Burning humanity’s poop could yield up to $9.5 billion

November 3, 2015
1 Comments

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

Facebook Comments

You may be interested

PHOTO: Carlos Alvarado and Emmanuel Macron
Costa Rica
719 views
Costa Rica
719 views

PHOTO: Carlos Alvarado and Emmanuel Macron

AFP - November 12, 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a speech ahead of the Paris Peace Forum at the Villette Conference Hall in Paris…

This week in the Peace Corps: A grassroots look inside your morning cup of joe
Changemakers
886 views
Changemakers
886 views

This week in the Peace Corps: A grassroots look inside your morning cup of joe

Brittany S. / Peace Corps Costa Rica - November 12, 2018

What time of the year is it? It’s coffee picking season. Coffee all over Costa Rica is in full swing.…

The history of chifrijo
Pic of the Day
1170 views
Pic of the Day
1170 views

The history of chifrijo

Alissa Grosskopf - November 12, 2018

The owner of Cordero's Bar claims to have invented the legendary chifrijo. Want to learn more about the popular Costa…