Ever imagine peddling your poop for scrap metal? Turns out, your sh*t may actually be worth something. Researchers are now taking a serious look at what valuables we may be flushing down our toilets every day.
According to new research presented at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Denver on Monday, treated human sewage (that’s right—poop!) has tiny amounts of gold, silver, and other metals, plus rare stuff like palladium and vanadium in it. And apparently, it’s worth trying to recover. Scientists say they think they’re onto a substantial source of metals which could reduce the need for mining and cut back on unnecessary environmental waste.
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How are these microscopic gold nuggets ending up in our excrement? Geologists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) indicate that metals are found in our hair care products, detergents, and as nanoparticles in socks to keep them from getting stinky. These materials make their way through the human body and they end up at treatment plants where a variety of processes turns them from wastewater into treated water and biosolids. The idea behind the new initiative is to remove metals from the currently unusable biosolids so that it can be used as fertilizer, and then to use the recovered viable metals for commercial use in things like cell phones and computers.
Does this mean you should be mining your own crap? Probably not. But it will be interesting to see where this line of research goes. At this point, experts have been using a scanning electron microscope to find gold, platinum, and silver in samples from some small Rocky Mountain towns along with both rural and urban areas. They are simultaneously going to look at the Environmental Protection Agency’s current data to see where we stand. That said, the logistical and financial workability of this kind of undertaking will likely be made on a case-by-case basis. All crap may not be worth the effort.
Still, one group of researchers reported in Environmental Science & Technology that up to $13 million worth of metal could be extracted from the excrement of a million Americans.
That’s a lot of dough we’ve been pinching out!
At least poop is a heck lot easier to mine than rock. Unless you haven’t had enough fiber, that is.