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We need a better way to poop
April 26, 2012 11:53 AM   Subscribe

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced the second round of its Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, designed to prototype a means of dealing effectively and cost-efficiently with human waste for the 2 billion people on earth who currently lack access to safe and affordable sanitation.
posted by slogger (78 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Melinda Gates: Let's put birth control back on the agenda - she's pretty damn smart and hardcore.
posted by Artw at 11:55 AM on April 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


The Gates will be remembered for their great commitment to philanthropy long after Bill's contributions to the personal computing revolution are obsolete. This is a great project.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:57 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope that 100 years from now "reinventing the toilet" will be the cliche that replaced "thinking outside the box."
posted by griphus at 12:02 PM on April 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I hope that 10 years from now "reinventing the toilet" will be the cliche that replaced "thinking outside the box."
posted by slogger at 12:03 PM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I hope that next year "reinventing the toilet" will be the cliche that replaces "thinking outside the box."
posted by kbanas at 12:04 PM on April 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Reinventing the toilet" is the cliche that has replaced "thinking outside the box."
posted by rocketman at 12:07 PM on April 26, 2012 [18 favorites]


Common guys, there is no need to keep reinventing the toilet here.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:08 PM on April 26, 2012 [79 favorites]


I alredy think of his philanthropy first when i hear his name, but i am at least a little partial, having helped oversee the installation of the Gates Computer training and resource center at the Dallas Public Library years ago.
posted by holdkris99 at 12:09 PM on April 26, 2012


For the past three minutes, "reinventing the toilet" has been the cliche that replaced "thinking outside the box."
posted by horsewithnoname at 12:09 PM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you want to get a better idea of the crisis as it exists today, CurrentTV's longform investigation into it is invaluable.

World's Toilet Crisis (44:25)
Vanguard correspondent Adam Yamaguchi travels to India, Singapore and Indonesia to understand why people don't use toilets and what's being done to end the practice of open defecation.

An estimated 2.6 billion people, about 40% of the world's population, have no access to toilets and defecate anywhere they can. As a result, more than 2 million people -- including 1.5 million children -- die from complications of chronic diarrhea.

When human waste isn't contained or flushed down the toilet, it's everywhere -- in streets, open fields and, most dangerously, in the very water people drink. Adam investigates how countries are trying to solve an epidemic that few people want to talk about -- the world's toilet crisis.

posted by Blasdelb at 12:10 PM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


KFC marketing person: OH GREAT.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:10 PM on April 26, 2012


The excellent Radio Netherlands news show The State We're In did a great piece on toilets as a human right back in 2008. It's also a gender-equality issue as access to a private toilet or latrine is considered necessary for adolescent girls to attend schools.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:12 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


KFC marketing person: OH GREAT.

What, KFC already reinvented the sandwich.


note: that isn't actually a sandwich
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:18 PM on April 26, 2012


What is it, National Crapper Day?

(appropriately enough, I'm typing this from atop the employee commode at work)
posted by jonmc at 12:19 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Goodnight, everybody.
posted by griphus at 12:20 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Historians have indicated that at one time, "reinventing the toilet" meant the same thing as "fartling", a later evolution of "thinking outside the box".
posted by blue_beetle at 12:20 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


When you get right down to it, civilization is plumbing.

And poetry.

Shits and giggles, you might say.
posted by notyou at 12:21 PM on April 26, 2012 [14 favorites]


This is one post where threadshitting should be allowed.

(Ok, not really. Maybe the Aggie one below though...)
posted by kmz at 12:24 PM on April 26, 2012


Two toilet posts so close together? What is this shit?

Wait, wait. I mean "What is this, shit?". Or "What shit is this?"? Shit, what is this?
posted by benito.strauss at 12:24 PM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Reinventing the toilet is streets ahead.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:25 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Isn't the solution to educate a bunch of people to be able to build and maintain latrines?
posted by humanfont at 12:25 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, this thing better be sculpted out of the blood of a dozen FoxConn workers and a single piece of brushed titanium, or I don't want anything to do with it.

Is that what the $4,000 Numi is made from?
posted by gladly at 12:27 PM on April 26, 2012


Isn't the solution to educate a bunch of people to be able to build and maintain latrines?

I don't know that latrines scale well with urbanization or population growth.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:32 PM on April 26, 2012


Toilet trifecta is now in play!

Oh, and to griphus, slogger, kbanas, rocketman, and Blasdelb: That's MeFi gold right there.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:43 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Will I have to close all my windows and flush again if it doesn't flush completely the first time?

Just a silly joke folks. Put away the pitchforks and torches.
posted by Splunge at 12:43 PM on April 26, 2012


I remember commenting on the post when Steve Jobs died saying people were all about making him a saint over inventing some cool products. I was quickly shot down by the Steve Jobs does no wrong !!! fan base. I also mentioned how Bill Gates, having the largest philanthropy in the world, has done far more for the greater good of the world than Steve Jobs every did.

One reply said something like "Bill will never be remembered like Steve Jobs will no matter what he does!"
posted by amazingstill at 12:47 PM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's not an easy problem.

This company makes composting toilets, incinerator toilets, and low-flow combos (black water to incinerator).

Obviously, an incinerator toilet is not practical in most of the places that need toilets.

Composting toilets -- latrines, really -- can work in rural areas.

A Japanese company ("for the nature, for the humanbeing") have developed a self contained flush-toilet system that uses "micro-organisms" to break down waste, leaving water and CO2. The water is returned to the tank.

Unfortunately, each costs $70,000.

Curious to see the solutions that flow out of this contest.
posted by notyou at 12:49 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Successful applicants will participate in the next phase of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge: designing, prototyping and testing entirely stand-alone, self-contained, practical sanitation modules which intake bodily wastes and swiftly dispose of them without any incoming water piping, outgoing sewer piping or electric or gas utility services. These modules must intake all outputs of the serviced population – ultimately at single-residence scales – with minimal module footprints and assured biosafety. Thus, chemical and mechanical engineering approaches are preferred.
On a community building trip to rural Belize a few years a go I was startled to find that the people did not use latrines, but just disappeared into the woods at occasional intervals. There was a latrine there, but it had pretty much been built for the comfort of the visiting northerners.
The requirements above are pretty clear about needing something self contained, but it seems like a chemical solution could lead to its own set of problems.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:54 PM on April 26, 2012


I'm typing this from atop the employee commode at work

... perched like some sort of toilet gargoyle.
posted by zippy at 1:12 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope that 100 years from now, when "reinventing the toilet" has become the cliche that replaced "thinking outside the box", the reinvented toilet will be so totally awesome that "gilding the toilet" will become the cliche that replaces "gilding the lily".
posted by Flunkie at 1:15 PM on April 26, 2012


"Where's slogger?"

"Oh, he's just gilding the shitter."
posted by slogger at 1:21 PM on April 26, 2012


Microsoft Toilet 8

*shudder*
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:32 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gives a whole new meaning to trickle-down economics.
posted by anewnadir at 1:34 PM on April 26, 2012


Look, it's really about making the toilet fun again.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:37 PM on April 26, 2012


I have a perfectly functioning toilet in my house, but solved this problem anyway in my back shed with a plastic bucket and a bag of sawmill sawdust. If everyone in the world composted their shit, we'd all be happier.

Buy this book.
posted by crazylegs at 1:39 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


PS - And it cost me $69,990 less than $70,000.
posted by crazylegs at 1:40 PM on April 26, 2012


My brother-in-law, a genetic engineer is applying for this. Cool to see it in the blue.

He patiently tried to explain his approach to me, but it went over my head. He said, "poop" a lot, though, which was interesting from a PhD.
posted by Phreesh at 1:53 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was listening to a talk by Tom Brokaw last night (It was terrible. He talked a little about social media and sounded like an 800 year old man.) and Brokaw mentioned Bill and Melinda Gates and their impact on philanthropy and I thought, not for the first time, how incredibly awesome it is that the first tycoon of the digital age has, along with his awesome wife, devoted himself to completely to improving the planet for everyone on it.

Despite Microsoft's clunkiness, closed sourced-ness, and the whole monopoly thing, thank god for Bill Gates.
posted by Aizkolari at 1:57 PM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


[Folks, I know that poop jokes, Microsoft jokes, and arguments about Gates vs. Jobs are really easy to fall back on, but maybe discuss the actual subject of the post a little or do something else?]
posted by cortex at 2:13 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Composting is a neat idea, up to the point where you start packing in an estimated 2,000 people per hectare. Bucket in a shed is one thing, now imagine a half-dozen people sharing that bucket.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:16 PM on April 26, 2012


There's a fascinating book about latrines by Rose George, The Big Necessity (link goes to review and excerpts on Slate.com). One of the most heartbreaking chapters is on Dalits in India who work as "scavengers," that is, they pick up human and other waste by hand. Mostly these are women because the men hide their occupation while looking for wives, then foist the literal "dirty job" off onto the women.

There is also the issue of school attendance for girls - having latrines on the premises means more girls can attend school (due to the fact that it's easier to have a period when you have a latrine!). So toilets are a feminist issue as well as a hygienic one. I'm glad to see the Gates foundation tackling this.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:29 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


And rural composting of night soil has an entirely different set of problems without good water-purification systems. Building better cheap toilets might be an essential stepping-stone to solving the water-supply problem.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:31 PM on April 26, 2012


But isn't a dense, financially challenged population an even greater reason to use composting toilets as opposed to expensive, industry-intensive solutions?

If they can't afford more buckets and sawdust, they certainly can't afford more expensive solutions.

Seriously, "The Humanure Handbook" is quite a fascinating read. Jenkins makes the argument that human poop has gotten a bad reputation because of it being spread around in its raw form in many cultures, something that can cause disease. If it's properly composted, it becomes an asset rather than a liability. In other words, instead of just removing the problem, you turn it into a benefit.

This is a perfect example of the permaculture concept that "the problem is the solution."
posted by crazylegs at 2:32 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


"And rural composting of night soil has an entirely different set of problems without good water-purification systems."

With the exception of the tiny amount of water needed to clean the bucket periodically, the bucket and sawdust method completely removes water from the whole process. I've been doing it for a year with no problems.
posted by crazylegs at 2:34 PM on April 26, 2012


Sawdust is one of the inputs that might be in short supply many places in the world. If you don't have carbon to add to your composter it isn't going to work. People might be able to afford the capital costs of toilet and simply be unable to procure a steady supply of material suitable for composting.
posted by Mitheral at 2:42 PM on April 26, 2012


Where do they get the sawdust if they've used all the trees for firewood?
posted by digsrus at 2:42 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


My contribution:

A solar powered inverted funnel that also functions as a digger.

1. take something that looks like an umbrella out into a fallow field.
2. dig dig dig
3. set it up next to hole
4. squat on hole
5. open umbrella/close funnel which soaks up solar stuff to recharge the digger
6. do it
7. fill it back up and walk away

Won't work in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver or all of UK, but you have lots of bushes.
posted by ding-dong at 2:53 PM on April 26, 2012


these folks have been around awhile.
posted by BoZo555 at 2:54 PM on April 26, 2012


Soylent brown...
posted by stargell at 3:13 PM on April 26, 2012


I was not aware that the $70,000 idea was posed as a potential solution. In fact, the most viable solutions center on things that can be locally produced.

With the exception of the tiny amount of water needed to clean the bucket periodically, the bucket and sawdust method completely removes water from the whole process.

There's no water cycle where you live? You use the night soil on garden or farm (which most people don't have). It goes onto the plants that must be washed, and it percolates into the groundwater. That groundwater usually feeds directly into local water supply, which is possibly filtered, but unlikely to be aerated or chlorinated.

Which is not a problem if the human waste is properly treated before being used as compost, or you have a better system for treating the drinking water. But that system simply isn't working for a large number of people if we have 3 million cholera infections and 100,000 deaths a year (that's not touching non-Cholera diseases). If the system requires months of composting time, well then you have a storage problem on top of your bucket and sawdust. If the compost needs to be spread out over open land, you have a transportation and land-allocation problem as well.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:27 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


this reminds me of something I came across a few years ago:

In India, More Women Demand Toilets Before Marriage, Washington Post, 2009

and from more recently:

India Bride Awarded US $10,000 for Demanding Toilet After Marriage
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:30 PM on April 26, 2012


Clivus Multrum
posted by Brian B. at 3:35 PM on April 26, 2012


While we're on the topic, how exactly do people with latrines or toilets but no toilet paper do the ladle and bucket thing. If you don't have a "health faucet" but just a bucket of water, how do you avoid cross-contamination of the water in the bucket or of the dipper/ladle? Or is that just not a big concern because you're going to wash your hands afterwards?

Oh, and if you're using water & not paper & don't have a fancy Japanese washlet with an air dryer, how does one dry off? Or does one simply have swamp-ass?
posted by morganw at 4:28 PM on April 26, 2012


An estimated 2.6 billion people, about 40% of the world's population, have no access to toilets and defecate anywhere they can.

That includes SOMA too I assume?
posted by schwa at 4:39 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Will this involve 3 sea shells?
posted by dbiedny at 4:43 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another way of dealing with it.

OK, I'll stop now.
posted by dbiedny at 4:45 PM on April 26, 2012


1) Discover a useful application for human feces.*
2) Start "cash for feces" collection system for feces.
3) Profitable system for night soil collection makes random pooping problem disappear.
4) Apply same principles to dog parks.
5) Profit!



*look I can't come up with EVERYTHING. Think crop fertilizer, source of burning fuel, building material, lalala
posted by nicebookrack at 4:57 PM on April 26, 2012


If you want to get a better idea of the crisis as it exists today, CurrentTV's longform investigation into it is invaluable.

World's Toilet Crisis (44:25)
Vanguard correspondent Adam Yamaguchi travels to India, Singapore and Indonesia to understand why people don't use toilets and what's being done to end the practice of open defecation.

An estimated 2.6 billion people, about 40% of the world's population, have no access to toilets and defecate anywhere they can. As a result, more than 2 million people -- including 1.5 million children -- die from complications of chronic diarrhea.

When human waste isn't contained or flushed down the toilet, it's everywhere -- in streets, open fields and, most dangerously, in the very water people drink. Adam investigates how countries are trying to solve an epidemic that few people want to talk about -- the world's toilet crisis.
posted by Blasdelb


This was an amazing look into a world those of us in the US have not had to deal with. This, along with clean drinking water. The 2 things that are so essential to a good, healthy life (along with food and shelter, yes). What a great video. I echo Blasdelb- watch it.
posted by Nadie_AZ at 5:50 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Human waste 66% better than coal after processing?
posted by Brian B. at 5:53 PM on April 26, 2012


Is the Gates Foundation's interest in reinventing the toilet in any way related to the quote, "The day they invent the paperless office will be the day they invent the paperless toilet."
posted by jonp72 at 6:24 PM on April 26, 2012


Morganw - as I know the "water method" from West Africa, you take a container of water (calabash bowl, plastic cup, or maybe teakettle) and you scoop water from a bucket. Then you either wet your left hand and wipe your butt with your wet hand, or you use your right hand to drizzle the water around your butt and wipe with your left hand. You might do this repeatedly until your hand and butt are clean. You sort of drip/air dry. Then you - ideally but not necessarily - wash your hands (sometimes with soap). Then you don't use your left hand for anything else - I.e. you use your absolutely 100% for sure use your right hand to eat out of the communal bowl. (however you frequently wash both hands in the communal hand washing bowl first.)

As practiced, it isn't a sanitary system, hence (in part) all the food-borne illnesses there. But I dont think it is terrible in theory, with ready access to soap and water. But people I knew in West Africa thought using toilet paper without any water was revoltingly unsanitary and touching food with your left hand was gag-inducing.

To the topic at hand - what a fabulous idea.
posted by semacd at 6:51 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or one could just compost the shit.

The earthworm actually used the bacteria as food - but a lack of 30 day pathogen data exists.

Another idea is to actually use fly larvae as noted here then feed the larvae to pigs/chickens.

(I won't post a link to the Japanese research into making 'meat' from the waste)
posted by rough ashlar at 11:26 PM on April 26, 2012


I think it is reasonable to say that if you lack the infrastructure to handle the bucket/sawdust/compost system crazylegs describes upthread, it is unlikely that any mechanical or chemical engineering based system will be within your reach.
For a family of four it requires two compost piles, each at most a cubic yard, and one or more buckets, plus a source of sawdust (but grass clippings or leaves are potential alternatives).
That such a system might be constrained in a Lagos slum is no reason not to recommend it to the 49% of the world's population in rural areas.
I guess it is unsuitable for New York apartment dwellers too, but don't let perfect be the enemy of the good. Millions of the people dying are from areas where this could be reasonably applied.
posted by bystander at 12:47 AM on April 27, 2012


"1) Discover a useful application for human feces.
2) Start "cash for feces" collection system for feces."

From the Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins (p. 74-75):

"According to King [F.H. King, author of "Farmers of Forty Centuries", 1910], "The International Concession of the city of Shanghai, in 1908, sold to a Chinese contractor the privilege of entering residences and public places early in the morning of each day and removing the night soil, receiving therefor more than $31,000 gold, for 78,000 tons of [humanure]. All of this we not only throw away but expend much larger sums doing so."
In case you didn't catch that, the contractor paid $31,000 gold for the humanure, referred to as "night soil" and incorrectly as "waste" by Dr. King. People don't pay to buy waste, they pay money for things of value.
...
Although the agricultural use of raw human excrement will never become a common practice in the U.S., the use of composted human refuse, including humanure, food refuse and other organic municipal refuse such as leaves, can and should become a widespread and culturally encouraged practice. The act of composting humanure instead of using it raw will set Americans apart from Asians in regard to the recycling of human excrements, for we too will have to constructively deal with all of our organic byproducts eventually. We can put it off, but not forever."
posted by crazylegs at 5:28 AM on April 27, 2012


I'm sure that composting technologies are part of the solution set. But if this were a simple problem that could be solved by applying an ancient technology, it would be solved already.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:43 AM on April 27, 2012


Look, the obvious method is to put it in a box and label it "Windows 9".
posted by Sutekh at 7:44 AM on April 27, 2012


I've helped construct a composting toilet with one of my professors who was quite knowledgeable with regards to third world problems of water quality and human-waste management.

It wasn't all that complicated, his emphasis was on the initial separation of liquid from solid waste and how that made things an order of magnitude easier to manage. It was basically a toilet seat over a appropriately sized earth-crete chamber, divided into two portions such that one could be used while the other one was full/working. Solid waste went there and there was a funnel/catchment for liquid waste that basically diverted it into a catchment basin where it was allowed to sit/dilute/disperse naturally. There was a structure to give privacy and protection from the elements (dry toilet paper and all that).

Defecate --> add sawdust/ashes/lime in haphazard fashion --> sanitize hands as desired --> walk away. The chambers were sealed with a destructible wall meant to be knocked down when ready for harvest. Apply compost to mature fruit trees or other non-edible plants (YMMV here, my recollection is a bit fuzzy on this point).

I've also been lucky enoughto visit the Santa Lucia eco-lodge where they have an awesome composting toilet setup out of necessity (no water except what they can catch/haul in). See my pics here pics here (spanish instructions and translation vs english version).
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:43 PM on April 27, 2012


I'm sure that composting technologies are part of the solution set. But if this were a simple problem that could be solved by applying an ancient technology, it would be solved already.

If simple + cheap + proven effective hasn't worked, it is very unlikely that not-so-simple + not-so-cheap + also-includes-some-fancy-whizbang-technology-of-some-sort is going to work, either.

The solution (or one of them--such a widespread problem likely requires several different solutions that will apply in different situations) is very likely to be some variation of the composting toilet that makes it even simpler and/or more foolproof--combined with creating education programs, knowledge networks, markets and supply chains, and the other social and economic changes needed so that people know how and why to build, maintain, and use the system, and have the supplies they need to do so.

Most people even in the developed world don't know how or why to build a composting toilet, and you can bet that knowledge is even more scarce in the types of places that need it. So I'm not sure that "it would be solved already" is an argument against the composting toilet. Often it's the simple/cheap/effective things that are not implemented, especially if there is no way for someone to make bucketloads of profit and the benefits aren't immediately and intuitively obvious to everyone--a situation exactly describing composting toilets.
posted by flug at 1:47 PM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Imgur noob here: try this link for translation/album view.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:48 PM on April 27, 2012


Often it's the simple/cheap/effective things that are not implemented, especially if there is no way for someone to make bucketloads of profit and the benefits aren't immediately and intuitively obvious to everyone--a situation exactly describing composting toilets.

This. The thing I helped build was wood, earthcrete, a toilet seat and about 6 feet of pvc pipe and a funnel. This can be built anywhere in the world where the geography could accept it and it's only one version of many found in publications of renown like the humanure handbook I saw mentioned above. Education needs to occur to get people to realize the benefit, both to safety and to their crops, before these simple devices become used where they can be. Urban situations are more difficult, but for rural settings they really should be a no brainer.

Footnote: The professor I was lucky enough to work with was completely awesome and I hope he doesn't mind me linking to his profile here, anything I said above isn't to be taken as his opinion/fact, so anything that's wrong is totally my fault.*
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:55 PM on April 27, 2012


If simple + cheap + proven effective hasn't worked, it is very unlikely that not-so-simple + not-so-cheap + also-includes-some-fancy-whizbang-technology-of-some-sort is going to work, either.

Yes, now exactly who is arguing for "also-includes-blah-blah-bullshit-bullshit-bullshit"?

*crickets chirp*

So I'm not sure that "it would be solved already" is an argument against the composting toilet.

I'm not arguing against composting toilets. I'm arguing against the idea that the solution is to be found in a gardening book written for back-to-the-farm hippies, or that because you've successfully recycled your waste using a bucket in your shed that you're an expert on how to solve sanitation problems in urban slums.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:05 PM on April 27, 2012


And if you do think you're an expert on how to solve the problem, perhaps you would be better off submitting a proposal to a philanthropic organization willing to make that solution a possibility.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:11 PM on April 27, 2012


I present a photo of someone who is not a back to the farm hippy nor using a backyard bucket who has benefited from this sort of thing. I don't think composting toilets are a silver bullet but they're a far cry better than the no-plan, shit anywhere, wait for people to die and wonder why plan that is currently being undertaken. That's the output of a toilet by the way, compost, humanure, whatever you want to call it. Surprised? I was.

I also have pics of the toilet I helped build, along with some other details for those that are interested, gimme a memail and I'll post them somewhere if there's interest.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:13 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I present a photo of someone who is not a back to the farm hippy nor using a backyard bucket who has benefited from this sort of thing.

Again, my argument is clearly not against composting toilets. It's against a conceit that I find amongst many of my neighbors to evangelize a particular Earth-friendly technology as a silver-bullet for world problems. It's an attitude I find to be downright Victorian, in the worst possible way.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:26 PM on April 27, 2012


Yea, narrow minded people are going to be narrow minded I suppose.

The urban situation is tough, sad, and hard to crack. Silver bullets are unlikely to appear in any case, so it's really a matter of trying to get the best outcome for the least input. I hope the foundation has plenty of ideas, heres wishing.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:58 PM on April 27, 2012


I'm probably bringing my own baggage into this having repeatedly heard for the last few decades, "The answer is simple! All we need is for people to start using composting toilets/organic gardening/heirloom seeds/veganism/straw-bale/cobb/pressed-earth/chickens/goats/recycled construction/communes/xeriscaping/natural-lawns/vermiculture/passive-solar/wind/recycled-materials! I did it in my own back yard!" And I'm a bit disappointed with the level of snark this CFP has generated.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:06 PM on April 27, 2012


Yea, please forgive any snark, it's something I've gotten my hands dirty with and interacted with experienced authorities in the field on, not that it makes me an expert, just something I've seen work in a few places and elegantly at that. (False) claims of magic are to be summarily dismissed outside of Tor novels.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:25 PM on April 27, 2012


And if you do think you're an expert on how to solve the problem, perhaps you would be better off submitting a proposal to a philanthropic organization willing to make that solution a possibility.

Well, I think we're mostly arguing the same side of the same issue (kinda takes the fun out of it, really . . . ) but I would argue that what is needed is not a new toilet, but a whole new system for dealing with the problem, of which a new toilet might be one small part.

And that the invention of the new toilet is unlikely to be the single thing that actually solves the problem, because we already have simple+cheap+safe=unsuccessful.

I suppose that might change if the new whiz-bang toilet invention #1. Allows someone to make bucketloads of money out of the new process (while still being cheap/simple/effective for the end users) and/or #2. Somehow makes it utterly apparent to the end users how great the benefits are of using this fantabulous new toilet invention.
posted by flug at 11:21 PM on April 27, 2012


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