Why ‘Poop’ May Be a Gold Mine for Entrepreneurs

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

In the free market system, you answer the door when opportunity knocks. Even if that knocking is coming from your own back door. So listen up, entrepreneurs, because here is an opportunity like no other.

According to research performed by members of the U.S. Geologic Survey, there are literally millions of dollars worth of gold, silver, platinum, and other precious metals flowing right through our bodies, and coming out embedded in excrement. Yes, your feces are as good as gold.

But don’t get a trowel and sifting materials all set up next to the toilet just yet. The amounts of precious metals coursing through you right now are only in trace levels, and would require some real work to extract. So don’t start making plans to dig for yourself, or, God forbid, pan for gold in your bathroom. But that’s not to say that there isn’t a real opportunity to make a profit, an AFP report from Yahoo! says.

“The gold we found was at the level of a minimal mineral deposit,” Kathleen Smith of the U.S. Geologic Survey said. “If you can get rid of some of the nuisance metals that currently limit how much of these biosolids we can use on fields and forests, and at the same time recover valuable metals and other elements, that’s a win-win.”

So, not only can you get rich by becoming the world’s foremost entre-poo-neur, but you can also help the environment. Sounds pretty great! But for those of you wondering, just how much money are we talking about here? According to a study done by researchers from Arizona State University, a city of one million people annually flushes up to $13 million into the sewage system.

That’s $13 million per year, per one million people. To put that into perspective, there’s roughly $40 million worth of precious metals going down the drain every year within the Los Angeles city limits alone.

Clearly, there’s a huge opportunity to make an awful lot of money. The trick would be to find a way to actually make extraction of these metals efficient and sanitary, and also to find a way to get your hands on all of that… ore? Obviously, this is the work that must be done in order to earn that potential fortune, and anyone brave enough to innovate in such a field would definitely deserve it.

But to get back to another question that is just dying to be asked: Where the hell are all of these precious metals coming from, exactly? The answer, it seems, is just about everywhere. “There are metals everywhere — in your hair care products, detergents, even nanoparticles that are put in socks to prevent bad odors,” said Smith.

As to how much you can expect to extract out of a given amount of “ore,” The Guardian reports that same Arizona State University study “found that 1kg of sludge contained about 0.4mg gold, 28mg of silver, 638mg copper and 49mg vanadium.” Those amounts are comparable to what you would expect to find in a commercial mine.

But those looking to get in on the action had best act quick, because there are already international efforts underway to capitalize on these revelations. The Guardian says that a sewage treatment facility in Tokyo has started its own extraction operations, and is reporting impressive yields. Consider, for a moment that Tokyo is home to some 13 million people, which means that there is an annual $169 million in precious metals up for grabs.

They’d be stupid not to do it, right?

Well, considering that there is potentially so much money to be made from finding a way to process and extract these metals set loose in the sewer system, you can bet that there are entrepreneurs racking their brains over how to put a sustainable business plan together right now. It’s not like the amount of potential profit makes it almost not worth it — there are millions to be made, particularly in the country’s largest cities.

Is America’s next gold rush going to look more like a rush to the porcelain throne? Will grocery stores start selling obscene amounts of laxatives as people try to speed up production? We don’t know. But we do know that the human rump is effectively a gold mine, and it’s only a matter of time before someone digs in.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger

Want more great content like this? Sign up here to receive the best of Cheat Sheet delivered daily. No spam; just tailored content straight to your inbox.