They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but a new recycling technique is taking that saying to the next level.
Washington-based company Janicki Bioenergy has created a machine that can turn human waste into water and electricity. That’s right poop = drinking water. But don’t get squeamish just yet, because it’ll probably be reassuring to hear that billionaire Bill Gates tried out the drink, and gave it a solid thumbs up.
“The water tasted as good as any I’ve had out of a bottle. And having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day,” Gates wrote in his blog, Gates Notes. “It’s that safe.”
The Bill Gates Foundation has actually been looking for a way to improve sanitation and access to drinkable water in developing countries for some time, so it couldn’t help but stop and stare when it heard about the Janicki Omniprocessor.
The way the machine works is absolutely brilliant. The processor takes in sewer sludge and heats it to around 1000 degrees Celsius, which kills off all the bacteria and releases steam. That steam is then separated, captured and collected until it’s ready to become a new glass of water.
The dried out sluge is then dumped into a fire, which creates even more gas. This time though, the steam is used to power turbines, which generate electricity. The Omniprocessor can create more than enough power during one batch to cover the next, so it essentially powers itself (with excess energy to spare).
In the developing world, this kind of technology could be revolutionary. The United Nations notes that 783 million people don’t have access to clean water, while almost 2.5 billion don’t have access to adequate sanitation. Human waste often ends up in the water supply of developing nations, because their latrines usually lack proper drainage or plumbing. The diseases that come as a result kill about 700,000 children every year.
The Omniprocessor addresses both of those issues without a need for additional infrastructre, plumbing or energy. Human waste will now have a proper place to be sent and stored, while residents will finally have a place to get a clean glass of water.
Later this year, Janicki plans to set up an Omniprocessor in Dakar, Senegal.
Now that’s refreshing.