Human Waste Could Light Up More Than 138 Million Homes: Study

We can finally stop flushing a valuable energy source down the toilet, new research has found.

If all the world’s human waste were collected and converted into usable energy, it could be used to light up more than 138 million households, according to the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health.

Admittedly, it may take time for underserved communities to get over the “ick” factor, researchers noted, but a U.N. group has a plan in place to start implementing the process in Uganda, where more than half of residents share open pit latrines or practice open defecation, which in turn contaminates water sources and can lead to waterborne diseases.

“One thing is clear,” the researchers noted. “Rather than treating our waste as a major liability, with proper controls in place, we can use it to build innovative and sustained financing for development while protecting health and improving our environment in the process.”

The findings come at a time when the U.N. is on the line to improve sanitation and tackle the untreated wastewater issue.

As part of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September, the UN committed to halving the proportion of untreated wastewater by 2030.

Human waste has long been regarded as a worthy resource for agriculture, but its potential as an energy source has been largely neglected.

When fecal matter, and any other organic matter, is broken down in an oxygen-free system, “biogas” is generated, which can be used as a fuel source. And while a number of countries and wastewater treatment plants have harnessed biogas as an energy source, few have taken advantage of what “fecal sludge” has to offer.

According to the report, after the residue from the biogas is dried and charred, it can produce charcoal-equivalent coal, —> Read More