Dog mess: to most of the population it is a bio-hazard about as welcome and useful as syphilis.
Even those required to collect it approach it with a plastic bag and a grimace. But for one former banker, it is the key to a tantalising civic and eco-energy revolution.
After three years of development work, Britain's first commercial-scale venture to convert the pungent scourge of pave-ments into a source of free heat and renewable electricity is set be unveiled.
An unnamed English local authority is involved in final negotiations to adopt the Streetkleen Bio system, a green energy project that will divert some of Britain's annual mountain of 700,000 tonnes of canine excrement into digesters capable of turning the waste into methane, CO2 and fertiliser.
The man behind the scheme is Gary Downie, a 42-year-old Scotsman living in Cheshire and former Manhattan banker who has designed the self-contained system capable of powering up to 60 homes at a time.
The first unit is expected to be operational as early as July after Downie persuaded council chiefs across the UK to enter into talks on piloting his method of handling the country's most antisocial biofuel and thus reduce the £72.5 million ($132 million) spent by councils each year on sending dog waste to landfill.
Downie's interest in the project surfaced when he became fed up with pushing his baby's buggy along streets and parks covered in dog foul.
Streetkleen will take dog mess collected by local authorities from the bins dotted around the nation's parks, removing the waste from the ubiquitous plastic bags using an automated system and then passing it through to a digester tank.
Downie insists the system is odour- free and will even recycle the plastic after it has been cleaned in an industrial washer.
The biogas will then be used to power a turbine generating electricity to be sold to the National Grid, while the heat and CO2 will be fed into an adjoining commercial greenhouse to grow plants with the help of a pasteurised biofertiliser resulting from the remains of the waste.
According to its designer, the system can operate on as little as 500kg of waste a day and take up to three tonnes a day, generating 200,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to power 60 homes.
Every tonne of excrement kept out of landfill will displace 450kg of greenhouse gases, and will also provide the growing medium for a rather surprising crop.
The Cheshire-based company, which has received start-up support from the Welsh Government, expects to make money by charging a fee to process each consignment of waste, along with income from feed-in tariffs for its electricity and sales from its greenhouses.
If the system proves successful, Downie is confident that other local authorities will adopt it to process Britain's costly mountain of dog waste. With nearly 800,000 dogs in the capital, London spends £9.5 million annually on sending their waste to landfill. Independent