Opinions & Editorials

It’s time to stop wasting our waste

Will Pembroke is a first-year Philosophy, Politics and the Public major. He is a guest writer for the Newswire from Glen Ellyn, Ill.  

Climate change is a big deal, or at least it should be. We, as in the entire global human population, are living on a ticking time bomb called planet Earth. Humans, throughout our relatively short history, have done an extraordinarily good job at one specific thing — destroying our planet. We act completely carefree about how we manage our greenhouse gas emissions. We’ve made sure to take our sweet time to talk about how we should fix our glaring inefficiencies, too.

So let’s talk about where poop enters the conversation. Across the world, we see human waste mismanaged. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 2.3 billion people worldwide don’t have the necessary sanitation facilities needed to maintain sanitary conditions and nearly 832 million people practice open defecation. On top of that, only 39 percent of the global population uses a non-shared toilet or latrine, the necessary way to properly dispose sewage. These staggering statistics should feel reminiscent of conditions from centuries ago. But instead, they are the sad truth of the modern era.

On top of the sheer disgust of living surrounded by untreated sewage, it may also pain you to know that we are putting this waste, well, to waste. If feces are left to fester, the process of bacterial digestion produces a methane filled biogas which is available to be harvested for energy.

An alternative method to this would be to dehydrate human remains, leaving a powdery fuel with an energy output comparable to that of coal. You may say that such a method is outlandish, but it is being utilized around the developed world to produce energy today.

In 2017, a United Kingdom-based waste management plant by the name of  Mogden Sewage Works accomplished an essential goal toward waste management. They achieved 50% `of their electricity powered by waste. In turn, it helped to reduce the plant’s carbon footprint. This new form of energy can help reduce the carbon emissions we pump into the atmosphere regularly. It also can contribute to eliminating fundamental sanitation mismanagement which would otherwise go unattended.

You may say that we as Americans don’t have to worry about waste management — we are far too developed as a country to worry about such juvenile issues as not being able to clean up our excrement. Unfortunately, we aren’t immune. It’s time to put away our patriotic ego, because we do indeed have a waste crisis on our hands.

In 2018, West Jefferson, Alabama, discovered a “poop train” sitting in a railyard not far from the houses of many inhabitants in the small-town parish. The smell of the feces carried through the air conditioning units of this small community, leaving their houses smelling like nothing short of death, as some reported during this time.

To make matters worse, the “poop train” was not even from the surrounding area; it was from New York City. Lenient local laws about the disposal of sewage in the area resulted in waste from far away cities dumping their train car in Alabama.

Instead of throwing our nation’s waste into train cars and telling someone else to take care of the problem, we should look toward waste management plants to utilize and eliminate our waste. We can use the renewable energy that waste provides to power our electric grid and the people of West Jefferson will not have to worry about a train car full of poop showing up at their front door.

The global community needs to find more efficient ways to produce energy. We can drive around in electric cars, recycle more, eat less meat and do many more of the little things we do now. Sadly, in order to reduce our carbon footprint on a larger scale, that’s not enough. We need to focus on including funding to construct waste management plants in our environmental budgets. These facilities can turn our sanitation problems into cleaner, more renewable energy across the world and would be a landmark move in the fight against climate change. As human beings who care about the survival of our climate, let us stop wasting our waste, and turn our poop into power. across the wor

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