Turning Poo Into power:Startup Can Get You Cooking With Homemade Gas

Imagine you could find a use for doggy doo and potato peels and save the planet too: Like that thought? This startup’s cooking-gas and fertilizer production system is for you.

The Biogas system. It only comes in green but blue may be available one day. If you can smell sulfur anywhere around it, it's time to change its filter.
Courtesy of Home Biogas

If you have a house with a yard, if you eat and if you care about the environment — this Israeli startup has a product for you: a system to make your own gas.

You may not have thought that was a problem, but the intent here is gas to cook with. The idea so tickled the Internet that in just one day, the company exceeded its $100,000 crowdfunding target on Indiegogo, where its campaign kicked off on Tuesday.

The company making the system is called HomeBiogas, which sounds like it’s named after farts. That isn’t far off. You input your kitchen waste into the system, and animal excrement if you want to, and the system outputs gas for you to cook with and fertilizer for your garden. It’s the perfect solution for those Thanksgiving leftovers that you can’t even look at any more.

You will have to convert at least one burner on your range to use the system by removing its pressure regulator.

One upside: The system doesn’t need electricity to operate.

One downside: Since these are bacteria converting your waste into gas and fertilizer, the system only works properly in warm climes like the Mediterranean region and Africa, says HomeBiogas business development manager Ami Amir. It’s fine in balmy Italy or Greece, and appropriate areas of the Americas. But below 17 degrees Celsius the germs get too cold to do anything useful.

Note that the ensemble is half the size of a small car – 1 meter 65 centimeters long, 1 meter 23 centimeters wide and 1 meter high. You could stick it in an apartment balcony but you wouldn’t have much room left. It all depends on how badly you want to save the planet versus how badly you want to sit on your balcony and breathe in that city ambiance. And it’s green, in color as well as spirit. “We might have blue in the future,” says marketing manager Ron Yariv.

Doggy doo in, yours out

Can you put in both food waste and feces? The system works great with food waste alone or you can mix ’n’ match, putting in some organic waste and some poop, just watch the limits, Amir says. The limits are six liters of food waste a day and 15 liters of feces.

Any doo will do, but the company warmly recommends that you not use your own. Why? Because you’re using the fertilizer in your garden and human fecal matter may contain infectious pathogens, Amir explains.

Germs are generally species-specific. Few pathogens pass between animals and humans — mad cow disease prions and avian flu viruses are among the exceptions.

At the behest of Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry, the liquid fertilizer coming out of the system undergoes chlorination. (You have to replace the chlorine tablet about once a year, says Amir.) The chlorine theoretically kills the bacteria, but nothing in this world is 100-percent. So although you could theoretically put your own waste into the system, why go there?

Dog poop is easy to collect — you have to clean up after Fido anyway, right — and put into the system. What about the cat? “You have to separate the cat’s leavings from the litter,” Amir spells out. Otherwise the system will get gummed up.

Also, you can’t set the system to output only gas or only fertilizer. It will always produce both. That’s another reason it’s not quite ideal for the urban apartment-dweller — though she could donate the fertilizer or release it with the system’s liquid output into the city sewer system. It’s safe, the company says, noting that it recently received the European CE mark of approval.

Bon appétit

Each kilogram of food waste can generate about 200 liters of gas, enough for an hour’s cooking time on high flame. If fed the optimal amounts of “fuel,” the system can emit enough gas for three to four hours of cooking per day. That’s enough to make several meals for a family.

Having done the math, the company claims its system can utilize a ton of household organic waste each year.

Note, though, that it will take the system some four to six weeks to gear up from the day you buy it and assemble it, which the company swears is easy to do.

The system comes with a tank to store 400 liters of gas. Any additional gas generated by the system is automatically released into the atmosphere. (Which is yet another reason not to use this system inside apartments.) Speaking of which, what about smell?

The system yields methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotting eggs. The system filters out the hydrogen sulfide. Normally the system emits no smell — but you will know it’s time to replace the hydrogen sulfide filter when that changes, Amir explains. How often? About every year or two.

The gas isn’t useful for your car because the quantity the system outputs simply isn’t enough, Amir adds.

The system comes with a one-year warranty.

The unit now sells for an early-bird price of $945 (for those buying in Israel this price does not include VAT). When the Early Bird offer finishes, the cost will rise to $995, the company says. In Africa it isn’t sold to individual households but only to organizations.

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