Scientists have found trace amounts of copper, gold and silver in sewage as well as lost jewelry which they believe get into the sewers through a myriad of ways.
What Are the Sources?
They can get into sewers from precious metals which are increasingly being used in shampoos, cleaning products, cosmetics and detergents; shavings from the rings on our fingers when we wash our hands; platinum from catalytic converters that are washed from cars into drains; and human waste.
And Their Monetary Value?
The United Kingdom for example produces over 1 billion kilogram of sewage annually, enough to fill six oil tankers, and enough to yield over 940,000 kilograms of copper, silver, and gold; which if weighed in monetary terms will be equivalent to an annual revenue of ₦8.5 billion!
According to one Thames Water analysis, the level of gold in UK sewage systems is comparable to that found in working mines. Also, researchers from Arizona State University found that a city of a million people can produce around ₦ 2.6 billion worth of precious metals annually, including ₦517 million in silver and gold.
Could Poo Be the New Gold Mine?
At a sewage treatment facility in Suwa, north-west of Tokyo, they are attempting it already by incinerating sludge – the product got from treated sewage – and processing the molten ash.
In 2009, the plant collected nearly two kilograms of gold in every ton of ash, worth nearly ₦40 million; compared with Japan’s Hishikari mine, one of the world’s most productive mines, where just 40 grammes of gold are found per ton of ore.
Though this amount isn’t enough to rattle the world gold market, nor will it be feasible to extract every last bit of precious metal; but environmental engineer, Paul Westerhoff, says it could prove worthwhile for cities looking for ways to gain value from something that can be a costly disposal problem.
From the foregoing, it thus appears that our crap is really worth its weight in gold, and that’s no pun!