Poo bag project to clean up parks

Constantia ideas man,Andrew Pollock, right, with carguard John Davis of Kenilworth and Lola.

Do you lie awake at night trying to solve a problem? Andrew Pollock does, thinking of ways to deal with a problem that gets on lots of people’s nerves – the scourge of dog owners who don’t clear up after their pets.

Disgusted with doggy doo littering popular walking trails, greenbelts and forests, he did something about it.

“Some dog owners pick up their canine’s poo with plastic bags, tie a knot and then leave it next to the path and put a rock on it. What happens to these parcels? They either eventually disintegrate or end up in landfills. Poo that isn’t picked up leaches Ecoli into the aquifer, polluting groundwater, ending up in residents’ borehole water,” Mr Pollock said.

About two years ago he approached Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) manager Paddy Gordon asking him why he does not do something. Mr Gordon said his hands were tied. Although the park has signboards showing no dog poo he could not enforce a law without providing a solution.

Some sleepless nights followed, but Mr Pollock was inspired by how London parks deal with doggy doo: a flushable bag. Going here, going there, he could not find a locally made biodegradable bag and eventually resorted to importing them from Italy.

“They’re made of cellulose which occurs naturally and is found in trees and yet has the same properties as plastic,” Mr Pollock said, adding that they should take about eight days to break down.

But Mr Pollock took the idea one step further. Inspired by the City of Cape Town’s compost bin project, he contacted City Parks and got them on board.

“The life of the bags is controlled by heat and damp which causes the contents to decompose,” he said.

He added that although the compost bins are closed on top, they are open underneath, allowing the contents to be in touch with the earth, bugs and grubs. Heat also aids the composting process.

On Thursday June 16, Mr Pollock installed the first poo compost bin at Cecilia Forest, securely chaining it to a tree next to the carguard hut. Another compost bin was planned to be installed at Newlands Forest on Monday June 20.

Mr Pollock said the project is in its pilot phase but if successful it has far-ranging possibilities and could expand to beaches, parks and greenbelts.

Leonard Brand of a Diep River-based pet food wholesaler, said they are currently supplying test rolls of 10 bags for this project, free.

“But we obviously can’t keep doing this. The plan is to get a sponsor who will supply the carguards who can then sell them in singles and have an income stream as motivation for the project,” he said.

TMNP senior northern section ranger, section Jannie du Plessis said the project is a trial to test the effectiveness of the garden refuse composter. However, there are some critical issues for its success:

* This garden refuse composter is not very hygienic and the lid needs to be taken off by the dog walker to put his bag inside;

* The contents need to be stirred and moved on a regular basis;

* The composter needs to be secured against possible theft;

* The project needs to managed and the public needs to be informed.

Mayoral committee member for community services and special projects, Belinda Walker, said logistics still need to be worked out by the City, the TMNP and Mr Pollock.

These include placement of the containers so they are accessible but do not pose a health hazard/nuisance; and informative signage and dispensing of the bags.

Volunteer educational officer at Newlands, Pixie Littlewort, has been complaining about dog poo for the past decade or more. Ms Littlewort, who lives near to Keurboom Park, in Newlands, said the technicolour flies, attracted by the turds, are so bad that she sometimes cannot cook.

In the past she has done an experiment in Newlands Forest with a closed compost bin but this did not work.

“It becomes a fly incubator,” she said. She welcomes the new bins with their open bottom saying the worms will eat the contents very quickly.

Mr Pollock’s vision is to see the bags becoming a household item, what with doggy poo on grass verges and pavements, and Ms Walker agrees.

“If successful, this initiative could be rolled out to other public open spaces that City Parks manages and where dog poop is a problem.

“The main benefit of using these bags will be eliminating plastic waste,” said Ms Walker.

The bags are also available at some veterinary shops.