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Raising a Stink (guernicamag.com)
91 points by horseradish 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments

I don't think cities providing manure for farming communities is unique to Japan, my understanding is it was standard for cities until modern era

Bret Devereaux mentions it in his description of pre-modern cities https://acoup.blog/2019/07/12/collections-the-lonely-city-pa...

Isn't there a risk of disease transmission? Or is the waste heavily processed first?

Definitely. But at the time it was probably the least bad option.

In the Boston metro area, a portion of the ‘sludge’ from the MWRA Deer Island water treatment plant gets piped underneath the Boston Harbor to Quincy, MA where it is turned into fertilizer pellets and sold to the public. Very popular for golf courses.


Same thing in Toronto:


With the right processing, pathogens aren't an issue. Heavy metals are a bigger concern, but not as worrisome for a golf course.

There's not a lot of great options other than applying to fields. Other than dump it in a landfill or incinerate it

I understand there are some health concerns about using human fertiliser for food with particular regard to the spread of disease.

It worked well for the Japanese - I wonder if these health concerns are really just our squeamishness?

In Michigan it's against the law to fertilize crops with human waste. Actually knew a farmer in the seventies who got caught and was fined for doing it. The reason is because it can spread disease causing pathogens to the crop.

I'm not certain how the Japanese got around that. Or perhaps people got sick from it and they hadn't yet figured out the cause.

I wonder if it will be like this when people live in space

Feels like a clear cut answer: Yes.

Yes. That we don't do this on the ISS is a shame, and an opportunity.

Worked for Mark Whatley.

"What do you do for living?" "I'm in the shit business."

Funny for some, disgusting for others but I can't see why excrement can't become something valuable. I've seen a documentary about a water treatment plant that transformed sewage into two products: clean drinking water and agricultural fertilizers.

Really interesting read. Reminded me of The Expanse and how much effort and diligence was used in the effort to terraform Mars and here the Japanese basically did that to their island using their own biological waste and turning it into such a way of life. Need food? Here's my shit. Your house burned down and we lost all that excrement? Farms fail. Just wild the economics and rules around all of this and the end result from it. I'll never look at their scenery the same again.

Seems to be reflected in the much more casual attitude to toilet humor in Japanese media.

> Going to the bathroom at a friend’s house was an act of generosity. It was like leaving a gift.

An idea just in time for Christmas season!

Startup idea: toilets that issue receipts.

I don't know what for, the market will find a way.

It already exists as a curiosity: A toilet that uses waste as fuel for a bioreactor and pays "users" in a cryptocurrency: https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/south-korean-toil...


Come visit us - we have composting toilets in our home. Seriously, when people visit and leave such gifts it makes me very happy - more organic matter that will return to our garden.

Using composting toilets in the last 5,5 years has changed our relationship with our waste, and with other waste like cow or horse manure. The disgust subsides and you learn to handle it just like any other raw material. Humanure is really valuable for gardening and fertilizing your soil.

How do you maintain food safety? Using human waste seems dangerous. Harmful bacteria would be part of it, but I’d worry about accumulating pharmaceuticals, etc., in it, which feudal Japanese people probably didn’t have to worry about.

What does the end result look and smell like after it's done composting? How long does that take? I always thought composting toilets were mostly practical in trailers and other non-full-time locations so it's interesting you've adopted this in your home! One other advantage must be not worrying about clogs?

It's better to give than to receive.

> shimogoe literally meant “fertilizer from the bottom of a person”

s = fertilizer

hi = from

m = the

o = bottom

go = of

e = a person

> To us, this decision may seem unhygienic at best.

Seems like an add presumption for the author to make. The output has to be removed, and the local people are making it. Plumbing and waste management are some of the most significant developments of every surviving society.

It also seems like a strange comment to make from an author in a country that has sit-on toilets. Now that is unhygienic!

What’s the concern with sit-on toilets? I get that conceptually it’s kind of gross, but it’s not like germs will seep through your buttcheeks. Doorknobs seem worse since you’re likely to then touch your face.

Speaking from experience spending a lot of time cleaning public toilets, you would be surprised at how the general public uses them in practice. And probably a bit disgusted. Aim even while sitting is not necessarily a given is all I’ll say.

In comparison the public squat toilets in Japan look worse but leave you cleaner IMO.

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