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The movement is on for recycling human waste

There is a movement afoot to make better use of human waste to cut down on the heavy use of water and machinery at wastewater treatment plants. A growing number of experts are examining the potential of using composting toilets to make fertilizer, in addition to transforming sewage sludge into fuel that could heat buildings.

The main benefit is the conservation of water used in the wastewater treatment plants, and in the flushing of toilets, which occurs about five times a day in a typical American household. Reports from five years ago through the U.S. Geological Survey indicated that Americans use about 410 billion gallons of water a day, 30 percent of those gallons coming from flushed toilets.

Water reclamation districts throughout the country, particularly in big cities, are spending millions of dollars treating wastewater, lending credence to the theory that better use of human waste could translate to significant money savings as well.

At its basic level, the recycling of human waste creates soil compost that can be used by gardeners.

Researchers and “green” authors are calling for a close look at recycling human waste, saying it has long been ignored as a potential resource. Residents who buy into the concept across the country have begun using composting toilets, which work much the same way as a flushing toilet, except the waste is collected in a composter. A fan draws the waste down into the composter and the odor is released through an outdoor vent.Organic mulch or wood shavings are sometimes added to break the waste down. After breakdown is complete, the compost is released through a lid, put into sacks and eventually used as fertilizer.

Green enthusiasts view this as the ultimate connection between man and the land. There is nothing illegal about using human waste as a compost product, but there are regulations in place about composting that must be followed.

Conservationists hope another step will take hold as a connection between technology and the waste that humans produce, if major cities begin to embrace the use of sewage sludge as a way to produce methane gas and convert it into a less expensive power source. An experiment already underway in San Antonio, Texas, and California is researching a fuel-cell conversion device that would convert human waste into hydrogen fuel.

Those pushing the use of human waste as a resource have a simple math equation working in their favor. Think of the population of this country and the amount of human waste produced. And then ask how much water it takes to treat all that?


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