Fresh human poop, with its high-water content, is not flammable. However, dried feces can burn due to the presence of hydrogen sulfide.
This hydrogen sulfide is a flammable compound, and it can support combustion.
Let’s explore this unusual yet fascinating topic.
What Does Poop Contain?
You might be curious about what poop contains. The following table will show you some of the notable components found in feces:
|Methyl Sulfides||These chemicals contribute to the odor of certain cooked vegetables, like cabbage.|
|Indole||Produced by various bacterial species, it’s also present in coal tar and some flower scents.|
|Skatole||A breakdown product of the amino acid tryptophan, found in flower scents, such as orange blossom.|
|Hydrogen Sulfide||This colorless, corrosive, poisonous, and flammable compound gives poop its rotten egg smell.|
|Bile||It is a digestive fluid that is produced by the liver. Bile aids in the breakdown of fats in the intestines.|
|Protein||Residues of undigested protein can be found in feces, highlighting incomplete digestion.|
|Cells||Shed intestinal cells and microbes are part of the fecal content, constantly replenishing.|
|Mucus||Provides lubrication in the digestive tract and can appear in small amounts in feces.|
|Gases||Various gases like methane and sulfur compounds can contribute to the odor of feces.|
How Does Dried Poop Burn?
Dried poop can burn due to a combination of factors. Here’s a simple explanation of how it happens:
- Low Moisture Content: When poop dries out, it loses much of its water content. This reduction in moisture makes it more susceptible to combustion.
- Presence of Flammable Compounds: Dried poop contains certain compounds, such as hydrogen sulfide, indole, and skatole. These compounds develop as poop dries and undergoes chemical changes.
- Oxygen Availability: For any material to burn, including dried poop, it needs an adequate supply of oxygen. When you expose dried feces to air, it allows oxygen to mix with the flammable compounds present.
- Ignition Source: You need an ignition source, such as a flame, spark, or heat, to initiate the burning process. When you apply heat or introduce a flame to dried poop with the right chemical composition, it can catch fire.
- Sustained Combustion: Once ignited, dried feces can continue to burn as long as there is a sufficient supply of oxygen and flammable compounds.
Can Recycling of Feces Produce Energy?
You might be surprised to learn that poop can indeed be a source of energy. Let’s explore how this unusual but innovative process works:
Korea: Turning Poop into Power
In Korea, a scientist named Cho Jae-weon developed a unique toilet system that converts human waste into power. When you use this toilet, your poop is directed into an underground tank.
Inside this tank, bacteria and microorganisms ferment the waste, producing methane. Methane is a valuable fuel source. This methane can potentially be used to generate electricity.
According to Cho Jae-weon, the methane produced from one person’s waste could charge an electric car and allow it to travel for 1.2 kilometers.
To incentivize its use, students even received cryptocurrency as a reward for depositing their waste into this eco-friendly toilet.
Kenya: Feces-made Briquettes as Fuel
In Kenya, a study conducted by Daniel Ddiba explored the use of animal dung and human waste as alternatives to traditional fuel sources.
Residents were taught to transform feces into briquettes for cooking. The process involves drying the feces and mixing them with sawdust before carbonizing them.
The resulting product resembles charcoal briquettes, offering a long-lasting and odor-free fuel source. This approach helps reduce the environmental impact of using fossil fuels.
England: Bio-Bus Powered by Methane from Human Waste
Surprisingly, methane produced from human waste can even power buses. In England, the Bio-Bus runs on methane generated from treated sewage, which includes food and human waste.
This renewable biogas is treated to meet the standards of natural gas. It is also considered a clean energy source despite its unconventional origin. It demonstrates the potential of utilizing waste to fuel transportation and reduce carbon emissions.
Colorado: Converting Human Waste into Renewable Energy
In Colorado, the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant has harnessed the power of human waste by converting 8 million gallons of it into renewable energy. This uses a process called anaerobic digestion. It uses organic matter in the waste that is broken down into biogas. The biogas is then upgraded to renewable natural gas (RNG).
This RNG can be used for heating, electricity, and fuel. Additionally, it can power various city vehicles, such as dump trucks, buses, and garbage trucks.
This eco-friendly approach not only produces cost-effective energy but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Is Burning Poop Safe?
As we explore the potential of burning poop for energy, it’s crucial to consider its safety aspects:
Health Risks from Burn Pits
In certain situations, like military deployments, burn pits are used to incinerate human waste.
These burn pits release smoke containing harmful pollutants like carbon monoxide, dioxin, and volatile organic compounds. I
Individuals near these burn pits or with prolonged exposure may experience health issues such as:
- Eye and skin irritation
- Coughing, and
- Difficulty breathing.
Human feces contain a variety of bacteria and microorganisms, which can pose health risks when burned.
Wet feces produce more smoke during combustion. Therefore, it’s essential to thoroughly dry the waste before attempting to burn it.
This process can be time-consuming because poop naturally has a high moisture content. Protection from rain is also necessary during drying. You can expedite the drying process by adding materials like sawdust or other organic substances.
Safety Precautions Before Burning Human Poop
You can see that there are some potential risks and threats of burning human waste. Therefore, you should follow some safety precautions to take before burning human poop:
- Ensure the feces are completely dry before attempting to burn them. High moisture content can result in excessive smoke and inefficient burning.
- Keep the dried waste protected from rain or moisture, as wet feces generate more smoke during combustion.
- Choose a well-ventilated area for burning to disperse any potentially harmful gases and minimize exposure to smoke.
- Consider adding dry combustible materials like sawdust or other organic substances. It will aid in the burning process and reduce smoke production.
- While burning, avoid inhaling the smoke. It can contain pollutants and potentially harmful microorganisms.
- Practice fire safety measures, including having fire extinguishing equipment nearby, especially if you’re burning waste in a confined space.
- Be aware of and comply with any local regulations or restrictions related to open burning.
Poop’s flammability is an intriguing aspect of its composition. Both fresh and dried feces can burn due to the presence of flammable compounds, but safety precautions are crucial.
Burning poop can release pollutants and pose health risks, making it a less desirable method of waste disposal.
Sustainable alternatives, such as composting toilets or biogas generation, offer safer and more environmentally friendly options for managing human waste.