One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, they say. Well, in a South Korean school, one man’s poo is another man’s pennies.
The invention of a toilet that composts human excrement and turns it into methane biogas for use in the school’s energy system has the students there re-evaluating waste like never before, as the amount of waste they contribute to the electric bills is returned to them in the form of a digital currency.
The dirty mind behind the brilliant invention was Cho Jae-weon, an urban and environmental engineering professor at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), who insists that humanity can solve all kinds of problems if we think “outside the box.”
Known as the BeeVi toilet, a condensed form of “bee” and “vision,” the compost/currency commode uses a powerful vacuum to pull feces down into a composting tank, thereby eliminating all water usage.
Next, bacteria breakdown the feces and the methane is channeled into a solid-oxide fuel cell which powers several building functions such as the hot water heater.
On average, a human’s daily excrement can generate around 0.5 kilowatt hours of electricity.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure. I have put this value into ecological circulation,” Cho told Reuters.
Along side the BeeVi, Cho created a digital token, called the “Ggool,” or honey in Korean, which students can earn by using the toilet.
They can then take their feces financing and spend it on coffee and other items in the school cafeteria.
“I had only ever thought that feces are dirty, but now it is a treasure of great value to me,” postgraduate student Heo Hui-jin told Reuters, in what must have been a fairly uncomfortable conversation.