What starts in America rarely stays there! Sooner or later it spreads across the water and reaches our shores. So although this research comes from the States we suspect it’s relevant to us too.
A recent report in The Huffington Post reported an unusual source for precious metals. According to two research studies, Americans end up sending millions of dollar’s worth of gold down the (toilet) pan every year. The reports say that high levels of gold particles are washed away annually.
How do they know?
Well they’ve been testing the contents of the sewers. Not the best job – but it may turn out to be the most rewarding.
The geological study has been carried out by research geologist Kathleen Smith PhD for the American Chemical Society; she has been checking household waste to find out about its content. It’s a mucky job but someone has to do it!
Apparently Americans flush away precious metals such as gold. It’s not that their waste is any better than anywhere else in the world; it’s just that these precious metal particles are found in many unlikely places.
Smith commented, “ … they are in hair care products, detergents and even found in socks treated to prevent lingering bad foot odours.” Gosh we never realised we were so rich!
What we flush away could be pure gold
Smith confirmed that these metals go through the drainpipes in our human waste and into treatment plants where the water is separated from the solid materials. In the States that amounts to 7 million tons of biosolids every year. This biosolid waste material contains enough valuable metals to consider ‘mining’ it from the waste on a commercial basis.
Currently part of these biosolids go on to fertilise fields and forests while the remainder goes to landfill or is incinerated.
Meanwhile in Arizona at the State University, another study has come up with similar evidence suggesting that a city with a population of 1 million – that’s somewhere the size of Birmingham – could produce as much as $13 million of precious metals or almost £9 million.
The precious metals found in our waste aren’t just gold but include particles of silver and platinum as well as copper, iron and zinc. Apparently the study found that ‘a metric ton of sludge contained 16.7 grams of silver and about a third of a gram of gold.’
Frustratingly there doesn’t appear to be a viable way to extricate the precious metals currently.
Meanwhile in Japan as long ago as 2009, they discovered about 2,000 gms of gold in a ton of ashes of incinerated waste. They have sold off some of the gold for around 5 million yen (approx £28,000) and expect to triple this amount over a further financial year.
If they ever find a way to ‘mine’ our personal waste we could find we are ‘sitting on’ goldmines. Suddenly our waste would become a valuable commodity. It would also be perfect recycling!