Poop could be a gold mine — and that’s no load of crap!
You could be flushing a fortune in feces down the toilet in the form of tiny nuggets of gold and other precious metals that could be mined, according to research presented Monday at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society.
“If you can get rid of some of the nuisance metals that currently limit how much of these biosolids we can use on fields and forests, and at the same time recover valuable metals and other elements, that’s a win-win,” Kathleen Smith of the US Geological Survey said in a release.
To protect the environment, Smith’s team of researchers at first sought to find better ways to remove and toss out gold, silver and rare elements like palladium and vanadium from treated waste that is used as fertilizer.
“There are metals everywhere,” Smith said, noting they are “in your hair care products, detergents, even nanoparticles that are put in socks to prevent bad odors.”
About 7 million tons of biosolids, or treated waste, come out of US wastewater facilities every year, Smith said. Roughly half of that is used as fertilizer in fields and forests, while the rest is incinerated or sent to landfills.
A recent study estimated that waste from 1 million Americans could contain as much as $13 million worth of precious metals. With almost 320 million residents in the US, that’s nothing to pooh-pooh.
Smith’s team smelled an opportunity to capitalize and prospect in poop.
“We have a two-pronged approach,” she said. “In one part of the study, we are looking at removing some regulated metals from the biosolids that limit their use for land application. In the other part of the project, we’re interested in collecting valuable metals that could be sold, including some of the more technologically important metals, such as vanadium and copper that are in cellphones, computers and alloys.”
The team is experimenting by using chemicals called leachates, which the mining industry uses to pull metals out of rock. Some leachates have a bad reputation for damaging ecosystems, but Smith said they can be used safely in controlled settings.
Original Source: New York Post