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Sewage Sludge: Everything You Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask

I've been looking into sludge.  It's not a pretty picture.   I am working on a profile of Micromidas, a Clean Tech Open finalist that aims to make the business of treating raw sewage a bit less messy by extracting carbon from sludge and turning it into biodegradable plastics.  But more on that later this week.   Sewage, sludge, human waste  ... it's a dirty problem and one of the major by-products of human civilization.   I came across this fascinating writeup -  Civilization & Sludge: Notes on the History of the Management of Human Excreta. 

I remember mulling over this problem as a child (kids are fascinated with poop) .... where does it all go?  This article traces the history of mankind's battle with with their by-products.  It's been ugly and we have just been moving the problem from one place to another.   Whether it has been cesspools polluting private property, open city sewers causing mass outbreaks of cholera, typhoid when the sewage was dumped into nearby rivers or disgusting beaches when we pursued dumping sewage into the ocean with a "solution by dilution" approach.   Now toxic sludge, laden with heavy metals, pathogens and pharmaceuticals is being buried, burned and used as fertilizer.    I am not sure what the solution is, but hopefully technology advances will lead the way.  More on Micromidas in my next post.

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