The Water in Your Toilet Could Fight Climate Change One Day

WIRED | 1/23/2019 | Matt Simon
MireilleMireille (Posted by) Level 3
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Day after day, you pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, whether you’re driving or turning on lights or eating meat. You can’t help it, because really, no human can. But I bet you haven’t stopped to think about how the simple act of pooping is also part of the problem: Worldwide, wastewater treatment facilities account for 3 percent of electricity consumption and contribute 1.6 percent of emissions.

A drop in the horrifying bucket that is climate change, you might say. But researchers are beginning to explore how we might tweak wastewater treatment technology to capture CO2 instead of emitting it, as a way to slow the ravages of climate change. If their plan works out, at least our poop can be guilt-free.

Stuff - Toilet - Drain - Facility - Waste

Currently, the stuff you flush in the toilet or send down the drain ends up in a facility, along with liquid waste from industries like beer or wine making. All that organic matter sits in open-air tanks where microbes feed on it. They munch on the waste and release CO2 as a byproduct, and the facility then pumps the relatively clean (but far from drinkable) water out to sea.

On its own, a person’s poop is carbon neutral (save for emissions from growing and transporting food): Plants capture carbon from the air by way of photosynthesis, you eat the plants, you produce the carbon as waste. When those microbes eat that waste and release the CO2 back to the atmosphere, it ends up right where it started.

Wastewater - Treatment - Facilities - Energy - Way

Except that the wastewater treatment facilities need energy to operate. There might be a way to tweak this process, however. Some microbes, like bacteria and microalgae, feed on CO2 itself. “They would eat up the organic carbon and then convert the CO2 into chemicals, for example ethanol,” says Princeton University environmental engineer Zhiyong Jason Ren,...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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