New Bio-Bug Runs on Human Waste

GENeco introduces UK’s first VW Beetle to run on methane gas generated during the sewage treatment process.

I remember joking about the idea of using human gas to power an automobile. But now, the joke’s on us. UK-based GENeco has done just that. Working with the South West Regional Development Agency, GENeco imported special equipment and developed a process called biogas upgrading to treat methane from sewage sludge… in other words, creating an alternative energy source from the gas released from human poo.

The Volkswagen Beetle dubbed the “Bio-Bug” was built for GENeco by UK’s The Greenfuel Company. The Bio-Bug’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine was converted to run on biogas and still hit about 114 miles per hour. However, the Bio-Bug uses regular unleaded gas to start, then switches over to methane automatically once it’s running. And according to GENeco, “waste flushed down the toilets of 70 homes in Bristol is enough to power the Bio-Bug for a year, based on an annual mileage of 10,000 miles.”

Using biogas from sewage sludge isn’t anything new. In Sweden, more than 11,500 vehicles already run on biomethane produced from sewage plants. So why is the rest of the world resistant? My guess can be summed up in two words – Big Oil. Oil companies would literally see their profits flushed down the toilet.

Okay, but why a VW Beetle? Good question… according to Mohammed Saddiq, GENeco’s general manager,

“The choice of car was inspired by students who took part in a workshop. They thought it would be appropriate that the poo-powered car should be the classic VW Beetle Bug because bugs naturally breakdown waste at sewage works to start the treatment process which goes on to produce the energy.”

Brilliant! Now, that’s a great marketing hook.

Image credit: GENeco

4 thoughts on “New Bio-Bug Runs on Human Waste”

  1. But DON’T spread the sewage sludge reidue on agricultural land as a fertiliser!!

    The waste industry is promoting the landspreading of sewage sludge in the UK. However US research has highlighted the fact that it may contain infectious human and animal prions. This puts humans, livestock and wildlife at risk of infection.

    Prion researchers at the University of Wisconsin were given a $100,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant and a $5 million Dept. of Defence grant to research the problem. They have found that Prions can survive for over 3 years in soils.

    Prion diseases include Altzheimers and BSE (Mad Cow Disease) and Prion diseases are always fatal, resulting in TSE’s (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies) Infectious prions have been found in human and animal muscle and organs, saliva, blood, as well as urine and feces (obviously found in raw sewage).

    Prions cannot be destroyed by any sewage treatment process, in fact, they are made more concentrated in the sewage sludge.

    Quotes from Dr. Joel Pedersen, Univ. of Wisconsin, on his prion research:

    “Our results suggest that if prions were to enter municipal waste water treatment systems, most of the agent would partition to activated sludge solids, survive mesophilic anaerobic digestion, and be present in treated biosolids. Land application of biosolids containing prions could represent a route for their unintentional introduction into the environment. Our results argue for excluding inputs of prions to municipal wastewater treatment.”

    But how could that be achieved? How do you stop someone with Altzheimer’s using the toilet?

    You can stop it being spread on land though!

    Dreadful, isn’t it – what we don’t know about the dangers of sewage sludge would fill a warehouse.

  2. Why not do it with cattle waste? All the feedlock cattle in the corn belt states of USA, Brazil and India could save us some contamination. Excellent I hope to see one on my town soo! It is worth to dream for a better world!

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