A supermarket powered by its own expired comestibles. Street lamps kept aglow by sewage sludge. An entire town filled with chicken manure-heated homes.

The latest initiative in England that's transforming landfill-bound organic waste and excreta into bio-based fuel?

Try a poop-powered airport shuttle bus.

The first of its kind in the United Kingdom, Bio-Bus is a 40-seat transit vehicle that runs entirely on fuel generated through anaerobic digestion. That is, the conversion of waste — in this case, both locally sourced food waste and human sewage — into a methane-rich biogas.

While it would be most convenient if Bio-Bus serviced the number 2 route, it runs along the 20-mile-long A4 route, which ferries commuters between Bristol Airport in North Somerset and the historic, tourist-inundated city of Bath with several local stops in between.

The Bath Bus Company-operated shuttle, carrying about 10,000 passengers monthly, embarked on its maiden journey last Thursday.

Bio-Bus can travel 186 miles on a full tank of biomethane (or bioMEthane as they might say across the pond) gas, which requires the annual waste of five people to produce according to the operator of the Bristol sewage treatment works, GENeco. A single person’s annual waste, both edible and flushable, would fuel the bus for 37 miles. The annual waste generated by an entire busload of passengers would provide enough fuel for a return trip across Great Britain from Land's End in the extreme southwest of England to John O' Groats in the extreme northeast of Scotland.

There’s always the chance that regular riders on the route — that nice old lady from South Bristol who travels to Keynsham every Sunday to visit her sister — are being propelled in part by their own poo.

Says Mohammed Saddiq, general manager of GENeco, in a press statement issued by parent company Wessex Water:

Through treating sewage and food that’s unfit for human consumption we’re able to produce enough biomethane to provide a significant supply of gas to the national gas network that’s capable of powering almost 8,500 homes as well as fuelling the Bio-Bus.

Gas-powered vehicles have an important role to play in improving air quality in UK cities, but the Bio-Bus goes further than that and is actually powered by people living in the local area, including quite possibly those on the bus itself.

Roughly 75 million cubic meters of sewage and 35,000 metric tons of food waste, collected from households along with local grocery stores and food manufacturers, is treated annually at Bristol sewage treatment works, located in the suburb of Avonmouth. The facility is capable of producing an estimated 17 million cubic meters of biomethane from this waste each year.

Bio-Bus, which boasts CO2 emissions that are 30 percent less than buses with conventional diesel engines, couldn’t hit the road at a better time. In a little more than a month, Bristol, the eighth most populous city in the U.K., will begin its reign as the 2015 European Green Capital. Come for the nightlife, street art and that charming West Country drawl. Stay for the human excrement-powered airport shuttle.

In addition to the Bath-to-Bristol airport service, Bath Bus Company operates open-top sightseeing coaches in England and Wales with routes in Windsor, Cardiff, Eastbourne and, of course, Bath. The company has not remarked as to if any vehicles in its sightseeing fleet will join the airport shuttle and be converted to run on Bristolian sewage and food scraps.

Via [BBC]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.