A Proposed Sanitation and Methane Production System

This proposed sanitation and methane production system may be an alternative to standard waste treatment methods.


| May/June 1975



033-026-01

The success of your homestead or community may very well depend on your foresight in planning for the disposal of human wastes.


PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Under prevailing U.S. and Canadian sanitary codes, most recycling of human waste is unacceptable to local health authorities. Before you begin to fume at the "closed minds" of such officials, however, remember that sewage-borne disease was a real problem in rural areas until quite recently. Those "restrictive" laws, in other words, were made for good reason.  

On the other hand, there's no question that this continent is long overdue for some breakthroughs in the field of safe, ecologically sound waste treatment. Especially if those breakthroughs will allow individuals, families, and small communities to quickly and inexpensively recycle their waste into usable fertilizer and/or fuel. 

Sanitation and Methane Production System

The success of your homestead or community may very well depend on your foresight in planning for the disposal of human wastes. This isn't a matter you can ignore or assign a low priority. Many a thriving commune has been closed down by the local health department because of inadequate sanitary facilities . . . and many others have been forced to install expensive waste processing systems at very short notice under threat of the same fate.

Some homesteaders, however, believe that the sanitary codes they're pressured to observe are not only costly but wasteful and harmful to the environment. The flush toilet, with its required 100–to-1 dilution of what could be valuable soil nutrients, is in fact a splendid example of exactly the excesses most of us are trying to avoid.

The trouble with the flush toilet (and the system of which it's a part) is that water is utilized to carry sewage from its origin to a place where it can be made sanitary. While the conventional sewer may provide inexpensive transport of wastes, it doesn't solve the problem of their final disposal. On the contrary, it makes that problem much more difficult. The major cost of a sewage treatment plant is not wrapped up in the sanitation facilities, but the dewatering process that separates the waste from the carrier medium.

In some areas, sewage is treated and then sold as fertilizer . . . but to a large extent the proverbial baby has been thrown out with the bath, water. Unfortunately, most of the valuable elements in human excreta are water-soluble. Urine often contains more plant nutrients than solid wastes, and these can't be settled out of solution. Instead, they pass with the carrier fluid into the most convenient river or bay . . . or, in the case of a septic tank, are leached into a no-man's-land where no crops legally can be grown.





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