Poop: the New Alternative Paper Source?

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An Israeli entrepreneur has come up with a plan to make paper from human waste. This might sound unsavory, but Rafael Aharon sees an untapped business with plenty of potential.

Aharon is the CEO of Applied Clean Tech (ACT), a sewage recycling company. Their system is an “integrated solution combining reduced sludge formation for municipal waste water treatment plants (WWTPs) with recycling of waste water bio-solids.”

Their technology basically extracts (rather than digests) solids from sewage, turning the cellulose found in toilet paper and fecal matter into clean recycled paper. The paper can then be used for a variety of purposes. In fact in Israel, over the last two years, paper created from sewage has been used in a variety of products including envelopes without complaint.

Aharon says that sewage is actually a new source of paper. It’s “a real good source if you collect it from the point we do, the point before the biological processes of the wastewater treatment plant destroy it.”

Although this has an obvious ick-factor for many people, Aharon says that the method is very sanitary.

Aharon believes that this untapped source of paper is a goldmine. With the amount of trees that are dwindling, such paper can easily be used for single-use packaging like shipping boxes and even food packing like egg-carton and fruit boxes.

ACT is in negotiations with waste water treatment facilities in the US and Europe to collect their sludge for paper recovery. This will drastically reduce the number of virgin trees cut down. While this technology is novel and brimming with potential, unless it is sensitively marketed, it may not catch on at all.

According to their website, the company’s  proprietary bio-solids recycling process produces more than just paper. The recycling process creates a variety of renewable energy products under the brand name Recyllose. These include combustibles for power plants, feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production and pulp products for the paper industry.

The same ick-factor existed when elephant poo paper first came out and now it is all a rage, and is seen as an artistic alternative to normal paper. Honestly, if you look at it and even smell it, it is no different from other kinds of paper. How different is human poo from elephant poo? It’s all a matter of perspective.

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net