Photo credit: Jonah House

Ever heard of humanure? Like the name implies, it’s human manure and the process that turns human waste into compost. Now, before you throw up, first think about the (non)sense it makes to flush excrement away with potable water, a resource that’s becoming increasingly scarce worldwide.

Every time we flush a toilet, we launch five or six gallons of polluted water out into the world. That would be like defecating into a five gallon office water jug and then dumping it out before anyone could drink any of it. Then doing the same thing when urinating. Then doing it every day, numerous times. Then multiplying that by about 305 million people in the United States alone. — The Humanure Handbook — Chapter Two: Waste Not Want Not

Although most of the world’s humanure is quickly flushed down a drain, or discarded into the environment as a pollutant, it could instead be converted, through composting, into lush vegetative growth, and used to feed humanity. —The Humanure Handbook

Look at the world around us and try to find waste. You’ll find, instead, that everything gets recycled, repurposed, or reused. Naturally-occurring systems are closed loop—everything that goes into a system is a potential resource and all parts can be use by someone or something else. One being’s trash is another being’s treasure: in other words, nature creates no “waste”. Humanure is changing human “waste” into a resource. Nature recycled before it was trendy.

But poo? Can you really recycle that? Should you recycle it? I’m going to quote heavily The Humanure Handbook, not only because it has become the definitive source on humanure (author has been composting humanure for over 30 years), but because I’m lazy and he’s done a incredible job addressing the concerns of composting human poop:

Allow me to make a radical suggestion: humanure is not dangerous. More specifically, it is not any more dangerous than the body from which it is excreted. The danger lies in what we do with humanure, not in the material itself.

[…]

Humanure is a valuable resource suitable for agricultural purposes and has been recycled for such purposes by large segments of the world’s human population for thousands of years. However, humanure contains the potential for harboring human pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, protozoa and parasitic worms or their eggs, and thereby can contribute to the spread of disease when improperly managed or when discarded as a waste material.

When pathogenic raw humanure is applied to soil, pathogenic bacteria may continue to survive in the soil for over a year, and roundworm eggs may survive for many years, thereby maintaining the possibility of human reinfection for lengthy periods of time.

However, when humanure is composted, human pathogens are destroyed [thermophilically: with the heat generated from the compost] and the humanure is thereby converted into a hygienically safe form suitable for soil applications for the purpose of human food production.

Thermophilic composting requires no electricity and therefore no coal combustion, no acid rain, no nuclear power plants, no nuclear waste, no petrochemicals and no consumption of fossil fuels.

The composting process produces no waste, no pollutants and no toxic by-products. Thermophilic composting of humanure can be carried out century after century, millennium after millennium, with no stress on our ecosystems, no unnecessary consumption of resources and no garbage or sludge for our landfills. And all the while it will produce a valuable resource necessary for our survival while preventing the accumulation of dangerous and pathogenic waste.

The Humanure Handbook — Chapter 7: Worms and Disease

Putting aside the factor, composting human excrement makes sense. It’s a closed-loop system, it’s on the right path to eliminating landfill usage, and it doesn’t require gallons of potable water. Read the Humanure Handbook online for yourself, and/or check out the articles below. At the very least, imagine the water bill you’d get if you went the humanure way!

Articles:

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