Da Shit

SANITATION*full screen for best view*


Problem Statement:

As easy as it seems to flush away the problem of human waste management, we must come down to earth and recognize the negative consequences of certain sanitation systems across the world. Different countries, such as Haiti and India, have varying problems associated with their effect on the environment and the health of the people. In places that utilize a conventional flushing toilet that sends its “cargo” to a waste water treatment plant, the typical associated negative consequences include high amounts of energy usage for treatment, nutrient loading in water bodies, broken cycles of nutrients, and fecalphobia.

An example of nitrate loading water includes our local Stenner Creek at 230 ppm of Nitrate, and our San Luis Obispo Creek (just down from the water treatment plant) with 350-440+ppm Nitrates.

The image below represents high amounts of energy (current and embodied) usage for treatment of human waste. High amounts of energy not only strain the environment, they also cost tax payers a hefty amount of money and decreases the value and appeal of a city. Click the link below to follow the flow of water as it is being treated through a cities water treatment plant.


Flow through water treatment plant
It is important to know where your nutrients is coming from and where it goes when you are done with it. If done correctly, the nutrient cycle will stay constantly flowing. However, the most common way to rid of human waste is to flush it away. By using a flush toilet, we use precious fresh water to carry our waste away from where it needs to be (back in the soil), and dumps it elsewhere causing pollution.

An intact cycle starts with freshly grown product/nutrients that is then eaten by the consumer. After obtaining nutrients into the body, the consumer then excretes the waste. The waste then goes back into the soil to become compost to continue the cycle.
A broken cycle starts with product/nutrients grown with factory made chemical fertilizer. The consumer then eats the product, obtaining less or altered nutrients. The consumer then discards the waste through a flush system toilet. The left over nutrients in the “waste” is then flushed away, leading to the pollution of the environment.

Many humans have ‘fecalphobia‘. Fecalphobia is the fear of human waste. However, the fear can be translated as a lack of knowledge when presented with the issue. Let’s be honest, sanitation is not the most appealing topic to discuss with others, but it is one of the most important. With the lack of knowledge comes the lack of ability to realize the problems or create solutions to solve them. As seen below, 15% of the world still openly defecate due to the lack of access to sanitation.


This chart represents the problems that stem from the exposure of human waste. Open defecation leads to many diseases, such as diarrhea, cholera, intestinal worms, and trachoma. These diseases affect the whole body, causing one to use the nutrients they eat to fight off bacteria instead of working to solve their sanitation situation. “Developing” countries that do not use conventional pluming, or do not have adequate systems/treatment plants, face similar problems as the ones listed above, but the effects on human health are felt at much higher levels. The image on the right shows two children in Haiti surrounded by unsanitary conditions.

Our Purpose:

Clearly there are sanitation problems on a global level, and “developed countries” have problems of their own. If the current generation wants to give a functioning and productive environment to the next one, we must innovate ways to keep nutrient flows in proper balance, crate, and regenerate ecosystems and soils, obtain a sustainable and resilient yield from that process, and integrate massive amounts of people into the movement. For these reasons we chose to work on developing a system that helps us, the current users of a conventional and destructive system, to help ourselves before we attempt to help others. We want to have done something and succeeded at it before we try to teach someone how to do it. In order to do this, we would like to develop a model of a composting toilet that serves the following functions:

  • Use no water (We are still figuring this part out. One idea is to have the urine go directly to the bottom of the toilet. This will help against the smell and natural clumping that may occur. We do not want to use a urine diverter because it is ineffective and will need too much maintenance).
  • Put nutrients into the soil, in a fashion that serves as very fertile planting beds.
  • Consider principals of appropriate technology in the construction
    • wood joinery and fiber lashing instead of screwsmaterials with low amounts of embodied energy
    • scalability
    • site specific design
    • low maintenance
  • Is pleasant to use
  • Poses not threat to human or any other organisms health

Check below to see the model of our proposed composting toilet, the ‘As-pen’:

1. We wish to educate others on the benefits that come from composting and using proper compositing for human waste management.
2. We wish to help others become more aware on how beneficial composting is, not only environmentally, but also socially.
3. By looking at how other countries utilize composting for their human waste management, an integrating our understanding of composting and soil science, we aspire to design versatile compost toilet than can be used across a wide range of conditions
4. We hope to see our proposal become a reality, weather on Cal Poly’s campus [at the student experimental farm] or on another piece of property.
5. We will identify the people on campus in which we need to talk to in order to legally install a compost toilet as well as identify people/systems who can carry out the toilets legacy.

*Our proposed model is an original design. We have contacted SOIL in Haiti and Critical Practices in Southeast Asia to see how they are implementing composting toilets around different countries. Both companies have opted for the Urine Diverting Dry Toilet systems (UDDT) because of the environments they are working in. However, we have decided our ski model will work best within our environment of the Student Experimental Farm on campus. Just like our examples from our sources, our challenges include cost, maintenance, and education.

To learn more about the SEF click link below:
Cal Poly’s Student Experimental Farm.


Stakeholders&Organization Interest to Sanitationin developing countries Plays to the importance towards sanitation(0-5) Interest towards sanitation(0-5) Influence towards sanitation(0-5)
Manufacturers& Suppliers Revenue and reputation 5 5 5
SOIL Haiti Manufacturer Revenue and jobs 5 5 5
Distributors Revenue and cultural experience 5 5 5
CriticalPractices Distributor Revenue, experience, and reputation 5 5 5
Consumer Countries (Haiti, South Africa, Cambodia) Healthier cities, quality, and cost 3 4 4
Men/Women/Children as consumers Cost of product and healthier families 2 5 3

As we see here, manufacturers, suppliers, and distributers greatly influence the interest and importance towards sanitation in developing countries. The developing countries are in need of greater sanitation, however, they also have to deal with other problems, such as malnutrition and low birth rates. With these other factors, the developing countries cannot put their full attention to the importance, nor can they influence their people to seek out this greater change. Men, women, and children alike are all at risk of health problems due to the lack of sanitation. However, they may not have the funds to pay for sanitation or have any way to contribute to the developing importance. Luckily, companies such as SOIL in Haiti and CriticalPractices are doing their best to bring sanitation, toilets, and sanitation education to these developing countries. With their help, the men, women, and children will be able to live healthier lives in cleaner environments.



Interview with Shannon Smith from SOIL in Haiti:
How were you able to scale your company to reach the entire community and how did the community react?
A few clarifications on this one: We’re a 501(c)3 registered nonprofit organization. To me “reach the entire community” suggests 100% sanitation coverage (at the least) or 100% EcoSan coverage in a geographic area. We have not yet reached that level in Haiti, where about 75% of people don’t even have access to a toilet. In Cap-Haitien, we now have about 500 household EcoSan toilets, and we are building this market base while we simultaneously develop a business model that would be viable for small entrepreneurs to run at the local level. Part of this process entails finding a price point that a) does not price out the most vulnerable clients (who are most in need of our services) and b) optimizing operations to cut down on costs (by experimenting with alternative transportation options, for example).
I suppose that demand is a good proxy for community reaction. We have seen quite a bit of demand in the Cap-Haitien area. At this moment we aren’t meeting all of that demand because of our focus on concentrating the service in a few geographic areas to a) increase the public health impact and b) optimize operations in order to develop our local business model which will ultimately make the service more economically sustainable and not based on an aid model.

What were the needs of the community, did they ask for anything specific, and how did you meet in the middle on some issues?
SOIL began working in the north of Haiti in communities like Shada, where the lack of sanitation means that the community is in a chronic health crisis. A midwife in the community named Madame Bwa, along with her associated community groups, advocated for more sanitation in their area because they were experiencing a lot of illness, death of children under 5, and death of pregnant women and women in labor. The community members did not specifically ask for Ecological Sanitation, but given the circumstances in Haiti— no sanitation infrastructure, little sanitation coverage, informal settlements built in flood prone areas, and fast-paced erosion and loss of topsoil— SOIL was founded with an EcoSan focus because we found that this technology responds most appropriately to the circumstance.
We still operate three public toilet blocks in the community of Shada and have over110 household toilets there. I guess you could say that we meet our clients in the middle on the issue of payment. Each client with a household toilet pays 200 Haitian Gourde per month ($4). Although people often complain about the price, we have found that even people in areas like Shada can afford the service, and in asking people to pay we are setting the groundwork for a more economically sustainable solution.

Did the communities embrace this new sanitation method or did you also have sanitation seminars or a way to teach the communities about the changes?
We hold community events where we demonstrate how to use the toilet. We also have marketing materials that explain the product (most of which rely heavily on images and drawings since many people in Haiti are illiterate). And lastly we have a staff member who works as a hygiene promotor and she, along with many members of the team, spend a lot of time in the communities which we serve, so many people are aware of SOIL and our technologies at this point.
I would say that yes, people have embraced our EcoSan toilets, but you have to keep in mind the context. In these neighborhoods, many of our clients have never had a toilet before their SOIL toilet (which by the way we brand as “EkoLakay,” Eko= ecological, and Lakay= home).

What is the general diet for the area and did the use of the compost help with the agriculture?
We test our compost to check the effect on various crops’ yields. The use of compost of course makes a significant difference when compared to no compost, as it has the nutrient benefits of chemical fertilizers without the negative environmental impacts and with other benefits as well such as water conservation and rebuilding of topsoil.

Why did you choose the toilet system that you did? (i.e. for soil, sanitation, etc)
We have a urine-diverting dry toilet system (UDDT) and we chose urine diversion to cut down on the transportation costs. Our clients dispose of their own urine, which does not pose a public health risk like feces. We are pretty agnostic about the technology of EcoSan toilets, as long as it is appropriate for the context and the users like it.

What is your carbon source for the compost toilets?
We use sugarcane bagasse, a byproduct of rum production, along with ground peanut shells. We are also experimenting with other inputs such as ash. Some key points are for the material to be carbon heavy, easy to make into a fine texture that will degrade faster and cover feces well without leaving large pockets of air for flies to get in, and locally available material.

How do you utilize the finished compost?
We either sell the compost for agricultural use, or use it for agricultural experiments to test the effect of our compost on various local crops. All of our compost is tested according to World Health Organization standards (and in many cases, SOIL’s protocols surpass WTO standards), so there are no warnings or restrictions necessary in using the compost. It is like any other soil amendment that can be used from anything from flowers to lettuce.


Interview with Mr. Loosely, Director of Facilities Operations:

If we were to submit a proposal for a student built composting toilet at the Experimental Student Farm, what safety regulations would we need to look at or follow?I would have to defer to our building inspector, Mike Hogan, as I do not have experience with composting toilets and where they fit into the building code. I’ve Cc’d him on this reply. Are you considering a commercially available unit? Who will be responsible for maintaining it? Where will you use the compost generated? Do you have CAFES support?
What do you see as risk management?I do not see a lot of risk as long as the unit is properly maintained. You would need someone to regularly clean the exterior and also make sure there is sufficient aeration to decompose the waste. Student projects work well when the students who have the idea participate. When those students graduate, someone else must take the responsibility for maintenance. This doesn’t always happen, so a college or department must take on this ownership and liability. I’ve Cc’d the Director of Environmental Health and Safety, Dave Ragsdale, to get his input on the health risk issues.
For the upkeep, we are hoping to put together a set of directions for a leader to follow each quarter. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for what to do with the compost?If the waste decomposes as designed, you should be able to use it on site. If the process is not performed to completely break down the waste, you will need to pay to have it disposed of. Without a full time owner, I’m not sure rotating each quarter will be successful, based on my experience with student projects.
Do you think we would run into any complications implementing the new composting toilet on the Farm?You will need to submit a Facilities building permit to have the installation reviewed for approval. As stated above, the college will need to take financial ownership for the installation and maintenance. Without the college doing this, it will not happen.
Are there any concerns you would have for us or any recommendations for materials we should use?As I stated above, I am not an expert on composting toilets, so I am not the person to get recommendations from. I am not aware of any other units on campus, certainly not in the state funded facilities. It sounds like it could be an interesting addition to the Experimental Farm, but will need an owner who is willing to maintain it to be successful. Good luck with your project proposal.


Interview with Chuck Henry from Critical Practices:

1. When implemented into developing countries, how can materials for your Urine Diverting Dry Toilet be accessed? Is there a cost to ship materials or can they be accessed locally, using local materials?
Currently we’re in the demonstration mode. We provide a kit with all parts of the toilet, including a small collection bucket. These are packaged by our factory in China and sent directly – this is by far the cheapest option so far. I have a set price, and the recipient pays for shipping and import fees.
As demand raises in a developing country, then we expect local manufacturing. There are some parts that make sense to source locally, like the storage container, horizontal tube and vent pipe. These are not specialty parts, and are big volume items for shipping. This is the logical next step. Then with really big demand, injection molding in a country may be feasible. But our molds cost about $200,000, so demand has to be high to justify this.
2. What are the advantages of using your proposed UDDT system?
The advantages are that it is inexpensive, no in-ground parts, low odors, flies, and produces a stable compost with a moderate number of users and separated urine. Pathogen reduction depends upon users and climate.

3. Do you provide a carbon source, if so what? Or, if not, what do you recommend for a carbon source?
Carbon source has to be found locally. Sawdust, rice hulls, wood ash, coffee grounds, coconut husks are all possibilities.

4. What is the cost to implement one UDDT? Have you implemented your technology in any developing countries?
We have sent 500 to Ecuador, 200 to South Africa, some to Senegal, Benin and Cambodia. We’ll be doing a demo in India (primarily our community system) in January. Also in January we’ll be going into Ghana and Ivory Coast. The cost for our international demos is $150 plus shipping, etc. for less that 500, with a discount for larger orders.

5. Do you provide any sanitation seminars for different communities to help educate them on improving their sanitation?
Yes, for the first demo, we do an assembly workshop and help with installation; each place will use a different housing.



“Our mission [is to] recover resources from waste to finance the delivery of in-home sanitation service to the poorest urban households on the planet. Our vision [is] a world in which every household uses convenient, safe and affordable sanitation that improves quality of life and the environment.”

SOIL in Haiti

“The mission of Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is to promote dignity, health, and sustainable livelihoods through the transformation of wastes into resources. We achieve this through developing social business models around ecological sanitation (EcoSan), a process in which nutrients from human wastes return to the soil rather than polluting fresh water resources.”

Critical Practices
“Our goal is to promote Universal access to sanitation services through the development of a revolutionary technology for managing human waste. [And also] Large-scale deployment of the EarthAuger Solution promises to dramatically reduce the toll on human life and the environment that follows from poor sanitation.”

Humanure Handbook
“Despite all the books on manure and how to use it, human manure composting is not covered elsewhere, making the Humanure Handbook a fine reference for any who would learn these basics. If you’re an avid composter, there’s nothing like this on the market.”–Midwest Book Review

Our current event:
“Poor Sanitation in India May Afflict Well-Fed Children with Malnutrition”. -New York Times

Life expectancy with improved sanitation, overall access
The graph below highlights the life expectancies with improved overall access to sanitation. Proper sanitation within countries is one of the most important resources to utilize. As we see above, Haiti (37 year expectancy), Lesotho (48 life expectancy),and Swaziland (48 year expectancy) have the lowest life expectancies correlating with their lack of access to improved sanitation. It is important to tackle the problem of sanitation head on, to help clean up and utilize natural resources, and find a way successfully create a healthy, sustainable community.


Let’s make the world a less shitty place!
Members:Jennifer BilekElliott SalazarAlbert VoCody Lathouwers

There are some good ideas represented in this website, but I think you can improve the order and add more information. Move all my comments in red to the very bottom of your website so I can refer to what I wrote, but the reader won’t be inconvenienced by my comments. Add a conclusionary statement. Please add Stakeholders analysis… important to think about what Scott Loosely is concerned about. At present, this would receive a “B-“, but I can see you are still in the process of organizing. Let me know if you’d like me to review the website again before the final presentation.Other comments from Pete:
I meant to ask you during your presentation what the lifecycle energy use/production would be for these facilities. I’ve heard that with methane production that is burned to generate electricity, they are net producers of electricity. Is this so?
Please write a narrative of what you are trying to express below.
What’s the problem with this broken cycle? You expressed this [fecalphobia] well in your talk, but you need some description to give meaning to the images.
If you are going to use no water, you have to figure out what to do with the urine. If it goes directly into the toilet bottom, that will work. However, if there is a urine diverter, it will get clogged with urine crystals in short time unless water is mixed with the urine.
Do you have a model to copy? Has anyone done anything like this elsewhere? What have been their challenges?
I think that your model does not need facilities permit because it’s not a permanent structure. I think you should design something that is as good as you can, and we’ll introduce it as an experiment and work piecewise to get it approved. We need an institution to take responsibility for it. Please fill out an application at the SEF and I can start to get the paperwork done.
Wrap this up with some statement? Put references at the end?

More comments after Dec 14, 2015: your computer model doesn’t open. When you say that a urine diverter isn’t effective, what do you mean?