Excrement to energy: Human waste to produce clean power!
It is never too late to explore more green energy options and while there will be still people around asking this question of ‘why now?’ the best answer to it would actually be ‘why not?’ since one can never complain about going a bit too green! But if you still need a solid explanation on why we need to transform human waste into meaningful energy and turn all that excrement into something that will not just be useful to us, but will also quit harming the environment we live in.
Modern lifestyle and growing population, along with ever growing food needs mean that human waste is becoming a major biohazard across the planet. By recycling it and turning most of it into energy, one can not only reduce the dependence on fossil fuel but eliminate the pressure on land requirements that would be otherwise needed for disposal of all this waste.
The Trash Story
One would be tempted to say here that the story of the human waste is as old as man itself, but then that would be a pun too obvious. But the fact remains that human waste and its improper disposal can lead to disasters as great as mishandling of any other biohazard. The bacterial and viral infections that it can inflict along with the huge amounts of resources and network that it demands for safe disposal. Since we have anyway invested in careful disposal systems through history, why not take them a step further and integrate them with recycling plants which will payback our investment and keep us safe?
Greywater recycling systems, composting toilets and waterless urinals have been used in an effort to both conserve natural resources such as water and also to ensure that nutrition flows back into the soil it came from. But modern science is going a step further and is turning all this waste into energy with its amazing breakthroughs.
The Trash Miners
1. LooWatt Toilet:
The Gold: These are the guys who pride themselves in turning human excrement into energy and while not many can stake claim to that rare honor, LooWatt starts off with a hands-on approach at the consumer level by directly collecting waste.
The Mining Process: The LooWatt toilet is chemical and water free Loo where feces and urine are collected in an odorless cartridge that is sealed off and it is then replaced as it fills out. The cartridge is lined with biodegradable material and once removed from LooWatt is dumped into a digester that churns out biogas.
The Glitter: Right now LooWatt is still in the pilot stage with the project running at a houseboat Marina in West London and the company hopes that very soon they will expand to bigger communities. So far the test project is yielding steady supply of biogas and those using this seem to be happy as well. So all thumbs up here for now!
2. Orange County Sanitation District turns human waste to hydrogen fumes:
The Gold: it seems that Orange County Sanitation District is attempting something rather difficult, but for the moment they seem to be on the right track. Turning human waste into stable hydrogen fuel is not all that easy but along with experts from UC Irvine, they hope to one day fill up hydrogen-powered cars with the gas that they extract from their sewage treatment plant.
The Mining Process: Methane gas is extracted pretty easily from sewage. In fact, it can be obtained pretty naturally from rotting waste. But the latest project intends to turn this into hydrogen gas that can be used as stable and sustainable fuel. A $8 million device has been setup just for this purpose and things seem like they are on course for now.
The Glitter: Seems like if the idea is a hit then the treatment plants can double up as filling stations for automobiles that run on clean and emission-free fuel. This seems to be an idea that is a winner in every sense and once the test phase is done and success obtained, going commercial should be not too hard.
The Gold Rush
1. Micromidas makes plastic out of poop:
Whenever there is a miracle transformation that needs to be performed, just count on genetically engineered bacteria to be there and do their magic. Micromidas is a company that is turning human waste into usable plastic and while that might sound unbelievable to some, all that solid content that settles down in the treatment plant apparently makes for perfect raw material to make plastic.
The microbes weave out a polymer that seemingly can be turned to plastic and while we question how safe it is to add more plastic to the world and if it is an less toxic than human waste, the intent still seems right.
2. The TRILET 2.0:
Public restroom design crafted by Caine, the Trilet does away with usage of water and covers human waste with hay, sawdust and organic material. This is then sent to a plant that turns the waste into fertilizer which reduces the usage of chemical fertilizers and increases soil nutrition.
One hopes that with modern science growing in leaps and bounds and the right intent human waste will stop being a biohazard and will become viable biofuel very soon.