Photo by Amy Reed on Unsplash

A word of warning: This opinion piece is not breakfast reading.

Once it was a dull thud, not a splash, a full can buried in a paddock or vanished in the early hours of the morning to be replaced by one freshly tarred. Now it is a plop into potable water, hit the button, presto, nothing there, walk away as royalty.

The thunderous clappers that could be let rip in the-little-house-out-the-back are now stifled. Sophistication requires decorum: disassociation from the natural.

Many life forms found the can attractive in the extreme. The occasional full, or near full can was often topped by a writhing mass of wrinkled transparent pointed end pus sacks cavorting in their cornucopia of cordon bleu delights.

No modern-day kid’s games can compare to the task of adding a touch of diesel to the can’s maggots. It was the job to be fought for among your siblings. The gluttonous wrigglers quickly asphyxiated to squirm no more.

Thunder box makers recognised the maggot problem and did their best: the throne was sealed all-round, the flap of flat timber fitted to leave no gaps with the generous seat, the access door to remove the can a snug fit, gauze fly wire vents were installed in the door to provide air movement, a stink pipe came out of the top of the throne to arise through the roof and finish in a metal cowl over the gauzed vent.

Whatever was devised, fortune favoured the fly. The foundations shifted to provide gaps between the floor and the box. The access door didn’t fit snugly, or wasn’t properly closed. Somebody in the family left the flap up. The gauze rusted out—probably rapidly with the corrosive gasses generated from the can’s contents.

Necessity being the mother of invention, efforts to circumvent Murphy’s Law followed. One was a dispenser fitted to the flap. On each opening and closing of the lid, a dose of maggot killer fell into the can; fine while the dispenser had contents, but it emptied, and the flies are back to wallow in their delight. All in all, the can unfortunately acquired a bum rap as the magic bullet of all things excremental replaced it: the water closet and sewers.  

Some evolution of the little-house-out-the-back has occurred with composting toilets. They use no water and provide a valuable resource: compost as fertiliser.

Forget the use of “grey water” as a flushing agent instead of clean water. Soiled water does not make the act righteous. It just continues the attitude that excrement is putrid waste to be vanished as quickly as possible without any questioning of the means of disposal and where it ends up. Your product is no longer your problem is all that matters.

To excrete into expensively treated pristine water must be one of the filthiest acts of modern man.

The decay of excrement is easily achieved by composting toilets. Such toilets should be compulsorily installed in every detached house whether within, or outside, of a sewered area. The toilet then is available as a compost bin for all other vegetable matter generated by the household. The resulting compost, a resource for the house’s own garden or available for farm fertiliser elsewhere.

Insinkerators are heinous contraptions and must be banned in sewered areas as they allow the flushing of valuable matter down the sewer. However, as a device to chop up vegetable scraps to add to the compost bin, they would be excellent.

It is the case in Queensland via state government law – and most likely all other Australian states – that composting toilets are illegal in any area where a sewer exists. This is herd stupidity inflicted on all under the guise of the “common good”.

Any citizen enthusiastic about the installation of a composting toilet in a sewered area is going to maintain it because that choice over the righteous water closet is heartfelt. Should local authorities have community health fears with composting toilets they can do as they do with on-site treatment systems and implement an inspection regime.

Some say this technological age has solved all waste problems with state-of-the-art treatment plants of high energy consumption to such a degree the treated water is now potable. They are delusional living in nightmare land.

So: collect water from a source; pump it whatever distance to a treatment plant, reticulate it to a user; excrete and urinate into treated water; pump it miles in an expensive pipe system to sewerage treatment plants; remove the excrement, urine, medical drug contamination, whatever other of the myriad of modern day nasties; polish it [euphemism of euphemisms]; pump it miles to a water treatment plant, chlorinate it, fluorinate it, ultraviolet radiate it; pump it miles back again to the original user; and now excrete and urinate in it again; repeat the aforementioned endlessly—and drink it?

The sewer system, unfortunately, is still necessary in areas of reasonable population density to get rid of other soiled wastewater: cleaning chemicals from dish and clothes washing machines, cooking fats, anything cleaned in the house and the waste thrown down the sink, most likely oils from cars in some cases, and heaven knows what other chemicals rather than a costly trip to a toxic waste dump. 

This will happen, so best to remove the excrement and other unpolluted compostable wastes before they are contaminated by the poisons of modern life. Why contaminate pristine excrement and urine?

Today, some composting toilets are being installed by the environmentally conscientious in a few detached sites without sewers. Such sites viewed by nearly all the population, and the domineering authorities, as the only suitable locations.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

The most efficient way to collect the most compost possible is where most bums are per square metres: high rise residences and offices, and other densely populated buildings. Such an approach is an anathema to the modern mindset drugged to conformity by the 11th commandment: thou shalt have no other excrement devices before me, other than the one true one: the crapper.

There are innumerable ducts for the service functions of densely populated buildings. To add an additional one for composting toilets would be at no cost consequence; actually, would be financially ahead, especially in residential buildings if you got rid of the unnecessary multiple bathroom and toilet fetishes that abound today.

Composting toilets require servicing. This can easily be done by the owner, or a new trade: turd turner or excrementologist, perhaps. However, the answer would be to automate the composting toilet with modern technology to be self-servicing – easily done. Once compost is made, the contents would be ducted, augured, or by whatever to a bin collected by any of the many known means.

Scandinavian countries make use of a urine separating WC to gain the urine for fertiliser as is rich in nitrogen [mostly as urea] as well as phosphates and potassium. A composting toilet could easily be designed to do the same. Conspicuously, Scandinavians see the gaining of the urine without the contaminants collected by an everything-in-the-one-system sewer an advantage. The same applies to excrement.

The present-day population has an insatiable lust for as many dunnies as possible in any residence no matter how small. It would come at no cost to have one a urine only toilet and another urine and excrement separating compost toilet.

An attitude to human wastes from past eras of filthy disposal has led to the dominance of present-day high technology treatment as the only best way. It is done with proselytizing zeal to make the technique the only one to have faith in.

If you don’t, you’re crude, vulgar, a threat to the community health, a Luddite and heaven forbid that any of the community’s research and development monies should go into other than the acceptable high technology, high energy consumption systems.

Knockers to the use of excrement will go on about the threat of diseases spread from pathogens. The demand will be for high technology energy consumptive systems like those whose aim is to make sewer water potable —garbage! A wildlife documentary tracked the grazing paths of wildebeests in Africa. It found the beasts never grazed the path they excreted on the year before.  Other readings have said pathogens in excrement are gone a year after lying fallow. Hardly surprising the wildebeests worked this out and leave the excrement to fertilise future lavish pastures for later consumption whilst sophisticated humans cannot manage to use waste advantageously. A failsafe measure would be to leave the excrement compost for two years, and maybe also desiccate with ultraviolet radiation [the sun] to be doubly sure of pathogen kill.

It is a stretch of the human psyche to see glamour in shit, but maybe that’s what required. A start would be to call it a resource instead of waste.

One reply on “Solid solutions: Why we need to treat our waste as a resource”

  1. I have to say, this wee article was not crap at all, and I didn’t waste my time reading it. I recommend you find a few quite minutes to sit down and digest the contents.

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