An advantage of indoor plumbing is that you never have to think about what you flushed away. In urban areas, the contaminated water flows into sewer pipes to treatment plants. Sewage treatment plants produce thousands of tons of waste product every day, which ends up in landfills, dumped in the ocean and, in some cases, made into fertilizer.
Professor Abbas Mohajerani, one of the lead researchers in the study at Australia’s RMIT University, has for the past 15 years been exploring some very surprising ingredients. A recent discovery is a way to transform human waste into bricks for construction.
No, it doesn’t smell. According to a study by researchers at RMIT University, the human feces only accounts for 25% and the remain 75% is from traditional clay. By this method, it would cut down on 30% of the biosolid material that used as landfills.
A prototype of these bricks was made and compared with traditional bricks. The tests found the bricks were sturdy and would hold up to the most stringent global building regulations. Incorporating the biosolids into bricks did improve their overall life cycle sustainability
Biosolid bricks were found to be more porous than standard bricks, which would make them better insulators. Adding biosolids to the bricks would also cut down the amount of clay and sand used.
Ideally, the bricks would be made close to sewage treatment plants to reduce carbon emissions associated with trucking the biosolids to a factory.
Some of the best clay used for producing bricks are taken from beneath waterways and are causing significant damage to the ecosystem and local wildlife.
Another environment issue is the massive excavation of virgin soil that’s used for brick production.
In the book, The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization, author Vince Beiser states that the world is running out of sand to able to keep up with the demand of products from concrete to computer chips.
Prof. Abbas Mohajerani pointed out that this new process could help alleviate two environmental issues at the same time. The overabundance of biosolid waste and the unsustainable soil evacuation required for traditional bricks, making biosolid bricks a practical and sustainable proposal.
Another environmental solution:
Initiatives have been taken turning plastic beverage bottles into building materials, notably in Africa, Central, and South America.
A two bedroom house with a bathroom, a kitchen, and a living room can be constructed from roughly 14,000 plastic bottles and mud.
These bricks are fantastic for the plastic problem we are experiencing worldwide. According to a report by the year 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. With that said, bricks made from biosolids means less poop waste in our oceans.
Images Source: RMIT University
Mohajerani, A.; Ukwatta, A.; Jeffrey-Bailey, T.; Swaney, M.; Ahmed, M.; Rodwell, G.; Bartolo, S.; Eshtiaghi, N.; Setunge, S. A Proposal for Recycling the World’s Unused Stockpiles of Treated Wastewater Sludge (Biosolids) in Fired-Clay Bricks. Buildings2019, 9, 14.