The Movement Starts With You
November 18, 2018 8:01 AM   Subscribe

squatty potty commercial pretty funny.
i happily poop in a sawdust bucket. humanure handbook is recommended reading if you want to stop pooping in a bowl of the worlds most 2nd precious resource(drinking water). always surprising to me how little notice sawdust toilets get mentioned in these programs. they are in significant use in northeast usa homestead/farm scene and incredibly easy and low cost to set up... but how to urbanize is another question?
posted by danjo at 8:23 AM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm not convinced that composting toilets are scalable to urban settings. The results of imperfect handling of human waste are catastrophic at high population densities, so anything that increases complexity and decentralization sounds like a bad idea. Huge masses of people are just really bad at doing things consistently and correctly—even with the current system, you get people fucking it up by flushing things they shouldn't, failing to maintain their equipment, or just plain pooping in the wrong place. A city has to work for disabled people, people with mental health disorders, children, sick people, etc. Processing human waste in a setting like that absolutely needs to be as easy and foolproof for the end user as possible. We should certainly be striving to reduce our water consumption, but I don't think we can have cities as we know them without having modern sewer plumbing.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:42 AM on November 18, 2018 [11 favorites]

you get people fucking it up by flushing things they shouldn't

Thanks for the setup; I'm always looking for an excuse to post sonascope's ode to wet wipes.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:55 AM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

…like, imagine the bathroom of your favorite local dive bar around last call on a Friday night. Now, imagine if instead of a toilet in there, it was a five-gallon bucket with a seat on it, and a sack of sawdust with a scoop. Now imagine that times 100,000 or so.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:07 AM on November 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

If anyone wants to read a good book about what happens when there are, shall we say, issues with sanitation; read The Ghost Map which is about John Snow and the Broad Street pump. Cholera is no joke.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:10 AM on November 18, 2018 [5 favorites]

Now imagine that times 100,000 or so.

No thanks, I'm trying to cut back.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:30 AM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

That post title though...
posted by Wretch729 at 12:28 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Some questionable content at “Euphemisms” so I’ll save you the click and report the two keepers: “Dropping the kids off at the pool,” and “sending a message to the president.”
posted by sjswitzer at 1:13 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

The way to urbanize the bucket toilet is through code. It's like prohibition: people gonna bucket toilet in suburban environments whether code says you can or not. If you do it to code - and there is new international code for this in IAPMO's 2017 WE-STAND - then you can regulate the bucket toilet systems so that they're being done correctly.

Happy to send a copy of the relevant code to anyone who is interested in getting it approved by their local jurisdiction.
posted by aniola at 1:39 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

My question is: when it scales, where possible, under what circumstances will there be adequate carbon matter? I'd like to see that math.
posted by aniola at 1:40 PM on November 18, 2018

The way to urbanize the bucket toilet is through code.

At first I thought you meant, like, programming, and was preparing puns about "bucket sort" and "flushing the cache" and "code smells."
posted by Foosnark at 3:01 PM on November 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

hahahahaha Foosnark yes! "just gonna pipe that to stdout"
posted by batter_my_heart at 3:25 PM on November 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

Well, we produce a lot of carbon matter just as a byproduct of the lumber industry; sawdust is dirt cheap, although probably less cheap than water. How common would bucket toilets have to get before they started to change the economics of sawdust production? That's an interesting question. It doesn't have to come from trees though, it could come from agricultural byproducts, or hay, or some other crop that could be grown cheaply and without irrigation. In a world where we were smart about things, some of it could come from harvesting invasive plants; put a price on kudzu and I guarantee you people will harvest it until it's gone. If we used a sustainable, fast-growing carbon source and then buried it, it would be a pretty big carbon sink.

But I still say that without flush toilets, we'd end up with poo everywhere. Composting toilets aren't exactly hard to use, but there are plenty of people out there who struggle to even use a flush toilet properly. I'm fine with the idea of composting toilets for those who want them—if you self-select into that option you're probably someone who will be able to deal with it—but I still think our main efforts need to be going toward finding ways to make effective flush toilets that consume less water (or actually, we already know how to make them—the fact that they're rare is more of a policy issue than a technology issue) and developing more efficient wastewater processing systems.

A properly-used bucket toilet system is perfectly fine. If you think that an entire city full of people are going to be able to use them properly though, you must have a lot more faith in humanity than me.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:49 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sawdust* bucket is not the way to go, but in many situations, a Clivus Multrum could work. It takes a bit more effort than pushing a lever, but they produce excellent results. It wouldn't be much more expensive than a septic system in a residential home. Except there's always stupit people who would botch using them. Stupit people can even screw up a regular flush toilet.

Some folks just were never taught to put wet wipes,** tampons, condoms, etc. into the john, and they can be educated (assuming they don't learn the hard way) ha ha!
But some stupit people just don't give a rat turd.

*Hmmm, sawdust in a bucket. We've been hauling a bucket with a seat and using no-odor clumping cat litter when we go camping in the wild. Trouble is that cat litter gets heavy! Wonder if cedar wood chips aka horse bedding with lime would work.....

**Thanks, you jerk advertising agencies that suggest that it's easy to dispose of wet wipes by flushing.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:54 PM on November 18, 2018

Did someone say low water use? A residential Clivus uses SIX OUNCES of water per flush, and looks just like a 'real' toilet.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:58 PM on November 18, 2018

What if one conversation could mitigate climate change, alleviate global poverty and spread world peace? What if it was the one thing no one wanted to talk about?

Okay, but poop isn't taboo everywhere. Has South Korea solved climate change, global poverty, and world peace with its poop positivity?

I've tried but I don't get what The POOP Project is getting at. The video on their site is like "It's terrible that half the world doesn't have modern sanitation, and it's terrible that half the world does, so let's talk more about poop to fix that!" What? I love any excuse to squeeze out a poop joke, but they don't seem to have defined a problem that their solution would address.
posted by peeedro at 6:16 PM on November 18, 2018

At least in the US, toilets are the biggest single water users in a typical home, but they don't use a majority of the water. The sum of faucets, showers/baths, and clothes washers use more. This suggests to me that we could basically eliminate the freshwater impact of toilets completely if we just switched to greywater flush systems.

You could use fresh water much more efficiently and still have enough greywater to flush toilets.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:25 PM on November 18, 2018

It's also International Men's Day, but World Toilet Day works as a catch-all title for both.
posted by jonnyploy at 2:53 AM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

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