DIY





You Can Compost Human Waste!

More and more people are discovering the water- and money-saving benefits of fertilizing their gardens with human waste. It’s not just for homesteaders anymore!

| April/May 2011

Oceans of sewage. Tapped-out water sources. Ever-costlier fertilizers. A flurry of recent studies warn of resource scarcity for the world’s cities. Fortunately, a growing legion of urban dwellers think the nutrients and water in their toilets are too valuable to flush away. From Boston to San Francisco, city dwellers are taking the “waste” out of wastewater, and showing that recycling at the toilet isn’t just for homesteaders anymore.

Don’t Waste Your ‘Waste’

Although his Boston apartment has a comfortable modern bathroom, Patrick Keaney usually trudges down two flights of stairs to use a waterless, urine-diverting composting toilet.

Keaney and his housemate, David Staunton, constructed the simple toilet system after learning that most of the nutrients in human excrement — as much as 90 percent of the nitrogen and half of the phosphorus — are in urine alone. The two saw an opportunity to capture free fertilizer and cut their water bill.

Knowing their landlord wouldn’t allow plumbing changes, Keaney and Staunton installed their toilet in the basement next to the warmth of the water heater. The toilet consists of a wooden bench with an opening to which a plastic diverter is affixed (you can also use a trimmed funnel) to drain urine into a 3-gallon pail. Solids (feces, toilet paper and any wood shavings or mulch added) drop to an 18-gallon plastic bin. When the bin fills up, they cap it with a perforated lid, let it season for a year, then shovel its contents into a composter. “We use it to build up the soil around fruit trees and flower beds,” Keaney says. As for the urine, it’s composted with woody material or poured onto well-mulched and well-watered garden beds.



Is using urine this way safe? Most pathogens we excrete are in feces. Urine is almost always pathogen free. Any trace pathogens get deactivated as the urine ages. Some experts say one month of aging is sufficient for a household’s urine used on its own garden, while six months is advised for urine from combined sources. If applying directly to plants, you must dilute it with eight parts water to one part urine to avoid burning plant roots (some sources recommend 20 parts to one).

The Great Giveback

Chicago landscaper, ecologist and urban poo-pioneer Nance Klehm took waste recycling to the community scale with her “Humble Pile” project: For three months, 22 participants pooped into 5-gallon buckets instead of their toilets and brought them to Klehm to be emptied into aerated 32-gallon garbage cans in an undisclosed location. After 11 months, the 50 garbage cans were dumped into one large pile. After another year of composting with only comfrey and some old straw, Klehm delivered a fluffy compost — that tested negative for fecal bacteria — in 2-pound bags printed with “The Great Giveback.”

johnp
5/20/2018 4:22:57 AM

To all those who talk about what authorities may or may not allow, I'd say we need to ignore them. Environmental protection is way more important that their 'laws'. I live in Ireland where these things are also heavily regulated. Just make sure you do your research and get the processing right - and don't tell them what your doing. Get a spine and go for it.


johnp
5/20/2018 4:22:56 AM

To all those who talk about what authorities may or may not allow, I'd say we need to ignore them. Environmental protection is way more important that their 'laws'. I live in Ireland where these things are also heavily regulated. Just make sure you do your research and get the processing right - and don't tell them what your doing. Get a spine and go for it.


Vratty
2/10/2018 12:35:06 AM

It's a shame that here in Australia - Victoria the 'City of Yarra' area zone does not legislate in participation or negotiation to allowing the uses of human excreta (FAECES) and or urine with the current grey water standards allowed currently by the EPA. It's really a real real shame because all it takes is one stupid unrelated complaint from a lay person, then it all moves ten miles backwards with more grey water restrictions instead of allowing it all for garden uses, considering Australia's high water restrictions, this would assist greatly for environmental and climatical changes that may occur, PPN is very vital for this day and age. We have already allowed same sex marriages, personal cultivation of marijuana, so there should be no restrictions as to using human execreta (faeces)and or urine in gardens, why not? For this is what's needed, it's priceless, required and very antiseptic, high quality too! It's time we made the next move to sewerage black water instead of clogging up the toilets and wasting time working effortlessly.Thankyou very much! Maria Ann Kolovrat Fitzroy North: Victoria: Australia: (City of Yarra): (I pray it goes the right way)!







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