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  • Poo. Everybody does it.

  • I don't.

  • But with the exception of new parents and six-year-olds, most of us don't talk about it.

  • But could our number twos be the answer to some of the world's biggest problems?

  • The average adult flushes away 730 liters of pee and around 91kg of feces every year.

  • But are we missing a trick?

  • In Ancient Rome, no human waste went to waste.

  • Untreated excrement was used as manure in kitchen gardens, while urine was used to produce fabric.

  • In Henry VIII's time, one of the country's top positions was Groom of the Stool.

  • Wiping the king's bottom was well worth it for the benefit of having his ear.

  • "About that castle..."

  • Cesspits were emptied overnight by gong farmers who sold the content to local farmers.

  • Urine was collected and used to soften leather.

  • While it's probably sensible to leave untreated manure in the past where it belongsthink of the pathogenswe can learn from our predecessors' attitude to poo.

  • It could be the solution to some of our most pressing problems of today.

  • Let's start with our need for energy.

  • Unlike solar or wind power, which can be unreliable, all it takes is a healthy fiber intake to ensure a constant supply of poo.

  • Now that's a whole other kind of wind power.

  • The sludge left behind after sewage is processed is good raw material for generating methane.

  • Modern treatment plants add bacteria to the sludge, generating bio-gas, which can be piped to homes or used to power vehicles.

  • It's a much cleaner fuel than petrol or diesel.

  • While poo has plenty of uses, there's a reason wee is number one.

  • Seventy two percent of global water use is in agriculture, and population increases coupled with climate change will only exacerbate the demand for water.

  • Some countries could face having populations displaced by water scarcity within the decade.

  • In addition to the two liters of pee each adult in the UK produces daily, each adult also sends around 140 liters of water used at home down the drain.

  • Could recycling that water save the planet from apocalyptic droughts?

  • Absolutely.

  • The technology is available and already in use.

  • Israel currently captures almost 90% of used water which is recycled to provide a whopping 56,000 Olympic swimming pools' worth of water annually for agricultural use.

  • Speaking of agriculture, every living thing relies on phosphorous to survive.

  • But due to chronic overmining, it's a rapidly declining natural resource which can't be replenished.

  • The US, China and India might run out of their domestic supplies in the next generation.

  • Without adding this vital nutrient to farmland, humanity could only produce around half the food it does today.

  • We could however emulate our ancestors and return our sewage to the soil, making use of solutions such as composting toilets, or the nutrient-rich dried residue left over from bio-gas generation.

  • Reinventing the toilet could also be a gamechanger for 4.2 billion people currently living without access to safe sanitation.

  • Innovative toilet designs that operate without water could help prevent the deaths of an estimated 800 children under five each day.

  • Bill Gates predicts this developing toilet market would not only be lifesaving but lucrative.

  • By 2030, toilets could become a six billion US dollar market, with every dollar spent providing a $5 return.

  • While poo remains a word that never fails to raise a giggle, your fecal matter is no laughing matter.

  • If we act now, poo may very well help to save the planet.

Poo. Everybody does it.

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The extraordinary power of poo! | BBC Ideas

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    Summer posted on 2021/09/23
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