Getting over the ick factor

Written By Marlen Garcia Posted: 07/17/2014, 07:06pm

Some will snicker and others will be unnerved after reading this column.

Those with a truly open mind about recycling will appreciate the innovation.

It’s about turning human waste into organic fertilizer, a process being undertaken across the country by municipalities that dispose of tons of waste daily after we flush toilets.

Some towns still use landfills to deposit sludge while others incinerate it. Recycling human waste is an alternative backed by Environmental Protection Agency.  

Under strict EPA guidelines, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago is turning human waste into organic fertilizers, in the pellet form or a fine dirt-like substance that resembles topsoil.

The recycling process is complex (don’t try it at home) and involves the use of heat and microorganisms to greatly reduce odors and eliminate harmful pathogens such as E coli. I saw the operation up close at the MWRD’s Stickney plant; it doesn’t smell nearly as bad as the mushroom compost that made me gag when I hauled it from the garden store.

In its finished form, recycled waste is termed a biosolid, though some still call it sludge.



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