You’re full of s***. But that’s okay because your s*** is full of gold. Well, traces of it anyway. That’s according to Kathleen Smith of the US Geological Survey who spoke at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Denver yesterday.
Using a scanning electron microscope to observe samples over a span of eight years, Smith found the feces running through sewage pipes beneath several Rocky Mountain towns exhibited levels of precious metals—gold, silver, platinum—comparable to those found in commercial mines, The Guardian reports. But this news isn’t just fun water cooler chat fodder: the extraction of these metals could help our environment, as well as our pockets.
“We’re interested in collecting valuable metals that could be sold, including some of the more technologically important metals, such as vanadium and copper that are in cell phones, computers and alloys,” Smith told The Guardian.
Though the prospect of getting the microscopic gold bits from sludgy expelled waste sounds downright awful, consdier this statistic from Arizona State University research: a city of 1 million residents flushes about $13 million worth of precious metals each year.
But beyond the good kind of metals, extracting harmful ones, like lead (also found in the feces the researchers tested), from the environment could reduce the 7 million tons of toxic biosolids we destroy or bury in landfills each year, The Guardian adds.