Pardon Me, Turkey, Is This Stool Taken?
November 20, 2018
NPR – As Thanksgiving arrives, Americans will be cooking their favorite holiday bird and debating the best recipes, ideal roasting temperatures and juiciest stuffing. But a team of scientists at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev are preparing something different: turkey poop.
They say that when cooked under the right temperature, pressure and other conditions, turkey droppings transform into a form of coal, which can fuel power plants and serve as a renewable resource.
Led by Prof. Amit Gross, director of BGU’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, the team focuses on ways to transform waste to resources, and has been experimenting with various forms of manure — an environmental hazard. In industrial agricultural operations, animal waste is usually treated with chemicals, burned or just dumped into landfills, where it contaminates groundwater.
“It is an environmental burden, and people are still trying to figure out what to do with it,” says Prof. Gross.
The team started with poultry feces because it was an abundant and promising material. Annually, the world’s poultry dishes out about 625 to 938 million metric tons of poop, which is high in carbon and nitrogen — the chemical elements needed for energy generation. Compared to cow manure, which is usually spread out over pastures, chicken and turkey waste is easier to obtain and handle because it’s concentrated in smaller areas.
The scientists gathered some poultry droppings, grounded them manually with a mortar and pestle, then put them into autoclaves (heated, high-pressure containers), simulating conditions for the natural formation of coal. They experimented with different temperatures and techniques, compared the outcomes, and outlined the most efficient “recipes.”