The Bus that Runs on Human Poop
Extra, extra, read all about it, the humans have done it again, well, they just added one more way to make your poop not just a ‘smelly downer’ but an actual phenomenon that saves the world, all in a bid climate-conscious, thusly no need to ever feel badly about yourself, your poop could save the world! If you live in Bristol and you are heading to Bath in the United Kingdom, then you have the opportunity to board the Poop bus, which is more neat than nasty; also runs on food waste, ladies and gents!
The poop fueled bus runs on Bio-Methane gas generated through the treatment of sewage. On a full tank, the bus drives up to 186 miles, around 300 km, which means I can go see my grandmother up in Central Kenya and back, all because I popped and someone threw away food waste, talk about being efficient, so you can imagine the 38 min (13.6 miles on the A4 service route) trip from Bristol to Bath. It ferries around 40 men and women of the realm and is said to require the equivalent of five people’s waste for one year, however it remains unclear whether that’s sewage only or is food waste involved, also. The bus has forty-percent less carbon emissions than a comparable diesel engine; according to Clean Energy Fuels, Bio-Methane when used to power vehicles can be lead to an 88% reduction in carbon emissions relative to gasoline or petroleum if you are a member of the Commonwealth.
Actually, the U.S. Department of Energy says that a 2007 report estimated that 12,000 vehicles were being powered by Bio-Methane gas worldwide. Engineers believe, as I do also, that the bus could provide a sustainable way of bolstering public transport while improving the air quality, and here more irony abounds! A Poop bus improving air quality, never thought I’d see the day, yet at this point in my life, nothing really surprises me, I mean, what next, airplanes?!
This is not to mention that it reduces the over-reliance on traditional fossil fuels. Up to 10,000 passengers according to the Bath Bus Company are expected to ply the route on the A4 service in a month, which is available not only for airport travel, but also commuting for council wards located between the routes afore-mentioned of Hengrove and Knowle, the large village and civil parishes of Saltford and Keynsham respectively, Brislington, South East of Bristol, 10 miles from Bath. Interesting thing is, with augmented attention on paying heed to air quality, the popular reaction to the appearance of this bus on a service between a World Heritage City (do you know of the Roman Baths during such times when Britannia was a Roman Colony, the archeology is amazing, a particular favorite of mine is the elegant Georgian-era architecture) and an airport will further put the focus on the potential for this fuel, well that’s according to Collin Field, engineering at the Bath Bus Company. The bus comes out during such times as Bristol city is poised to be the European Green Capital in 2015. Physically, it has a hump on it top that stores the gas.
The gas is produced by GENeco, (which is a subsidiary of Wessex Water), a sewage treatment facility that carries out production through a process of anaerobic digestion (reminds me of times back in secondary school, I did love Biology), wherefore oxygen-hungry bacteria breaks down the waste, thus producing the gas; carbon (IV) oxide is removed and propane is added. To boot, the “impurities” in the waste are also removed to prevent the bus smelling like, well, your toilet, especially the public toilets here, atrocious!
“Through treating sewage and food that’s unfit for human consumption we’re able to produce enough Bio-Methane to provide a significant supply of gas to the national gas network that’s capable of powering almost 8,500 homes as well as fuelling the Bio-Bus”, GENeco general manager Mohammed Saddiq declares.
Did you know that a bus-load of passenger would provide enough power for a return journey from Land’s end to John O’Groats, that’s like saying from Moyale to the Indian Ocean? Now, you do. The facts and figures behind the rationale at launching the bus service over at Bath and Bristol is that Bristol sewage treatment works processes around 75 million cubic meters of sewage waste and 35,000 tonnage of food waste collected from households, supermarkets, and manufacturers per anum.
Seventeen million cubic meters of Bio-Methane (the equivalent of meeting the power needs of 8,300 homes, UK households, I emphasize, in Kenya, I believe the number would be up, above 20,000 homes, we don’t have a lot of energy needs here for the moment) is generated annually by GENeco. Words from Charlottte Morton, the chief executive at Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association illuminate us in the sense a home generated green gas, Bio-Methane is capable of replacing around 10% of the UK’s domestic gas needs and is currently the only renewable fuel available for HGVs (Heavy Goods Vehicles). The bus I must say makes for awkward conversations during commute, not to mention weird stares amongst the people around Bath and Bristol, it is their poop that powers this bus- Poop-Bus Memoirs, I call them.
Nairobi has a large sewage system, but estimates in coverage differ widely, 10 per cent according to UN-Habitat (2003), 48 per cent according to the government (ROK 2002). If you observe carefully, the sewage system in the country favors folk on the higher and middle income strands and not low income settlements. It has a population of over 3 million with an under-served sewage situation; imagine the potential for the production of Bio-Methane gas that would be used to boost public transport in the country, perhaps we can get our own buses, a reality that can only be achieved considering the combination of urban-planning and environmental consciousness.
Much of Nairobi’s urban foot-print is unplanned settlement fueled by rapid population growth, thus allowing for inefficient or lack thereof of sewage management systems. I have observed in some areas due to a lack of a sewage structure, tankers come to collect the waste when the septic gaping is full. I have not even mentioned the dumpsite over at Dandora, the food waste tonnage is extreme in numbers which degrades into biological oblivion. If the sewage and food waste in Nairobi was properly exploited in the production of the Bio-Methane, then the potential of year-on-year production would exceed that of GENeco in UK, just simple extrapolatory mathematics, really. It would be in the interest of the gubernatorial throne to consider this mathematical speculation.
Perhaps the future is bright and one day you’ll be seated on a bus chair that runs on your poop. What can I say, the future is Poopy-Bright!