The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters

George, Rose
Metropolitan 2008
ISBN 978-0-8050-8271-5
Date finished: 2013-02-21

A survey of human waste management. Set aside the first two chapters, on the history of London's sewer infrastructure and the Japanese fondness for electronic toilets with bidets -- they're entertaining, but the rest of the book is very different, primarily about the difficulties of improving waste disposal in developing countries. It's a n interesting survey -- waste disposal is still far from being a solved problem. In India, China, and Africa, open defecation (just going in a field) is still common, especially in rural areas. In the burgeoning slums, people often defecate in plastic bags and then toss them aside. There's no money to pay for building an extensive Western-style sewage infrastructure, no money to maintain it if you built it, and often water is precious and cannot be expended to flush waste away. Here the solution may be waterless toilets or pit latrines that can be emptied.

We still have issues in North America and Europe, too. Many cities just dump their sewage untreated, and even those that usually treat it can't do so during rainstorms, because the waste & stormwater disposal systems are linked. Disposal of the solid sludge from sewage treatment is fraught with controversy; the sludge is a rich source of phosphorus and nitrogen, but can also be contaminated with medical waste, heavy metals, or other toxins.

Tagged: hygiene


%T The Big Necessity
%S The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters
%D 2008
%K hygiene
%G ISBN 978-0-8050-8271-5
%P 280pp
%I Metropolitan
%A George, Rose
%@ 2013-02-21

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