Yes, That Shit Really is Gold

gold_unchi

I’m not sure how it happened, but I came across an article as I was browsing the internet about how it might be possible to use gold from our poop…and that it might be good for the environment too.

It seems like a crazy idea…and I wonder how someone discovered this or decided to look into it, but scientists have found that extracting gold – among other precious metals – from sludge and sewage is not only possible, but also effective, lucrative, and good for the environment. The data was recently presented at a conference in Denver by the American Chemical Society.

Many people are saying that mining gold from sewage might even be more fruitful than mining gold from ore in gold mines.

And there’s no doubt that it’s bringing in a lot of money. An Arizona State University study showed that in a city with a population of one million, there is at least $13 million worth of precious metals in the sewage.

Japan has already begun mining poop for gold, and they’re having a lot of success in doing s.  In Suwa waste facility in Nagano, Japan, the ash from incinerated sludge is producing more than 1,890 grams of gold per ton, while Japan’s world-class gold mine – Hishikari Mine – is only producing 20 to 40 grams of gold per ton of ore.

It’s not only gold that we’re finding though. There are also other precious metals, such as silver, platinum, copper, and vanadium in the sludge. Kathleen Smith of the US Geological Survey says some of these metals can be sold and used in technology such as cellphones, computers, and alloys.

gold ore to concentrate

In any process, gold has to be treated in order to be useful. In the case of mines, the chemicals used to extract metals from rock can be harmful to the environment. Using these chemicals at a water treatment facility, however, keeps the chemicals from leaking out into the environment.

sewershed

The process is fairly simple. The sewage is transported to a waste treatment facility, where once the sludge is processed, the metals are separated from it. The remaining waste can be treated further to create biosolids, which are nutrient-rich organic materials produced from the residuals of treated wastewater.

BioSolidsProcessdiagram

Sewage right now is used largely as fertilizer, but it is not used after being processed. Not only is this a waste of how the sewage can be more effectively and healthily used, but by containing so many metals, it damages our fields and forests immensely. But in mining the waste for these metals and extracting and repurposing them, it can benefit the environment in several ways. When sludge is treated properly at waste water facilities, it turns into biosolids, which can be recycled safely and used as nutrient-rich fertilizer in replacement of chemical fertilizers. It would be useful to look into how we can use sewage and biosolids in order to rebuild ecosystems and forests that have been destroyed, as well as to restore farms and fields that are nourished with harmful fertilizers full of chemicals and pesticides.

It turns out that a lot of the precious metals that are found in our poop come from things like shampoo and laundry detergent, which use the metals to act against our body odor. This could be problematic though, since these things are not always good for the environment. I don’t think there is enough research on this, but if precious metals and other things that are beneficial to the environment can be recycled from the waste of these products, then perhaps the negative effects of these products can also be limited, or at least moderately counteracted in some way. Whatever the cause, there are a lot of precious metals ending up in our sewage facilities that could be put to much better use than for what they are currently being used.

Unprotected farm fields yield topsoil as well as farm fertilizers and other potential pollutants when heavy rains occur.

Though I am wary to say that this is a game-changer for the environmental movement, I do think it’s an innovative and unique way to tackle the issues, especially in terms of the currently prevalent use of chemical fertilizers.

Now try saying you can’t find something good in everything…next time you’re feeling bad about something, just remember that gold comes out of your ass every day.

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