Cut the crap about crap
Article Moonatic Agency
This article is part of The Care Revolution issue #2, written for Mustardseed Trust.
If we follow the English dictionary, waste would be nothing more than ‘unwanted matter or material of any type, especially what is left after useful substances or parts have been removed.’ However, in natural, healthy ecosystems there is no such thing as waste. Because what is waste for one organism, is food for the next in line. Luckily there are many inspirational projects in our industrialised world showcasing that same principle. One example is the Ugandan company ‘Proteen’, which recycles free bio-waste from local food markets in the capital Kampala. To not let this valuable waste go to waste, Proteen feeds the bio-left-overs to Black Soldier Fly larvae – an insect incredibly efficient in converting organic matter into harvestable protein. After a few days of feasting on the rubbish, the larvae are dried and processed into high-quality protein feed for livestock. And the “waste” of the larvae themselves? Consider this your highly organic fertiliser!
Not only larvae produce fertiliser from their behind (yes: they have one). The value of our human faeces and its potential contribution to our soils is evident. Scientific research shows that the Netherlands alone flushes a valuable 35 million kilos of phosphate, 110 million kilos of nitrogen, and 34,5 million kilos of potassium straight down the toilet yearly. Almost all the nutrients in our stool come from food grown on farms. Instead of closing the circle by giving it back to the farm soil, our waste goes to waste in the sewage system. We close the resulting nutrient gap with animal manure and inorganic fertilisers. For the latter, we buy potassium from Russia, phosphate from Morocco, and retrieve nitrogen from the air using enormous amounts of fossil energy.
The Dutch company Broodje Poep (Shit Sandwich) wants to reuse our ‘shit’ to close the nutrient cycle. With their motto ‘shit is priceless’, they make an appearance at festivals and events to increase awareness around the value we flush through the toilet daily. They use human excrement to fertilise their farm. The products from their farm end up as ingredients sold on a tasty sandwich from their food truck. And if a customer is generous enough to donate their poop on the spot? They get a discount on their order!
Broodje Poep likes to think big: what if we can transform the toilet design of entire neighbourhoods or cities to collect and recycle all this valuable stuff? They have made a start in the self-autonomous communities of Creabitat. There, Broodje Poep will play its part in creating a new system for processing the resident’s golden waste – so the nutrients will end up right back on their plates.
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