Marking World Toilet Day

Yes, this is for real. November 19 is actually a day to mark the toilet. But through your giggles, you should be aware that billions of people actually don’t have one and many millions practice open defecation, causing our environment to become an open sewer and leading to human illness.

To mark this global event, Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev publicised the results of its Israeli Water Authority funded pilot study demonstrating that raw human excrement can potentially be converted into a safe, reusable fuel and nutrient-rich fertilizer.

It sounds foul, particularly after the initial research was conducted on poultry poo, but the university’s department has refined the process using hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) to heat solid human waste in a special “pressure cooker” to create hydrochar, a safe, reusable biomass fuel resembling charcoal.

Imagine the possibilities if human waste can be turned into reusable and environmentally friendly fuel? There’s certainly enough of it produced to keep the world firing.

In the lab study, the raw waste material was heated to different temperatures creating dehydrated solids called hydrochar, a combustible solid, after going through a nutrient-rich aqueous (liquid) phase that could be used as crop fertilizer.

It was stressed that the reaction that creates the hydrochars sterilizes the waste making it safe to handle, allowing these “coals” even to be potentially utilized for household heating and cooking.

Currently, approximately two billion people worldwide use mostly wood converted into charcoal for cooking and heating. But burning charcoal leads to air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and soil erosion, but by harnessing the potential of human “waste” properly, it can address these two issues at once and stop it from being considered “waste” anymore.

Click here to see the results of this research           

 

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