Human Waste Transformed into Fuel, Fertilizer

Updated: 01/16/2013 7:51 AM By: Katherine Johnson

You may think a wastewater treatment plant is all about water but the Metropolitan Council Blue Lake Treatment Plant in Shakopee is all about waste.

"It's a little surprising but I think it's more enlightening than anything," said Met Council Spokesperson Tim O'Donnell.

Americans waste 40 percent of all the food we buy so Plant Manager Carl Swaggert works to find a way to recycle it, also throwing in some "bonus" material.

"Keep flushing your toilets!" said Swaggert.

Fifteen percent of all the waste flushed down the toilet, drains and garbage disposals in the twin cities area is now processed at two Twin Cities-based plants and turned into fertilizer for local farmers.

"Where we used to look at something as a waste product 50 years ago, we're looking at that as an opportunity now," said O'Donnell.

It's called Minnegrow, a biosolid made up of food scraps, dirt from the washing machine and human waste.  But even though it serves the same purpose as cow manure on a farm, the products are very different.

"We're trying to analyze our whole system and look for opportunities where we can take a waste material and recycle it, reuse it, return it to the environment," said O'Donnell.

And all this recycling is done using power generated by the same waste they're transforming saving the plant, and in turn you, half a million dollars a year in energy costs.

There are two Met Council plants in the Twin Cities that are currently creating the human-based fertilizer and even distributing the final product to local farmers free of charge.