114: Holy CR@P! Energy From Human Waste

Matt and Sean discuss how human waste is a hot commodity and could provide renewable energy and materials for the future.

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, “Turning Human Waste into Renewable Energy?”: https://youtu.be/p6CF-umWLZg?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi5LVxHfWfQE6-Y_HnK-sgXS

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Holy crap in today’s episode of still to be determined. We’re gonna be talking about whether or not you should start auctioning off your poop to the highest bidder hey everybody as usual I’m Sean Ferrell I’m a writer I write some sci-fi I read some stuff for kids. And I’m all around inquisitive around things tech and lucky for me with me is my brother Matt you of course know him from undecided with Matt Farrell Matt how you doing.
I’m pretty good. How about you Sean you’ve had a you’ve had a couple weeks of that every interesting. Yeah.
Um, it’s been it’s been it’s been a couple of weeks regular listeners or viewers will recognize that we did not drop an episode last week that was not by design that was by covid um. Last week on Friday I woke up feeling like I wasn’t ready to wake up and as the morning progressed I began to realize I was now hitting all the boxes as far as symptoms I gave myself an at-home test. It was positive and I have been in recovery since then and. To anybody who there were some people who shared their concerns I appreciate your concern this never for me reached a point where I was in any way scared or concerned for myself. Um, it was largely like a flu so all things considered. I think this is a case of the science worked I look at it as I was vaccinated I was I was vaccinated I was boosted so was my partner. She also got it. We tried very hard at the in the first couple of days to isolate me so that she wouldn’t get it but the reality was we woke up in the same.
Because you you were vaccinated. Yeah.
Bed on Friday morning like I was now exhibiting symptoms at that point I would have been um I would have been infectious for probably 24 to 36 hours before that and she and I were spending all of our time together. So we. Tried very hard to help her dodge the bullet she wasn’t able to do it. Um her immune system being what it is compared to mine. She wasn’t hit as hard. Thankfully um, but both of us were able to recover. And recover comfortably at home without having to do anything extra like there were no emergency room visits. So all things considered this was an unfortunate experience but it was one that I think part of me had been looking at it as.
Yeah, we’re all going to get it at some point. Yeah.
It’s inevitable at a certain point I begin I began to think of it as like well this is inevitable and it’s about being prepared and so for me, it was about boosters and still practicing as much safe stuff here in New York state restrictions have largely been lifted back to a. Um, I’d say if they at their height were at a level 10 they feel like they’re at about a level 3 right now you see people out on the street you see people in stores you see people in the subway who are not wearing masks. They are not the majority here in New York City other parts of the state are different. Um, but for myself. It made me recognize. Okay I need to do some things that I hadn’t been doing like my mask wearing while being strong I was wearing the wrong kind of mask I was wearing cloth I wasn’t wearing one of the the can 95 or n 95 masks so that needs to change for me. Um.
And recognizing okay I was getting a little lax in about you know the days leading up to getting sick I was starting to do things like getting together with people and not wearing masks and situations where I really should have been so I’m going to go back to a personal more restrictive form of socializing. Um, but.
Yeah, yeah.
And and the day before I got sick I was looking at the calendar and believe it or not you look at my youthful glow and you think well that guy must be 2022 ah I am of the age where I could get another booster I’m I’m at that age Mark I’m i’m.
Fifty years old so I’m able to get another booster and the day before I got sick I was looking at the calendar and I was seeing like oh in a couple days I will be at the point past my previous booster where I will now be eligible again. I need to remember to make that appointment and then the next day I started to get sick. So. Timing being what it was I would have preferred to get the booster as opposed to getting sick. But the fact that I got sick and got through it because of the boosters because of the vaccines I’m considering myself very very lucky. So so that was my. Whirlwind week. Um, it’s been very easy for me to forget what day it is. They’ve all kind of blurred together I contacted Matt after getting sick I contacted him our parents said like I’m sick with covid but please don’t worry I think I’m recovering.
Yeah I’m sure. Yeah.
Already and I let Matt know yeah I’m not going to be recording this week so we had to pull the plug on last week’s episode and then while that was happening Matt you had your own set of headaches didn’t you around technology doing what technology likes to do which is not what humans like it to do. Do you want to.
No, ah yeah, my um, my main Youtube account got suspended and it happened on Tuesday morning which is when I launched my new videos and I got up on Tuesday morning and i.
Talk a bit about how you got locked out of your own channel.
Went to go into Youtube studio to see how the the launch went because it’s always scheduled ahead of time and got this screen that said you’ve been locked out son. It’s like what is going on here. Um. The way the way that Youtube works is that you can have a personal account with a personal Youtube channel or you can have what’s called a branded account and all of my channel like this trek and time vice versa and undecided are all branded. Accounts. So think of like a big corporation has a Coca-cola Youtube channel. And then you have people that have permissions to log in and use it my main account the owner and administrator of all these channels that channel was suspended and the reason it was suspended was not clear because the way Youtube communicates is like um if you don’t know what you did. We’re not going to tell you is kind of the attitude. Um.
Go away.
All it said was you’ve been suspended for community violations. Okay so I go and read the community violations and it’s like promoting violence and sexual harassment and all this stuff like I’m not doing any of that stuff. What’s going on and the only things that could have been were.
False promotion or impersonation and I was like what what was going on here and that’s when it thing started to click of oh for the past six months it’s been kind of a big thing in the Youtube community. There have been a lot of fake accounts and I’ve had this happen to me where somebody creates an account called undecide with Matt Ferrell underscore or undecided with Matt Ferrell mid dot you know that kind of a thing so it looks like me and they use my avatar and they come into the comments and they respond to people’s comments saying hey I’m doing a giveaway and you won the random selection from the comments message me on Whatsapp and I’ll get you your your award.
Um, yeah.
And usually they end up going. Well you have to pay us fifty bucks for shipping because I can’t handle the shipping and they get money and you never get your thing so it’s a big thing that’s been building over past six months to a year and it’s being really bad on my channel I have tons of bots that like I I post a video and within 10 minutes first comments will always have a bot that’s doing pornography or cryptocurrency or fill in the blank. It’s just like bots galore all this kind of stuff impersonators trying to scam people. It’s Youtube is dropping the ball and they’re not doing a good job and they’ve been criticized. Yes.
Um, right? Yeah, it’s in those comments on your videos that I’m getting most of my crypto and porn. So yeah, so I find that very useful. It is working. Yeah yeah.
Oh that’s good. It’s good. So it’s so it’s working. It’s working for you. Okay, okay, well um Youtube is starting to try to crack down on that and they clearly my my my main account is called shocking Matt Ferrell and guess what it has a picture of me.
It’s the same picture I use on undecided so they assumed this is an impersonator and they close that account down and they have an appeals process I peeled 3 times and each time it got rejected each time. I went in circles with Youtube support. They have ah a partner support chat for youtubers and I went in there and 3 times 3 or 4 times didn’t went nowhere. They escalated it to a it’s a human It’s a human um everybody I dealt with was pleasant, professional and great.
Are you speaking with a human or can you tell if it’s ah Ai okay.
But it came across as they’ve set up this byzantine I felt like I was in the movie Brazil you know what? I mean like it’s like a bureaucracy that’s so sprawling that the group over here.
Right? right? Yeah, well if you’re really who you are. You should have been able to prove that before we even needed proof. So the fact that you didn’t provide us with that proof that you are who you say you are before we needed the proof proves that you aren’t who you say you are So it’s that kind of yeah.
But right. Yes, but it’s also this group is this group over here is saying go talk to that group over there and that group over there is telling me to talk to the group I over here I just talked to and then that group says and we talk to this group. It’s like nobody knows what’s going on. Nobody’s talking to each other everything’s on me to figure out and solve. They’re the big. Wonderful Youtube they don’t do anything wrong. So it must be you and I was caught in this loop and I had a lot of friends that are youtubers that were telling me to to talk to team Youtube on Twitter so I started tweeting at them and I made a video pleading like I’m making this video of myself saying this is not a fraud. I am who I say I am and because it’s I have a sub account that has limited editor access on undecided still I was able to still post that video as I posted that video on undecided with Matt Ferrell is unlisted and I tweeted it I’m like this is me I’ve managed to post it onto my official channel. Ah.
Yeah, you effectively you effectively posted a picture of yourself holding today’s newspaper in a hotel bathroom somewhere to prove the proof of life.
From what I understand. Yeah.
Yes, so here’s how broken the Youtube system is is that that is what I believe broke the log jam on top of which a bunch of my youtuber friends were replying that tweet saying to Youtube you got to fix this what hell’s going on and I have one of there’s another youtuber. Who shall remain unnamed who knows somebody over at Youtube in the support team that reached out to them directly so I had people coming at this from multiple vectors and the only reason this got solved was because I have that like.
Right? right.
Right? That should not be that should not be a prerequisite. Yeah yeah.
Have a channel that has over 800000 subscribers I have all these other youtubers that should know this is not how this should happen. Ah, the final message I got from Youtube support once they reactivate it was this should have never happened clearly and that it has been escalated up deeper into the Youtube team. Which says to me the product team is now aware of what happened to me and it sounds like they’re trying to go what happened and they’re they’re probably going me this next week be doing a post-mortem of what happened to try to figure out to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
It’s what what’s astounding is is I know I know about as much about computers. At this point I feel like I know just about 5% more than our parents and our parents are are you know in their eighty s we love them. But when it comes to computers. They’re like.
Yeah, yeah.
We don’t know where to put the magic and I know just a little little bit more than they do I know this much though Youtube could tell that the computers accessing all of your accounts came from the same IP address
Um, not even just that Sean all they had to do oh.
I Don’t understand why like why? Why would they not be looking at that level of saying like these are all from the same computers.
There there’s there’s their their machine learning algorithm. That’s probably doing the auto banning that started this all is probably just looking at is the avatar ripped off from the channel that we’re looking at is the username similar enough but different does it look like a scam. Yes. Problem with that is all they would have to do is go 1 level deeper on my main account and say does this channel have any access to that channel that we think they’re ripping off and they would have seen my channel has owner permissions to everything that they thought I was scamming. It’s like.
Um, yeah.
The fact that that whatever they set up doesn’t even go a level deeper for permissions. It’s like if they had done that it wouldn’t have gotten caught but they didn’t and the fact that humans when they went to appeal it in the appeal process didn’t even do the due diligence there themselves either. It’s like it’s a so the machine failed and the people failed their systems.
Um, yeah.
Um, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Need some significant overhaul and this is not the only problem with Youtube Youtube has a lot of issues from a creator point of view. But this one was major it basically froze my business last week and this is how I make a living so if you want to say I was panicked that would be an understatement.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, well you and I talked about it ah in your experience I mentioned something to you that you hadn’t been aware of which was I have always been a fan of the video game Destiny Matt has been a fan of the game as well. And recently there was a dustop between bungee the makers of destiny and Youtube and bungee is now in the process of suing Youtube and it revolves around youtubers who were masquerading as bungee and. Putting copyrightt claims on people’s accounts and they were getting youtubers shut down and these are people like Matt who make their living from this. So this was a ah level of a personal and business disruption that has real economic impact. And so now it’s started this process of bungee suing Youtube basically saying your your system is broken if you don’t have in place something to actually verify the claims made by individuals and it sounds like your experience is a version of that within Youtube. Where Youtube’s own systems are doing that to its users and not not connecting dots properly and as you said this is the tip of the iceberg as far as like complaints that creators have about Youtube as a company what it how it handles things in its in its ah.
Relationships with its its users and all of that is I mean the headaches of that go Beyond like you said this is your business that goes Beyond simply a frustration of like why can’t I upload or download this video the way that I want to be able to this is why.
And the fact it took four days to resolve it? yeah.
Why did the locks on my business change. Why am I not able to get into my own business. That’s.
It shouldn’t have taken four days it should not have taken four days
Um, so speaking of crap. Yeah, yeah, as we’re going to be talking about Matt’s most recent episode this is from April Twelfth 2022 turning human waste into renewable energy question mark.
Yes, nice transition Sean you’re professional.
And I find that covid in my chest is making the question Mark easier to hit that. That’s a nice little squeak at the end there. So the technology at work here I love the fact that this is as simple as saying. It’s a pressure cooker.
Yeah, is a giant pressure cooker.
And it is a process as you point out who was the originator of this back in the early nineteen hundreds the the german the german scientist who originated this process and said like oh we could do this and I’m sure he wasn’t talking.
Oh I can’t remember his name offhand Yes, yes, yes.
Explicitly about human waste I’m sure he was saying you could take any biomatter and you know like you could accelerate the natural process that occurs within the earth to create a kind of coal and this is what happens and it’s.
Like if.
The simplicity of a pressure cooker. The gentleman that you interviewed describing it as you’re taking the water up to a state of boiling where it’s not allowed to actually convert to steam and that doing something to. The water molecules which effectively is breaking down all the molecule chains into very basic component parts and then allowing them to recombine into a far more basic structure which is in effect Coal I Love the fact that this is that simple that you can.
You could on a certain level recreate this if you had the right equipment ah a home lab. You could do stuff along it. You could do stuff along these lines. You could take people have pressure cookers that they cook with this is not something that would be um.
You can do this anywhere.
In some of your videos the science behind Well here’s a cathode and an anode and the static electricity and then your brain and and the sun comes out and where’s the wind and how are we going to do all of this and this seems so like okay here’s this static thing.
Yeah, it breaks.
And this is how we do it and when we’re done. We end up with this and the beauty of it. Not only being this but this can be used as a fuel this can be used as a filter. This could be used in all these different ways and yet nobody. Nobody knows about it. It almost seems like an April fools joke. It almost seems like yeah, what’s the technology that is the most basic technology that could change the world that nobody knows about and it seems like it’s this.
Yes, that’s my favorite part is like yes.
what I what I love what I love about all of this is that the person 1 of my followers reached out to me about this and said I know a guy that’s turning crap to energy and I think it’s right up your alley. He made that joke to me. He said this this video is gonna be so full of puns.
Um, yes, hat tip to you and your writers by the way the number of poop jokes embedded in this including at 1 point the most subtle of them and I I didn’t see anybody in the comments point this one out and i.
And bad jokes and it’s also interesting technology I think this is perfect. Let me introduce you? Yeah yeah. Yes, yes.
Assume it was embedded intentionally. But maybe I’m reading too deeply into things but there was the phrase that you said this is right up my alley and even that I was just like oh that was a that was a good one that like just under the door like I loved it.
That was me.
Yeah, yeah, there were a few in there like the writer that I worked with on this one. He had some good ones. Ah but the ones I was most proud of were the opening pun was was mine. Um, you know, renewable you know solar wind is number 1 But what’s number 2 Um I thought that was I was very proud of that one but this it wrote itself.
Um, yeah.
But the thing that struck me was I had never heard a thing about this like it was just completely new to me and the more I dug into it the more I realized really nobody knows about this like nobody’s talking about it. This is not a thing in the public sphere and I thought this is worth talking about because it’s raising awareness that there’s this neat.
Um, yeah.
Technology that’s been around for a long time and we’re finally taking advantage of it.
Yeah, and from the company’s perspective. He mentioned that they had been the recipient of a governmental award as far as this is a technology that should be used across the country. Obviously I mean I I love a video absolutely thinking like. Yes, absolutely this should be functioning in every municipality across the country. The fact that their energy consumption consumption is one hundred and twenty five percent turnaround that they’re not only energizing themselves.
Like it becomes this kind of question Mark of is that even possible. Can we start this up and then it just not only is it powering itself. But it’s putting electricity back into the system. That’s a win win.
Um, even if yes.
It’s taking care of the waste which is a win. It is creating a useful good which is a win. It made me wonder about one of the layers standing in the way was getting. Licensed to actually be able to do this to the waste is the first hurdle One of the things you didn’t talk about and I wondered how far into the regulatory process. This is the usage of the byproduct would.
Yes, yes.
Yes, well.
Also require regulatory. Okay, even if it was even if you were making a new type of brick out of sand you would need to get it approved for use in a building a wall or a home things like that it it just it wouldn’t be.
Yes, yes.
This is not being treated differently from any building material. But if you’re making bricks out of this. It’s going to have to go through another layer. Do you know where any of that regulatory process is.
Um, it’s still. It’s still very early days like this stuff is going to take a while to spool up. Not only is it going to take a while to spool up putting these and these these htc plants into place is going to take a while to spool up all the different avenues that that material could be used because as you pointed out, It’s like we’re talking about.
Can produce energy but it doesn’t have to produce energy. It’s producing a material that can be used in numerous different products but that supply chain in some cases is there in other cases. It’s not so like if you’re talking about this new bricks, new cement asphalt kind of stuff that’s still really early days on on implementing that kind of thing. But ah, the number 1 thing that can be used for today is generating electricity because this can be used in a coal-fired plant to generate electricity and there already is um the way to look at it is with coal. You’re digging into the ground to to.
Um, and it has less. It has less of a carbon footprint than coal.
Dig up carbon that’s been sequestered for who knows how long millions of years underground to burn it and you’re putting it back into the atmosphere this is taking carbon that is essentially already existing in here and you’re taking down you’re putting it back up. So it’s carbon neutral. It’s not carbon negative. You’re just kind of cycling it back and forth. So.
Already in the is yeah okay, ok right.
It’s not pollution free, but it’s not making the situation worse so you got to look at it from that point of view.
Right? So it’s It’s basically saying okay this was a plant and we ate the plant and then we pooped out the plant and now we’re converting it to something that could be used to either feed a plant or to generate electricity but because it was already a plant.
It was already part of our bio system right.
Right? right? So basically using this stuff as fertilizer and for power generation. Those supply chains are already kind of there so this could immediately be used for that kind of stuff but the other stuff we talked about we talked about it could be used for graphene for activated charcoal. For filtering water those kind of things are going to take a while to spin up. Um, but it it seems like it’s it’s a win-win today and it’s just going get better over time is the best way to look at it.
It also seemed like it wasn’t limited in his description to just ah human waste. It really seemed like this could be something if you could if you could isolate from your garbage. The. Non-bio and the biomatter that you would be able to say like okay this I’m not everybody can compost but everybody’s garbage if it was This is all the food stuff that I wasn’t consuming that goes into a separate bag and then that bag goes to one of these plants. It could be included in.
Yeah, the the other thing is like we I concluded at the end of the video the whole they play this game does it carbonize I immediately thought of like a 1970 s game show like with some does it carbonize. But it’s it’s one of those pretty much anything organic can be put through the system.
This process.
Yeah. He yeah.
Anything organic so it’s it’s very versatile. So it’s not just going to make sense for waste reclamation plants. It could be used in numerous different ways. But the first angle is this waste reclamation because we have to deal with this stuff. We have a never ending flood of pooh.
Yes, yeah.
It’s never going to stop. So let’s put it to use. Let’s let’s like let’s get something out of it.
Um, and at what rate can it work I mean that’s one of the things that.
It’s fast. It is fast. He was saying it takes about it depends on what you’re doing because he he was he I didn’t put it in the video but it depends on what temperature what temperature and pressure you target and for how long will determine what you get out of it so you can actually create kind of like a ah. Like methane. You can get methane gas. You can get ah like liquid that can be turned into Biofuels. You can get the carbon that’s like charcoal depending on what you want to do and how you process it you can get different things out of it so you can fine tune it. But in general it takes about 4 hours to process whatever you put into it. So.
That’s really fast to be able to turn that around so to scale it up. You just have to make your plan a little bit bigger but you you’d be able to process this at a pretty good clip.
Right? And do you know of any kind of Nimby pushback that might occur as a result of a plant like this being put together I know that we have waste treatment plants all over the country and I’m sure that there’s a lot of you know, not my backyard.
I don’t.
Around just waste treatment plants to begin with would this be a different fight would this be something that would would have a limitation to I mean I know that certain waste treatment plants. You recognize you’re driving past them on the highway because you can smell them.
I Don’t think so.
Yeah, it doesn’t youre you’re dealing with with waste. You’re still gonna smell it so you do it’s I don’t think it’s any different than what you would have today with a regular waste treatment plant. So it’s not gonna make it harder.
Like is this going to be that kind of experience or is this remove some of them. Yeah. Right.
For easier. It’s just a different thing.
And did you get any information about conversion of existing facilities would this be a you have to build a new place by so from scratch or is this the kind of thing that would be able to take an existing waste treatment plant and actually convert it to this kind of production.
You’re not really, you’re not really converting but you are adding to it or building adjacent things. Um that they’re mature they’re machines that do this? Um, they look kind of like semitruck trailers. So. It’s like that you just bring these machines and these. Semittru trailers and set them up and you can basically set up a processing area adjacent to your regular wastewater treatment Facility. So It’s like it can be kind of tacked on and built on to so that. You could keep processing the waste like you normally do. But you could take a portion of that and start funneling it into this other process.
And just before we leave just a reminder you can reach out to us through the comments on Youtube or you can check out the contact information in the podcast description and I wanted to share a couple of comments on this video which. Caught my eye and I think they nicely bookend the conversation. We’ve been having there was this one from Lee Johnson who simply writes solid presentation. Definitely not a waste of time. Thank you for flushing out the details Lee I’m with you on all of those thank you for sharing and then there was this one from Rocky rocky h writes I work in the waste water treatment industry First as a plant operator and now as an engineer and I have never heard of this I knew that coal is made by heat and pressure that to my knowledge has never actually been observed in nature only theorized. I at first scratched my head at that comment. But then I thought well yeah, you wouldn’t be able to actually watch millions of years past to see the coal created but I’d never heard what info came out or how practical it could be in real life I will ask around at the office. What people think about this I think that that.
He has yeah.
Is I mean I included both those comments and I do think yeah I was like winking at the camera a bit but I do believe that that book ends the conversation on the 1 hand you hear about this and you make poop jokes on the other hand people don’t know about this. And this really is something that as people within the industry find out about this I’m very very curious and I hope that Rocky H will come back and share a follow up about having shared this with coworkers in the waste treatment industry. Is there a growing knowledge about it is there more curiosity about it. What is the thinking around it I would love to hear follow up on that so listeners we would welcome your thoughts.
Me too.
Would you welcome this kind of treatment plant in your area. Let us know like I said you can reach out through the contact information in the podcast description or you can go to Youtube and scroll beneath the video where you will see Matt’s Youtuber face and my covid face and you can leave the comment there. If you’d like to support the show. Please do consider reviewing us on Apple Google Spotify wherever it is that you found us go back there and leave a rating review if you’d like to more directly support us. You can go to still tbd dot fm. There’s a become a worder button there and you can chuck some coins at our head. Forget you can click join on Youtube and become a member there as well. All of that really does help support the show. Thank you so much for listening everybody and we’ll talk to you next time.
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