Could Human Waste Soon Be Our Greatest Asset?

The movement to turn human waste into energy is in full flow, and – if perfected and upscaled – could be a game-changer when it comes to renewable resources. 

Research has been taking place into the potential for biogas, produced by human waste, to create energy independence. 

Here’s everything you need to know about how this process is developing and where it could lead. 

  • Globally we produce 290 billion kg of solid human waste each year
  • This waste is a particular problem in parts of the world with poor sanitation, where it can spread disease
  • Biogas produced by the breakdown of human waste can be harnessed and turned into energy, using the 45% leftover once water content is removed
  • This remaining waste is valued by the UN as having a potential value of almost $10 billion
  • If properly collected and processed, the waste produced by the total 1 billion of the world population without proper sanitation could power up to 18 million households
  • Developing countries require 60% of the world’s energy, but are under resourced in this regard and have no energy independence with which to supply their population’s needs
  • Researchers at the University of Johannesburg cite Nigeria as an example, with an energy production rate which falls 80% below what is needed
  • Working in much the same way as the production of biogas from food waste, using human waste for power has one key difference: the waste must be treated first to remove ammonia and nitrogen. Combining the waste with powdered chicken feathers appears to solve this problem according to researchers

Research continues, with prototype projects underway around the world and – if successfully implemented on a large scale – this plentiful form of energy could be the key to leveling up developing nations, reducing pollution, solving the energy crisis, reducing energy costs, and ultimately changing the world.