent basis, either as a specific contracted service or as part of a broader future contract for hauling garbage and recyclables.

Metro paid New Westminster-based Scooby’s Dog Waste Removal Service $60,000 last year to retrieve 97,000 kilograms from regional parks, cut open every bag, and dump the waste in with the sewage at the Iona sewage treatment plant.

The dog waste that piles up is a “very big” environmental issue for regional parks, according to Metro parks operations manager Gudrun Jensen.

It harms vegetation and exposes people and other animals to bacteria and parasites, she said.

“We have lots and lots of people that come with their dogs and that generates an enormous amount of dog waste,” Jensen said.

Nor does the region want it going in trash bins.

“It’s not strictly kosher to put into the solid waste stream because it is a biohazardous material. What we’re trying to do is lessen that load a little bit.”

Metro is amending its violation enforcement bylaw to require dog walkers to dispose of bagged feces in the designated dog waste receptacles where available instead of in the garbage or elsewhere. Violators will face a $125 fine.

Jensen said too many people aren’t using the red bins, hundreds of which are now in place in regional parks and trails where dogs are often walked.

“Our staff still find people leaving neatly tied up bags of dog poo on the side of the trail or hanging off the trees,” Jensen said. “You can’t just bag it up and leave it at the side of the trail or wing it off into the trees. You have to actually put it into a receptacle.”

Metro has estimated the 2.5 million dogs that visit its regional parks generate 500 tonnes of dog waste a year, so the recovery rate so far may be less than 20 per cent.

Jensen acknowledged much of it still ends up in the garbage.

“I wish more people would just flush it down the toilet,” Jensen added. “It would make life much simpler.”

Some local municipalities have considered paying for dog waste removal from their civic parks but none have yet signed on with Scooby’s.

Company owner Bill Droeske argues cities should also provide separate bins because the disposal of dog excrement is banned from the landfill.

“That poop is going into the landfill,” he said. “Even though it’s against the law, the cities do it.”

Droeske has one staff worker who cuts open dog waste bags and puts them in a tanker truck that goes to the treatment plant.

Cities also turn a blind eye to other sources of excrement in the garbage, he said.

“There’s probably a lot more baby poop going in the landfills in diapers, taking up a lot more space, but nobody seems to care about that.”

No caching stashes in parks, Metro says

Metro is also moving to ban people from stashing their stuff in Metro regional parks.

A new bylaw amendment prohibits anyone from leaving non-regional park property in a regional park and violators face a $125 fine.

Too many people were stashing items such as kayaks for their own later use, Jensen said, creating a liability risk.

“It’s not appropriate because we can’t control the safety of those things,” Jensen said.

Other examples include coolers and barbecues locked up at beaches, she said, as well as bikes stashed in the woods along trails.

She stressed that the aim is to stop overnight caching of equipment, not to deter people from riding a bike in a park and locking it up while they swim at a beach or hike on a trail.