South Korean Government Invests in University's Poop-to-Currency Project

The phrase "Ttong-bonwi-hwapae" literally translates into "poop standard currency." Now, the South Korean government is investing 10 billion won over the next five years to turn this human waste-to-currency idea into reality.

A pilot project, headed by the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology last May at its Science Walden Pavilion established a laboratory with a lavatory that turns human waste into biofuel. In return 'donors'  were rewarded with a virtual currency called "kkul" or honey.

The 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  which is equivalent to $0.43. Officials are trying to bring up the value of 10 kkul to about $3.12 by 2020. Their ultimate goal is to have the currency applied to larger communities 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. Researchers will be able to experience and research in real-time how their own waste is used for heating, hot water, and kitchen appliances.


This article is part of the Crop Biotech Update, a weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)

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