Don’t poo-poo this invention
New technology discovers creative ways – road paving, home insulation – to upcycle sewage into valuable byproducts.
They say one man’s garbage is another’s treasure. It’s hard to imagine treasures coming out of the bathroom, but that’s the promise and product of Applied Clean Tech.
The company, launched by Israeli entrepreneurs, is upcycling toilet paper and human waste into a valuable commodity for use in paving roads, recycled paper products and even as an alternative for home insulation.
Applied Clean Tech – with facilities in Canada, Holland, Mexico and Israel – is currently producing about 6 tons of cellulose from toilet waste every day. And it’s just a tiny fraction of what can be done, they say.
This cellulose derived from food we don’t digest or the trees that make toilet paper is a nuisance to municipal water treatment plants. As a solid sludge, it clogs the filters and requires an enormous amount of energy to extract from the effluent that gets treated. The company claims to reduce sludge formation in treatment plants by about 50%.
“It’s a circular economy,” company CEO Refael Aharon told From The Grapevine. “We are taking a nonrenewable resource, a burden, and are bringing it back into the market.”
Aharon's business card made from upcycled cellulose – which he dubs Recyllose – looks like gray, slightly lumpy recycled paper. But there's no odor or reminder that it originated from the sewer.
Applied Clean Tech is based in San Diego, and it offers licenses in the U.S. for franchisees who want to use the technology at water treatment facilities.
In Mexico, where the company has a treatment facility plant, they are not only addressing the problem of municipal waste from homes, but also the waste that comes from the country's prolific textile industry. In Holland, the company is running a number of product experiments, mixing Recyllose with asphalt for paving roads as well as applying it in home insulation.
Applied Clean Tech joins other innovators who also mine waste for products. For example, there is the machine that eats trash and creates biofuel, and a company called Re-Nuble that's making organic fertilizer out of food waste for vertical farming.
Tinia Pina, the CEO of New York City-based Re-Nuble, says recycling waste makes sense. "Like Applied Clean Tech, we see the market opportunities in recovering value from waste. In our case it's food waste and the biological compounds that can be harvested there," she told From The Grapevine.
"From our research, there is a goldmine in waste – in terms of dollars and cents from untapped waste streams, but also in opportunities for saving valuable resources and treading more softly upon this planet."
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Related Topics: Environment