ULSAN, South Korea, March 9 (Korea Bizwire) – “Ttong-bonwi-hwapae” literally translates into “poop standard currency.” And the government is investing 10 billion won ($8.65 million) over the next five years to turn this human waste-to-currency idea into reality in South Korean towns and cities.
A pilot project was initially spearheaded by the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology last May at its Science Walden Pavilion, which is a laboratory with a lavatory (no pun intended) that turns human waste into biofuel, and in return rewards “donors” with a virtual currency called “kkul” (honey in Korean).
Sewage is dehydrated and converted into odorless powder, after which it is processed inside a bioreactor into methane gas and carbon dioxide. For every donation of this precious resource, the patron receives 10 kkul in exchange, which is equivalent to $0.43. Officials are trying to bring up the value of 10 kkul to about $3.12 by 2020.
According to the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning, the ultimate goal is to have the currency applied to larger communities, like towns or even cities, and ultimately use the system to provide financial support to the socially disadvantaged.
Now with the government’s endorsement, the Science Walden research team is planning to establish a Living Lab on the UNIST campus, which will be used as a new lab, as well as a living environment, including three 16.50-square-meter rooms, a bio-center for converting human waste into fuel, and a bio-energy cafeteria.
Researchers will be able to experience and research in real-time how their own waste is used for heating, hot water, and kitchen appliances, officials said, adding that the toilets will also have sensors for measuring pH levels, and glucose and protein levels in urine.
“Our plan is to build a town that operates based on ‘ttong-bonwi-hwapae,’ that would include restaurants, public buses, and farms all making use of human waste as a core ingredient,” said professor Cho Jae-won, who is in charge of the project, in an interview with the Seoul Economic Daily.
“We’ll be suggesting a whole new paradigm for city design, and prove the potential of an environmental economic system with a feces-energy-life cycle.”
By Joseph Shin (firstname.lastname@example.org)