Striking a Balance

My Mind is in the Gutter — Redux
by Anna Flam -- October 21st, 2013

I never expected to gain a toilet obsession in grad school, but it happened. I’ve already ranted about the need for better toilets and sewage systems in the developing world.  Radiolab, my favorite geeky podcast,  recently did an episode all about poop and NYC — two of my favorite things. I was in heaven.

Listen to Poop Train here.

I love this idea of a closed-loop system. Beyond the elegance of closing the loop, treated sewage — or biosolids — have several advantages over commercial chemical fertilizers. Biosolids release nitrogen slowly throughout the growing season. Slow release is better for plants, and also water supplies since there is no massive influx of nutrients with the fertilizer application.

Pathogens are the main concern with biosolid use in agriculture, but properly treated waste should not have this issue. Much of the developing world still doesn’t treat waste, though. Waste treatment is expensive and energy intensive. A new technology using fuel cells could create another closed-loop system that could encourage increased wastewater treatment.

Fuel cells can be used to power wastewater treatment and create energy. Creating energy from waste might be the push some countries need to invest more heavily in sewage treatment.

An enormous toilet from the surreal Suai Nai Dum Toilet Museum of Thailand

An enormous toilet from the surreal Suan Nai Dum Toilet Museum of Thailand


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