Waste Not, Want Not

SUMMARY: We are developing practical methods to recover nutrients from human wastes and recycle them safely to agricultural and natural ecosystems.

Our strategy is to close the broken ecological loop of food production, consumption and elimination — to reduce water pollution, conserve drinking water resources, and facilitate sustainable food production.

PROBLEM SPACE: Nutrients from the food eaten by billions of people are currently disposed into waters or are buried or incinerated, degrading the ecosystems where they are released. If the harvested nutrients are not returned to the soil organically, they must be continuously replaced by expensive, energy-intensive, fertilizers. But even this luxury cannot be taken for granted: phosphorus is a finite resource, with proven reserves in the US that last only until 2065.

Our initiative is to develop affordable eco-sanitation infrastructure to recover theses nutrients and recycle them safely into food-producing ecosystems. Nutrient recycling is a fundamental process of all ecosystems, but is absent in modern industrial societies. This imbalance is evident in the statistics: globally, over 2 billion people lack access to any kind of sanitation, which causes the spread of preventable disease. And where flush toilets exist, a quarter of all drinking water is flushed away as pollution.

Our solution to these inter-related crises - wasted water, wasted nutrients, public health risks, hunger, and unsustainable food production - is to avoid putting wastes into water in the first place. Instead, we propose affordable, ecologically-derived methods to safely recycle human waste nutrients back to agriculture in support of human life processes.

SOLUTION: Our proposed initiative is an innovative combination of existing eco-toilets and controlled composting technologies. Together, these systems create a new ecologically-derived sanitation infrastructure that recovers human waste “residuals” as valuable fertilizers, and directs them safely into agriculture. Our preliminary designs recover nutrients, deactivate pathogens and pharmaceuticals, and produce safe fertilizers in the form of compost, crystalline struvite, and solar-pasteurized urine for direct application to hayfields, pasture and food crops.

Our approach is to create a 'family' of decentralized eco-sanitation solutions, ranging from home-scale methods requiring only minimal technology, to community-scale methods using simple infrastructure powered by renewable energy. Our solutions are intentionally low-tech, low-energy, modular, and replicable, facilitating rapid, versatile expansion.

Our efforts are based on Cape Cod, a region in ecological crisis from water pollution caused by the disposal of human wastes via septic tanks and sewer systems. Once tested and proven locally, the same solutions have national and global applications, since virtually all societies use the same nutrient-wasting, energy- and water-intensive, "flush and forget" approach.

CONTACT PERSON: [email protected]