Human waste is a problem for every place humans live and throughout history it has been dealt with in various ways. Instead of treating human waste as a problem that needs to be removed from our towns we may want to think about it as an energy source. That’s right: turn our poo into electricity.
Anaerobic digestion of human waste can be done to convert the waste into gas. The UN University has successfully done this in Uganda and ready to take it elsewhere.
Biogas from human waste, safely obtained under controlled circumstances using innovative technologies, is a potential fuel source great enough in theory to generate electricity for up to 138 million households – the number of households in Indonesia, Brazil, and Ethiopia combined.
A report today from UN University’s Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health estimates that biogas potentially available from human waste worldwide would have a value of up to US$ 9.5 billion in natural gas equivalent.
And the residue, dried and charred, could produce 2 million tonnes of charcoal-equivalent fuel, curbing the destruction of trees.
Finally, experts say, the large energy value would prove small relative to that of the global health and environmental benefits that would accrue from the proper universal treatment of human waste.
“Rather than treating our waste as a major liability, with proper controls in place we can use it in several circumstances to build innovative and sustained financing for development while protecting health and improving our environment in the process,” according to the report, “Valuing Human Waste as an Energy Resource.”