A New Use for Sewage

This is supposed to be old news, but this is the first time I’m hearing about it! So here, meet the Bitublock. Six times stronger than cement, and made completely of post-consumer waste material.

“Designed by engineer John Forth, of the University of Leeds in England, the blocks are produced with a mixture of waste materials, including crushed glass, pulverized fuel ash, incinerated sewage, steel slag, and other waste products that would normally wind up in landfills or, worse, wherever they happen to be discarded. Further, less energy is required to make the Bitublocks than is needed for concrete. These products are bound together by bitumen, (a byproduct of crude oil distillation used widely in road construction), before compacting it in a mould to form a solid block. Next the block is heat-cured, which oxidizes the bitumen so it hardens like concrete. This makes it possible to use a higher proportion of waste in the Bitublock than by using a cement or clay binder.”

My only issue with this is that, if it does replace cement as our construction material of choice, it would still require enormous amounts of bitumen to produce, and I’m guessing we won’t be able to use the asphalt from old worn roads. And just to give you an idea of how much bitumen would be needed to replace our current construction needs, UK’s International Cement Review just reported a couple of months ago that worldwide cement consumption is forecast to reach a record 3859 megatonnes in 2012. While that would mean taking megatonnes of waste materials out of our ecosystem, all those benefits will be offset by the carbon emissions and toxic pollution from mining and shipping megatonnes of bitumen to build these Bitublocks… that’s hardly ideal.

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