The Vision Capture 90,000 tons of urine every day from the world’s billion pigs and recycle it into plastic plates
The Plan To Agroplast chairman Jes Thomsen, pig pee is just as valuable as oil, coal and gas. A chemical produced in a pig’s liver, urea, can be recycled in a variety of ways, from de-icing roads and airplanes to manufacturing so-called bioplastics, in which urea can replace petroleum as a bulking agent. Later this summer, the Danish company will begin collecting 3,000 liters of pig pee a day at a processing plant near Copenhagen in an effort to reduce costs and conserve resources.
Typically, pig urine and manure is dumped en masse into smelly pools and storage tanks vulnerable to overflowing and leaks. This can lead to dangerous levels of air and groundwater pollution. The Agroplast filtering system, on the other hand, collects the urine as quickly as a pig can eliminate it, which keeps pigpens clean and disease-free. Unlike conventional septic systems, the waste flows through filters that clean the liquid while removing particles, color and odor. By the end of the process, the urea is ready to be recycled into plastic, soap or moisturizer.
Potential Uh-Ohs Scientists disagree about whether bioplastics are environmentally superior to petroleum-based plastics. If you toss a plastic plate made from pig urine into a landfill, it will end up releasing the greenhouse gas methane. Recycling bioplastics poses trouble too, because most companies aren’t yet equipped to sort regular plastic from bioplastics.
ETA Thomsen expects the company’s second plant to be in Iowa or North Carolina, home to some of the largest pig farms in the U.S. With farmland and gas prices at a premium, he envisions building “pig cities”—efficient, land-conserving skyscrapers that would house the pigs while processing their waste into plastic and fertilizer.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.