18 Nov 2013

Don't leave shit lying around

I'm going to tell you a story -- make an observation really -- in honor of World Toilet Day.*

This picture gives the first thousand words. I took it on 8 Jun 1999 near Zhaoxing, China


As you can see, there are five side-by-side outhouses (and a few chickens), all of them with "collection boxes" under the legs. These boxes are periodically opened and cleaned of nightsoil, which is spread onto fields as fertilizer.

So shit is a resource (a good) not a waste (a bad).

That's not the case in developed countries, where people flush their private waste into the collective sanitation system or in poorer countries where people without access to toilets leave their private waste in common fields and paths. 

So we've got two different problems (shit is seen as a bad instead of a good; people dump their bads into the commons) that can be addressed by turning shit into a good or ensuring that people take responsibility for their shit, respectively.

How do we get those solutions? Composting toilets can do wonders on a small scale, but densely populated places need to have toilets that drain to adequate sewage and treatment systems.

Bottom Line: Take care of your shit -- and help others take care of theirs.
* I am part of the #Blog4Sanitation movement setup by Splashdirect to raise awareness of the importance of global sanitation. Learn more about World Toilet Day.