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Cleaning Up “The World’s Highest Junkyard”

Trash and human poop are making Everest a dump, but these new projects aim to de-muck the mountain.

Photo by shrimpo1967 via Wikimedia Commons

A lot has changed since Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary first scaled the freezing peaks of Mount Everest in 1953. For one thing, attempting to summit Everest, though still perilous, has become a sort of rite of passage for X-treme yuppie adventurer types. More than 4,000 people have now climbed the mountain. As a result of this growing tourist popularity, Everest has also become covered in garbage and human poop (the most dangerous of all the poops). As GOOD’s Tasbeeh Herwees put it earlier this month, “For every moneyed thrill-seeker who thinks climbing Mount Everest is a novel post-college adventure, there is a mound of human waste sitting on top of the mountain to account for their privilege.” And fecal matter is just the tip of the shit pile; the Himalayan mountain is covered with the strewn trash of expeditions past, including, according to the Daily Mail India, “tents, sleeping bags, oxygen cylinders, and even the corpses of climbers who never made it down.” Now, two new cleanup efforts are underway—one an Indian army mountaineering team that aims to clean up litter, and the other a pioneering project to turn tourist dung into a source of energy.

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Where Bacteria Meets The Matrix: Wastewater Could Provide Electricity to Clean Itself Up

In Bruce Logan’s lab, scientists use sewage to create electricity. And soon wastewater could provide all the power it needs to clean itself up.


In Bruce Logan’s lab, scientists are using sewage to create electricity. They can use wastewater from households, companies, or farms—virtually any stream with organic material in it. Better yet, the process of harvesting energy from wastewater also cleans it. Logan has been working on this process for years, and the systems he’s developed are getting better at doing this work. One day soon, they could stand alone, with wastewater providing all the power needed for its own sanitation.

An environmental engineer, Logan began with the idea that bacteria can generate electricity. Wastewater has plenty of bacteria, which helps process the organic materials dirtying the water. But when Logan first examined the technology to capture bacteria-generated electricity, the amount of power he could produce from a given volume of wastewater was “very, very, very, very low,” he says.

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Tulane Scientists Are Turning Newspapers Into Biofuel

Scientists at Tulane University have found a bacteria that produces butanol, a biofuel that’s superior to ethanol in just about every way.


Scientists at Tulane University are making newspapers into fuel for your car. They’re taking old copies of The New Orleans Times-Picayune, feeding them to bacteria, and producing butanol, a biofuel that’s superior to ethanol in just about every way except the cost of production.

The bacteria aren’t picky, though. They can subsist not only on newspapers (or, really, any similar product that started out as a tree), but on agricultural waste products like corn stalks. The important part is that they eat cellulose, which is contained in all plants, and that they do it in the presence of oxygen. According to the Tulane scientists, the bacteria, called the TU-103, is the only known strain that produces butanol in an aerobic environment. They found it by poking around in animal poo from New Orleans’ Audubon Zoo, where they collected samples from animals like giraffes, elephants and zebras.

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"Fecal Matter on Your Shopping Cart Doesn't Matter"; A Microbiology Professor Speaks

A study of shopping carts has Americans scared, but a Cal Poly professor says everyone should chill out.

On Thursday, the University of Arizona released a Clorox-sponsored study that found 72 percent of shopping carts had fecal matter on them. It sounded icky, of course, but is it dangerous? We asked California Polytechnic State University professor of biology Pat Fidopiastis his thoughts on the research. What he had to say should put you at ease. In short, there are poop germs around you all the time, but, if you do a few simple things, you're probably going to be just fine.

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Warning: Seventy-Two Percent of Grocery Carts Have Fecal Matter on Them

The vast majority of shopping carts have dangerous bacteria on them.


A new study from University of Arizona professor Charles Gerba shows that nearly three quarters of American shopping carts, where people buying groceries put their food and babies, have fecal matter on them. According to Gerbar, that's more fecal matter than found in a typical public bathroom.

Gerbar and his team swabbed 85 carts in four different states to yield their results: 72 percent of carts tested positive for fecal matter and half were laced with E.coli. As you might imagine, much of the bacteria was found on the carts' handles.

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