Burning humanity’s poop could yield up to $9.5 billion
Which means we could all be sitting on gold mines.
“We recycle the nutrients in human waste effectively via agriculture in many places, yet the potential energy value of human waste has been given much less attention to date,” co-author Chris Metcalfe of Trent University said in a release. “Challenges are many but clearly there is a compelling, multi-dimensional financial case to be made for deriving energy from waste.”
Such fuel can come in the form of methane-rich biogas, generated by the bacterial breakdown of feces in an oxygen-free environment. The residue could then be dried and charred into sludge, an energy source akin to coal or charcoal, the authors write.
The report authors calculated the low and high assumptions for how much biogas and sludge can be made from the average amount of waste humans produce, and then the monetary value of the fuel sources’ energy equivalents. The result: turning people’s poo into fuel could be worth between $1.6 billion to $9.5 billion. The higher figure equals roughly the fuel needed to power households in Indonesia, Brazil and Ethiopia.
Harnessing fuel just from people who defecate in the open could be worth $200 million, the authors estimate.
But it’s not so clear-cut; the authors write there are concerns about the safety of such fuels, and that testing is needed to show they don’t “impact food taste or quality.” And the process of production could initially be costly.
Oh, and then there’s this, from the report: “Clearly there is a financial incentive in generating energy by-products from waste, but this may not be sufficient in all cultures to overcome the ‘ick’ factor of using our own waste.”
© 2015, The Washington Post
You may be interested
5 of the Best Under-the-radar Beaches in Costa RicaThe Tico Times - May 9, 2021
Costa Rica welcomes over 3 million tourists a year in search of tropical beaches, exciting adventures or simply an escape…
‘Worst nightmare’: Costa Rica ICUs saturated with Covid patientsAlejandro Zúñiga - May 9, 2021
Costa Rica's public-hospital system says it can no longer offer all critical patients the attention they require due to a…
A month after crossing river into US, immigrants face harsh realityAFP - May 9, 2021
They crossed the Rio Grande into the United States without papers and clutching their young children. Now, thousands of Central…