Not for reading over breakfast!
Today I’m talking complete poo! Oy, who said “what’s new”?
There’s no dressing it up, every year the average adult flushes away 730 litres of pee and around 91 kg of poo. Throughout history this waste has been used as fertiliser for crops and for other things and it could be the answer to some of the world's biggest problems as we now have the technology and knowledge to do all of this safely, unlike the past.
Let's start with our need for energy. Whilst solar or wind power storage is not perfected yet, we have a constant supply of poo (alternative wind power!)
Post processing, the sludge is good raw material for generating methane. Yes, methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, but when bacteria is added, bio-gas is produced, which can be used domestically or to power vehicles, and it's a much cleaner fuel than petrol or diesel.
While poo has plenty of uses, it is ‘number two’ to ‘number one’ wee!
Population increases coupled with climate change are exacerbating the demand for water. Some countries could face having populations displaced by water scarcity within the decade. In addition to the two litres of pee each adult in the UK produces daily, we also send around 140 litres of water down the drain with it.
Globally, recycling that water could save the planet from apocalyptic droughts, plus seventy two percent of the planet’s available water is used in agriculture. “The technology is available and already in use. Israel currently captures almost 90% of used water which is recycled to provide a whopping 56,000 Olympic swimming pools' worth of water annually for agricultural use”.
Just over half of the world’s population live without safe sanitation causing the deaths of ~800 children under 5 every day. This could be prevented by ramping up the supply of innovative waterless toilets.
Back to poo. Composting toilets could be used in developing countries to supply fertiliser for subsistence crops. In developed countries, the nutrient-rich dried residue left over from bio-gas generation could be used on the land as fertiliser for crops.
Every living thing relies on phosphorous to survive. However, it's a natural resource which can't be replenished and it’s running out fast. “USA, China and India may run out of their supplies in the next generation.” Without phosphorous, only half of the crops grown today would be possible and it is a by-product of human waste.
Ok, so poo and pee are not your average topic of conversation down the pub, at work and particularly over the dinner table, but it’s clearly something we now need to take seriously.
Sources: BBC/Open University