Strange Science: Processing Human Waste on Mount Everest

Mount EverestMount Everest is the highest mountain above sea level and one of the most ascended peaks in the world. It also has a problem. Human waste, left behind by hikers.

If a hiker takes approximately 2 months to climb Mount Everest, they leave behind approximately 60 pounds of excrement. When you multiply that by the approximately 1,200 hikers who attempt the ascent each year, you’ve got what one journalist referred to as a “fecal time bomb.”

There are porters charged with cleaning the mountain, but a retired engineer from Washington State has proposed an alternate solution: a biogas digester, which turns the human waste into fertilizer and methane.

The problem with a traditional biogas digesters is that they don’t work in extremely cold environments, which Mount Everest very much is, because the digester relies on an anaerobic bacterial process. Those working on the project also want to ensure that whatever they build can be constructed from simple materials and maintained on the mountain by the Nepalese. Progress so far has been good, so this will likely be implemented in the near future! You can read more about it here!

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