We may have been accustomed to recycling plastics, glass, metals, electronics, batteries, scientists are now telling us that recycling can also be done on toilet paper, which till now is considered waste. Indeed, as their recycling suggests, it can give us electricity.
Dutch scientists published the first technical and economic analysis to convert used toilet paper into electricity. The chemists and environmental scientists of the Universities of Amsterdam and Utrecht, who published the publication in the Energy Technology Magazine, propose a two-stage process and estimate that the current cost per kilowatt-hour would be comparable to that of the photovoltaic .
Today, used toilet paper is probably something that no one wants to think – much less no one can think of as a resource. But these papers – as papers – are a rich source of carbon, as they contain 70% to 80% cellulose. On average, people in Europe each year produce between ten and 14 kilos of toilet paper per person. These papers form an important part of the waste in everyday dumps.
Dutch scientists initially propose toilets after they are collected separately, converted to gas through special appliances, and then, with the help of special fuel cells, this gas is converted into electricity. The efficiency of this technology for electricity generation is estimated at 57%, similar to a combined cycle gas power plant.
At present, no company or municipal enterprise has decided to make the first step of implementing such an investment. Dutch researchers hope that China, which aspires to become a leader in renewable energy, will begin. Then others can see with a more positive eye what ends up in the wastebin of the toilet. But of course a collection system for used toilet paper must first be set up.
At a more advanced stage is the recycling and utilization of organic wastes (faeces etc). Already in different parts of the world there are units that convert them into fertilizers, fuels, building materials, even in feed! Such facilities exist in Rwanda, Ghana, South Africa, etc. In developing countries, these wastes are often poured into tanks and pits due to the lack of sewerage and sewers.
According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 38% of the world’s population or about 2.8 billion people do not have access to sewers. When their organic waste is not dumped in nature, it pours into tanks, which usually overflow or occasionally evacuate without proper safety precautions. By 2030, the number of people without sewers is estimated to reach five billion.
It is therefore imperative that this waste is recycled, so that, beyond protecting the environment and public health, it can also be valuable as a productive resource. But so far, as expected, faecal recycling meets cultural, social, psychological and other resistances.
According to a report by the United Nations University of Canada, if all human organic waste that falls into the basins every year turns into biogas, electricity will be generated for over 138 million households.