Is Poop a Gift or a Curse?

In our world, a new creature has come into town. It is a devious enemy with a smell vicious enough to make us run away. Its brownish skin taunts you to come closer until you come close enough, and it haunts you forever. It is filling up our space and taking over, preparing to kill us one by one. The worst part is, we are producing it. POOP! Yes, poop, aka as feces, is this diabolical specimen that will be (and currently is) a big problem for the human race. Now, I’m not saying that human waste will smell worse over time and cause us to pass out every time we go to the bathroom. Do you ever wonder where all our human waste goes? Now you’re getting at what I’m saying.

Human waste isn’t the first thing you think of when someone says “crisis,” but this should be near the top of that list. Many humans don’t have access to necessary sanitation–precisely 1,800,000,000 people. Yes, you read that number correctly; nearly a quarter of humans do not have access to basic sanitation, for example, toilets. The result of this is that approximately 200 million tons of waste goes untreated. When sewage is untreated, it can lead to countless health issues. If the feces finds an entrance to the water supply, it will release E. Coli, leading to many diseases. Not only does human waste impact humans, but ecosystems may be destroyed. There was a disease spreading through the coral which decreased the population of coral greatly in the Florida/Caribbean area. This disease was White Pox. This disease spread to the corals as a result of human waste being discarded into the oceans. There are bacteria in the human feces, which we can live with but coral cannot. Many sea creatures lost their homes due to human feces. So, how do we control the amount of feces and how should we discard it?

Controlling feces is something out of the ordinary, meaning it needs an out of the ordinary solution. To control feces, there’s a two-step process. The first step is humans changing their diets to vegetarian or vegan. According to the Mayo Clinic, a leading medical center in the U.S., “Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass…” This explicitly states if you eat more fiber, your stool will be easier to pass. This means your body will be producing more waste as it’s heavier and larger. Right about now you are probably thinking to yourself, “I just spent the last 5 minutes reading why we’re producing too much waste, now he’s saying we should make more?” Yes, that’s precisely what I’m saying. The more waste we produce, the more efficient the second step will be.

Fecal energy; this is the second part of controlling human waste. Fecal energy is the process of converting biomasses such as human waste into sources of energy. How this works is the toilet has a grinding system that makes the waste odorless and dries it. Once it dries, microbes will biodegrade the waste. This process generates biofuel gasses such as Ethanol. You may think this sounds crazy, turning poop into power, but I can assure you it’s not. There have been multiple instances where biofuel has been beneficial. A small city in Colorado is fueling over 40 vehicles by using biofuel gasses provided by the local waste management company. On the second occasion in Europe, a Netherland’s Dairy company has started a new project. Since their building already has over 175 cows, they decided it would be more efficient to collect their waste and convert it into biogas for the company. Since the cows are constantly eating, and eating fiber, their stool is very efficient. This is where converting to vegetarian and vegan diets come in. If we are able to produce efficient stool by eating more fibers, the result could be very similar to the success in Colorado. If small towns and big businesses can jump into the future, why can’t the big cities (which have more people and more waste) do the same thing? 

As you can see, the idea of transforming poop into power is not a fantasy; it’s happening. There have already been multiple instances of people adapting to the process. Biofuel can help countries around the globe, as we don’t need to spend millions on drilling and importing, but we can use that money to develop a cheaper biofuel facility. Innovation is using what you have to make something great. In this case, you are using your waste to produce energy. The poop crisis on Earth may be harsh, but I see it as an opportunity. What do you see?