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The Green Life: Recycling Dog Waste: A Bright Idea?

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October 08, 2010

Recycling Dog Waste: A Bright Idea?

Park Spark ProjectEver wonder what happens to all of the dog waste collected in plastic bags by dog walkers across the country? It ends up in landfills, where it releases harmful greenhouse gases.

Conceptual artist Matthew Mazzotta, who has a master's degree in visual studies from MIT, knew there had to be a way to recycle the waste. After months of brainstorming with scientists, the Park Spark Project, an interactive public-art piece that converted dog waste into usable energy, was born.

Mazzotta's month-long installation at a Cambridge, Mass., park encouraged dog walkers to collect their pets' waste in biodegradable bags, toss the bags into a methane digester, and pump the hand-crank on one of two airtight, 500-gallon steel tanks. The methane captured got piped to an old-fashioned gas-burning lamppost, where, voilà . . . light was created! As long as people were pitching dog waste, the energy production was continuous and unlimited.

The Park Spark Project was the first of its kind, and though it was dismantled last week, it made a lasting impression, inspiring people to question our current waste system and create opportunities for better solutions. 

According to the Boston Globe, Mazzotta is full of more ideas for a brighter future. He hopes to work with six cities next year on reducing emissions by creating social spaces.

--Molly Oleson / photo courtesy of the Cambridge Arts Council

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