Privatisation and Waste Management – Onyx UK and the Dog Poo Solution

Dog Poo Patrol 3

“I can recall being in Paris and being so impressed with Jacques Chirac’s team of motorcycle cleaners (moto-crottes, dubbed the “Chiraclettes”). These guys looked like people from Outer Space in their near-luminous green overalls, and their motorbikes contained vacuum cleaners that sucked up the offending mess, and also a water tank and soapy shampoo, which they immediately applied to the area where the offending item had been.” –  Dai Woosnam, Grimsby, UK

I believe that many dog owners are an inconsiderate breed and everywhere they should be required to take more responsibility for the  anti-social behaviour of their animals.  Perhaps nowhere more so than in France.

When I worked in the waste management industry the company that I worked for, the French Company Onyx UK,  thought they had a perfect solution to pavement dog fouling.  Onyx UK were part of the French Water Company Compagnie Générale des Eaux  which through its network of companies also had responsibility for cleaning the streets of Paris.

This included removing the all the dog deposits and as there was so much of the offensive mess littering the streets their research and development team was working overtime on trying to develop new vehicle solutions to tackle the problem.

A lot of street cleaning in Paris involves hosing down the pavements and flushing all litter into the water channels which are then flushed into the sewer system but even water hosing was not always capable of dealing with the sticky piles of excrement and it was simply smeared along the paving slabs or, worst of all, in between the cobbles just waiting for an unsuspecting Parisian or unlucky tourist to step in it and spoil their day.

Paris Dog Poo

Onyx are best remembered for their dog poop motorbikes which as Dai said sucked up the mess by vacuum and then cleaned and disinfected the little patch of bacteria and germs that was left behind but they also introduced other innovative methods of removal including my favourite which was a two wheeled chariot like machine (rather like those contraptions that tourists can hire for easy sightseeing in big European cities) which had a container of liquid nitrogen which could be sprayed on the pile of mess and deep freeze it so that it could then be more easily scooped up.

This didn’t really catch on mostly because it was extremely dangerous and there were health and safety implications in using a chemical that if administered carelessly could lead to fingers or toes being frozen and accidentally snapped off.

The French however were rather proud of these expensive and useless machines and attempted to persuade some of their UK clients to introduce them on this side of the English Channel.

They had a contract with the City of Westminster and tried hard to persuade the client officers there to approve their use on the streets of London.  Quite sensibly however the Council was not going to allow Westminster pavement cleaners to wander around the streets with liquid nitrogen!  They wouldn’t have been safe to use anyway because it is almost certain that the poor man operating the machine would have been mugged and the vehicle would have been stolen within five minutes of leaving the depot.

So they said ‘non merci’ and Onyx UK had to send all of the vehicles that they had hoped to sell in England back to Paris where they were probably returned to a warehouse and were never used.  This of course was typical of the profligacy and waste at Onyx UK and a contributory reason for them never making any profits from their under-priced contracts.

As it happens, these things are not even used in Paris any more.  They simply couldn’t cope with the volume of poo on the streets, operating them was unpopular because cleaning them was unhygienic and smelly and when the contracts came to an end they were simply not renewed.

It also occurred to the authorities that by accepting responsibility for picking it up this didn’t deal with the problem that it is part of the French culture that dog owners seem to think that pooch parcels on the pavements is somebody else’s problem even if it was their own canine companion that put it there.  It is such an issue that the Japanese even used it as an argument against the Paris bid to host the Olympic Games.

Having removed the patrols, the French authorities are now trying to tackle the problem in an alternative way but are making disappointing progress and even heavy fines, €185 for a first offence and €450 for a second, have had little impact.  It is estimated that in Paris alone there are sixteen tonnes of dog excrement deposited on the pavements every day, which is responsible for nearly five-thousand messy incidents a week and at least two serious accidents a day and removing it continues to cost €15m a year!  As Dai mentioned in his comment: ‘Well, it does not seem to be totally working in Paris.  Certainly, I encountered a considerable amount of such mess when in France just last month.’

If dogs are really as smart as their owners would have us believe then here is the solution…

My personal solution is much simpler – I would reintroduce the dog licence fee at a minimum of £1,000 per year for all canines (guide dogs etc. exempt of course) and I would have made people who want to keep a dog pass an exam something equivalent to the driving test just to be sure that they were competent to own one and were aware of their responsibilities!


19 responses to “Privatisation and Waste Management – Onyx UK and the Dog Poo Solution

  1. Dear Mr. Petcher

    I am Mildred, from taiwan.
    My teacher is writing a book, and it need to use the first pictures in this articles.

    So we need to get the permission from you .PLEASE let me know your e-mail ASAP, therefore, my teacher can sent the official permission letter to you .


  2. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Rule of Turds | Have Bag, Will Travel

  3. In many Australian councils there are little bag dispensers on posts in parks and dog owners are required to pick the stuff up. It is more often than not that people do the right thing. I have only seen one load on the footpath in Ballarat in some years.

  4. I don’t know how it is in big cities, but out here most folks are considerate enough to use plastic bags to scoop up the poo and dispose of it properly. Of course there’s always those few who seem to think they’re exempt.

    I know you don’t like dogs, Andrew, but living alone mine was a great companion and alarm dog if there was anything amiss.

  5. Some communities in the US have gone to DNA. They require a DNA sample from a dog when the dog moves into the community. And if they find poop where it’s not supposed to be, they have it DNA tested and match the poop to the offending dog. Of course, the answer for the irresponsible owner would be to walk their dog in a different community, where their dog’s DNA isn’t on file. But I suppose the community police are banking on the owners being lazy — since they can’t be bothered to pick up the poo, they’re certainly not going to drive their dog elsewhere.

    All that to say, “Bad owner! Bad!”

  6. I’m with your solution – definitely reintroduce the Licence fee. I remember when I was a young girl (yes, I can just remember) we had to have these. We didn’t have to clean up after the dogs as the dangers weren’t taken on board then, but having to buy a Licence meant you contributed something to the street cleaning

    • This is an issue that really divides opinion. Dog lovers are so sensitive and hate anyone to mention it. I can remember when I was a boy that I was worried that if dogs just kept pooping on the pavement then eventually there would be mountains of the stuff and it would be impossible to walk anywhere safely. Clearly I didn’t know then about the natural process of biological decay.

  7. I’ve often felt the wrong critters are licensed! I agree: Owners need to prove they are responsible for their animals, are familiar with their animals’ emotional and physical needs, that they have the means to pay for veterinary treatment and routine necessary vaccinations, have spayed or neutered the little darlings (unless their owners are licensed legitimate breeders) and have adequate insurance to cover any legal issues (from bites or other mayhem our little friends are capable of).

    That noted, just picking up dog turds when Rufus deposits it or FiFi drops one at your feet would be a good start toward responsible ownership.

    Later, we can deal with cats. (Spay and neuter them, too…!)

  8. I am in the U.S. in San Francisco where dogs outnumber children- 150,000/ 107,000. We have licensing requirements and city ordinances requiring dog owners to pick up with heavy fines for violators but no budget for enforcement. I think the majority of dog folks do pick up. Most communities & neighborhoods have little dog waste stations- not something provided by the city- but homemade bag dispensers made out of milk jugs or some other recycled container attached to fences & poles that other dog owners fill with plastic bags from produce & newspapers. However there is still a lot poop left behind in every city park and irresponsible dog owners who let their dogs use a neighbor’s front yard. More and more of these dirty deeds are being captured on home surveillance cameras and dog owners are being publicly shamed on neighborhood websites like

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