None of us want to think too hard about the turkeys we eat on Thanksgiving. We especially don’t need to think about the excrement they produce.
But what if that excrement could help halt climate change?
According to researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, turkey excrement — along with waste produced by other poultry, like chicken — could partially replace coal as an energy resource and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
“Treated excrement from turkeys, chickens and other poultry, when converted to combustible solid biomass fuel, could replace approximately 10 percent of coal used in electricity generation, reducing greenhouse gases and providing an alternative energy source,” the university said in a news release.
As the release explains, scientists led by Ph.D. candidate Vivian Mau and Professor Amit Gross converted turkey poop to biomass fuel to test its potential. By heating it through a process called hydrothermal carbonization, or HTC, they mimicked the formation of coal and turned the excrement into “hydrochar.”
The hydrochar was encouraging: It yielded 24 percent more energy than a similarly sized batch of coal and produced less of the harmful compounds methane and ammonia. The process also did not mean reinventing the wheel.
“Poultry waste hydrochar generates heat at high temperatures and combusts in a similar manner to coal, an important factor in replacing it as renewable energy source,” Mau and Gross wrote.
The Israeli method solves two issues — how to produce energy and how to clean up after poultry.
Hydrochar already is being produced from various kinds of plants around the world, but those crops take a deep toll on land, water, and fertilizer resources. And getting rid of poultry excrement in the traditional ways causes environmental problems.
Over a quarter million turkeys are produced each year in the United States, and 100 six-week-old broilers can provide about 30 to 35 pounds of manure per day.
Scientifically speaking, that’s a lot of poop.
JTA Wire Service