Shit is not that shitty these days. In our fast depleting world, this most despised human creation is becoming a promising resource and at last gaining its rightful status. As for example, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to reinvent toilet technology, maximise the utilisation of this so-called waste.
Estimated in 2013, globally about 1.8 billion people use pit latrines. This will rise steep, as ensuring sanitation for all by 2030 is one of the sustainable development goals of United Nation. Imagine the eventual huge production. However, safe and sustainable repurposing of this otherwise health hazard is a challenge to mankind.
Biochar or charcoal could be a win-win candidate here. Besides improving soil quality, it reduces aerial carbon dioxide concentration and thus help in fighting climate change. Quick thermal processing of organic waste to make biochar, kills pathogens 100% and is a better option than time-taking composting. Plant remains are its main feedstock. But biochar made from animal faeces has already been reported to be successful.
Human excreta has long been used as fertilizer all over the world. But scientific analysis is very recent. The fertilizing potential of sanitised human excreta in the cultivation of maize has been affirmed by researchers in Zimbabwe in 2005.
A group of researchers from Ethiopia studied the effect of biochar made from human faeces on the growth of lettuce cultivated in silty or sandy loam soils. They also have compared the effect of nitrogen fertilizer to balance the nitrogen lost during the charring process. This study done in 2017 shows significant increase in yield and quality of lettuce in the less fertile sandy loam soil, irrespective of nitrogen fertilizers.
Open defecation is still a big problem in some parts of the developing world, specially in rural areas. So combining waste and agriculture management is specially useful there. But no doubt today’s approach of waste management is going to be obsolete in near future. It will instead be a part of integrated resource management both in cities and villages. These pioneering researches are paving the way for those new age methods systematically.
So may be for us, ‘tis time to find a glorified title for shit!