CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

A more effluent society?

07 January, 2021 — By John Gulliver

ADVANCED trials are taking place to power trains through the use of “human waste” and battery packs to phase out dirty diesel engines. According to a report in The Times recently these trains would be fuelled using biomethane from organic waste.

I was reminded of my time in Beijing many years ago, when I used to join the thousands on bicycles to commute to the office, often cycling behind long convoys of carts – pulled by donkeys on rubber wheels – full of human waste being transported from the centre of the capital to the outlying farms.

It was usually a pleasant 30-minute cycle ride and like many fellow cyclists we all tried to steer clear of the carts whose aroma hung in the air. Often, I thought how typical of the ancient Chinese culture that they had found something useful even in human waste. I also wondered how effective the methods of fertilisation were though I saw no signs of any infection.

I recall how one day I got too close to a cart and skidded into it – and almost fell under its wheels. I came off slightly hurt and limped badly into the office to the laughter of colleagues when they heard what had happened.

It could have been worse.

I am confident the trials of the “human waste” trains will succeed – there is far too much waste in this consumerist society, and everything should be done to avert the coming climate disaster.

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