San Francisco, a leader in urban recycling, is preparing to enlist
its canine population for a first in the United States: converting dog
poop into energy.

Norcal Waste Systems Inc., the city’s garbage
company, plans to test collection carts and biodegradable bags in a
city-center park popular with dog walkers.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.A city study found
that almost 4 percent of all the garbage picked up at San Francisco
homes was from animal waste destined for the city’s landfill, Norcal
Waste spokesman Robert Reid said. San Francisco has an estimated
120,000 dogs.

"The city asked us to start thinking about a pilot
program to recycle the dog poop in order to cut back adding more waste
in landfills," Reid said.

Dog feces could be scooped into a
methane digester, a device that uses bugs and microorganisms to gobble
up the material and emit methane, which would be trapped and burned to
power a turbine to make electricity or to heat homes.

Dogs and
cats in the United States produce about 10 million tonnes of waste a
year, Will Brinton, an environmental scientist and owner-director of
Woods End Laboratories in Maine, said.

"As much as we love them,
our pets leave a lot of manure behind them in yards and on the street
and that can be a major source of contamination of groundwater,"
Brinton said.

European cities such as Zurich, Frankfurt, Munich and Vienna are operating biomass programs to turn waste into gas, he said.

Francisco runs an aggressive program to recycle bottles, cans, paper
and other trash and now diverts two-thirds of its garbage away from

The city’s goal is a 75 percent diversion by 2010 and zero new waste in landfills by 2020.