Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights dog owners are saving the planet — one poop at a time

Dog-doo goes in, compost comes out

July 31, 2023 Mary Frost
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BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Dogs (and their human companions) who visit Hillside Dog Park in Brooklyn Heights are helping to save the planet by recycling dog poop.

It turns out that literally tons of pet feces are dumped into New York City’s landfills annually. The dog waste releases methane, a greenhouse gas which traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes significantly to global warming. If composted, however, the poop turns into a useful, nutrient-rich soil amendment.

Members of the Friends of Hillside Dog Park researched the issue, and roughly two months ago installed compost bins along with pooper scoopers and biodegradable brown paper.

Dog owners pick up the poop using the scoopers or paper, then drop it into a green metal can. When the green can is full, its contents are dumped into the first composting bin, where it is mixed with sawdust, wood chips or other carbon-filled material to “cook” for months. When ready, the composted material is moved to the second bin, ready to be collected and spread around street trees and garden beds.

Members of the Friends of Hillside Dog Park in Brooklyn Heights have installed compost bins for dog poop at the popular dog run. Photo: Mary Frost/Brooklyn Eagle

Hillside Dog Park — a triangular 1.4-acre park at the corner of Columbia Heights and Vine Street — is not the first dog run in NYC to have a dog waste composting program. East River State Park inaugurated their composting pilot in 2016. It has since become a permanent program, according to the Enviro Pet Waste Network, which publishes resources for people who want to start their own composting sites.

Likewise, Battery Park City recently initiated a composting program. It currently collect roughly 15 pounds of dog waste per day from three dog runs, and the Parks Department expects that number to go up to as much as 75 pounds as more dog owners learn about the program and participate. Parks has already spread its first load of compost from the program along the planted median on West Street.

The thermometer on top of this compost bin shows that the temperature inside the bin isn’t hot enough to “cook” the compost yet. Photo: Mary Frost/Brooklyn Eagle

Gothamist estimates that New York City’s dogs likely defecate about 74 tons of poop per day — or 27,000 tons annually. (Not to mention that dog droppings on a sidewalk or the bottom of your shoe can potentially have up to 23 million forms of sickening fecal coliform bacteria per gram.) This makes the upcycling of dog waste a matter of significant importance to the city.

One of the doggie daddies visiting Hillside Dog Park on Monday morning hadn’t heard about the composting program yet. “Really? Have to try it,” he said. 

This dog and its master relax under a tree in Hillside Dog Park. Photo: Mary Frost/Brooklyn Eagle

Other pet owners knew where the composting bins were, but hadn’t made any “deposits” yet.

“I don’t know how it works,” one confessed.

At least one woman, however, said she has been using the bin. “You just scoop it in,” she said. “It’s easy.”

A dog pokes around in the dappled sunlight at Hillside Dog Park on Monday morning. Photo: Mary Frost/Brooklyn Eagle

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