Another Use for Poop: Recycling Human Waste
- Posted on: Jan 28 2015
If you thought that there were not any viable options for human feces, you are mistaken. One of our past articles touched upon FMT, where fecal matter can be used to treat Clostridium Difficile, a potential deadly infection, but recycling human waste has many other benefits as well.
For those who are interested in sustainable living, here are just a few of the ways human feces can be recycled:
- Generally during spaceflight, the human waste that is generated by astronauts are loaded into capsules which then burn up as they pass through the Earth’s atmosphere. However, for long-term missions, such as NASA’s proposed Lunar Outpost, plans are already in the works to put this waste to use. Researchers at the University of Florida, Abhishek Dhoble and Pratap Pullammanappallil, were approached to help come up with a solution to the accrual of feces that would accumulate during these future long-term missions. The solution they came up with puts the waste to use in a very efficient way, as the human excrement will be converted into a biogas that will be able to fuel the rocket back to Earth!
- In addition to fueling a rocket, this process of converting waste into a biogas can also provide the astronauts on long missions with a back-up oxygen system, since human excrement has the potential to produce non-drinkable water. The water is released as the waste decomposes, and this can then be divided by the use of electrolysis into oxygen and hydrogen. This gives the astronauts the ability to inhale the oxygen produced. Part of this technique can also be used to create drinkable water as well, as the non-drinkable water that is released during the decomposition process can be further treated to ensure that it is safe to drink.
- The technique of converting human feces into fuel has great potential here on earth as well. With the right equipment, waste can be converted to a biogas that can be used to generate heat for homes, generate electricity, and cook food for those with gas ranges. In fact, last year in the U.K, scientists at Severn Trent Water (SVT), a power company, took to the sewers and broke down the waste into carbon dioxide, and then to bio-methane, a natural gas. This amazing process can help everyone afford electricity!
- Known as “humanure”, human waste can also help with the production of food and sustainable farming, as both urine and human feces contain enough nutrients to grow most of the plants that a person requires for food. Human waste is excellent for fertilizer, and may be the solution to the currently used synthetic fertilizers. Plus, using fertilizer created from human waste generally produces a healthier crop, with much more yield during harvest! In addition, synthetic fertilizers also use up a lot of resources in order to be made, and as a result produces lots of greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide. If done safely, replacing synthetic fertilizers with the nutrients from human waste could prove to be beneficial to the planet!
During a time of uncertainty in regards to social and environmental changes that are happening, our waste has the potential to get us out of tough times. Hopefully this also helps you appreciate every aspect of your body, no matter how unpleasant, as it has the potential to change the world!
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