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  • As ARCH registered therapists, we have no problem with poo. Talking about it, washing it out of your colon and checking it as it passes along the tube, are all in a days work as we help thousands of people across the UK to deal with the symptoms of digestive problems and help thousands more to maintain a healthy digestive system.

    But even we’re impressed with the lengths some people will go to with poo, from fueling buses to providing electricity for homes and businesses. Here are just a few of the projects around the world that are harnessing the power of poo.

    Poo powered sewerage plants

    Northumbrian Water estimate that they have saved around £15million a year by recovering methane and carbon dioxide from the waste water and sewage that they were processing anyway. The company installed two advanced anaerobic digestion plants in their processing centres and collected the gasses released as microbes digested the waste. The conversion process takes around 35 days from flush to fuel, and they then used the gas to generate the electricity they needed to run the plants, and even had some gas left over to sell to the grid.

    Following the success of the Northumbria project, other water companies, such as Severn Trent and Wessex, are now following suit, and it is estimated that if all the UK’s sewage plants used the technology, they could provide fuel for up to 350,000 homes.

    Biogas buses

    In Bristol, they went even further with their poo power, with the launch of Britain’s first Bio Bus, appropriately on the number 2 bus route. The bus, powered by methane rich biogas, can travel 37 miles on just one person’s annual sewage and food waste. Bio-gas also helps the environment, producing 95% less carbon dioxide emissions than diesel fuel, eliminating around 44tonnes of CO2 per bus per year.

    Sadly the project failed to get the government funding it needed to expand the service, and so the gas from Bristol’s waste now goes straight into the national gas grid. However, poo power has not gone from our roads, with no less than five new poo powered cars now available in the US and Norway running a fleet of poo powered buses as part of its bid to make its capital, Oslo, carbon neutral by 2050.

    Human waste becomes water and power

    With the United Nations estimating that the world’s human waste could provide enough power for 138million households, it was never going to be long before leading humanitarian, Bill Gates, got involved.

    His foundation funded a sewage processing plant that not only produced gas for electricity generation, but also clean, safe drinking water. With 700,000 children a year dying from poor sanitation, clean water has never been so important.

    The pilot project, in Senegal, used the Omni Processor to successfully treat the waste from up to 100,000 people, generating 250kw of power and 86,000 litres of clean drinking water per day. The Gates Foundation now has plans for several more units across Africa, each safely processing the waste of 200,000 people and providing clean drinking water for 35,000.

    The most sustainable source

    With growing pressure to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and cut greenhouse gas emissions, it’s good to know that there is a real alternative that will always be available in almost unlimited supply.

    If the technology continues to spread, you could soon find your bathroom lights powered by your own bathroom visits.