The Power In Pig Poo: How Feces Can Create Energy

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China has a poo problem and fortunately, there’s an environmentally friendly solution in sight. The country, which loves to consume pig meat, generates close to 1.5 million tons of pig feces each year. Sound crazy? Consider this: China has 700 million pigs that produce two-thirds of their annual meat. Currently of the 1.5 million tons of feces, a mere one-tenth are being used as manure. Not properly disposing of the pig feces is a pending problem since the excrements are high in nitrate, which can cause water contamination resulting in health problems in humans.

An Australian company is now suggesting a solution that involves China using pig poo to create power. With a bioreactor, the feces would be converted into biofuel. The biofuel could then be used for cooking and heating, or even as fertilizer for farmers. Ravi Naidu, chief scientist at CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC Care) sums up the perks to Reuters: “The benefits are energy and fuel for farmers as well as preventing further contamination of the environment.”

This is not the first time that animal feces have been used to generate power or create a cleaner environment. Last year, five New England dairy farms installed an anaerobic digester that would make biogas from manure and food waste. The concept was to provide farmers with a way to reduce waste while making some extra money on the side since the biogas could be sold.

More recently, the Denver Zoo has implemented a motorized rickshaw imported from Thailand that runs on animal feces! How does it work? The rickshaw is fed gasified pellets made of animal feces and trash, which is turned into syngas that is used to generate electricity. Not only is this method environmentally friendly but it’s also a financially savvy move as well: According to the Denver Post, the rickshaw will save the zoo $150,000 a year! In a press release, the zoo said: “Furthering the zoo’s efforts to be a national leader in sustainability, the gasification system will convert more than 90 percent of the zoo’s waste into usable energy, eliminating 1.5 million pounds of trash currently going to landfills annually.”

Further south in Mexico, Terra, a Mexican Internet provider, helping the planet stay clean in a more obvious way. The company is now offering free Wi-Fi in public parks for dog owners who clean up after their pets. Special bins have been placed in 10 parks in Mexico City where owners can deposit dog feces; the more feces pet owners drop, the more minutes of free Wi-Fi they can get! The only caveat is that the bin appears to have a simple scale, raising the question if it can actually differentiate feces from garbage. But when all is said and done, does it really matter what goes into the bins so long as the parks stay clean?

All these innovative ideas can only make you wonder what other natural sources of energy we can find and more importantly, how feces–something readily available and considered so unusable–can play a role in making our planet a greener place.

  • Susmita Baral

    Susmita is a writer and editor in the Greater New York City area. In her spare time, Susmita enjoys cooking, traveling, dappling in photography, art history and interior design, and moonlighting as a therapist for her loved ones.

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