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Human waste could be biofuel

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ZUMA Press/Newscom/File

(Read caption) Residents carry water brought from a well just yards away from a river of human waste and garbage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

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It's not enough just to keep human excrement out of water supplies and other places where it's not welcomed. Not putting it to practical use is, well, a waste.

Now a Columbia University professor of environmental engineering has teamed up with a social enterprise in Accra, Ghana, to turn "fecal sludge" into biodiesel or methane fuel. The project, called the “Next-Generation Urban Sanitation Facility,” is in cooperation with Waste Enterprisers and is being underwritten by a recently announced $1.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We are delighted to be awarded this project,” says Dr. Kartik Chandran in a news release from Columbia University. “And we are especially pleased that the Gates foundation has recognized the critical importance of sustainable sanitation by investing in our pioneering project. Thus far, sanitation approaches have been extremely resource- and energy-intensive and therefore out of reach for some of the world’s poorest but also most at-need populations. This project will allow us to move forward and develop practical technologies that will be of great value around the world.”

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