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What is the context of this research?
Technology exists to recycle human feces into fertilizer, a method that in developing countries remains controversial. UK researchers have proposed that such technology comes with a health risk warning while other anecdotal evidence suggests potential widespread acceptance and application. Rotary Club US has funded a project in two adjacent rural communities in Honduras and Water Missions International has been asked to execute the engineering, planning, and installation of this project along with a water treatment facility. It is here where we will randomly assign families to receive a dehydrating toilet (one that recycles the waste) and a pour flush toilet (one that flushes with water). This represents a rare opportunity to study social, technical, and health-related issues.
What is the significance of this project?
Hundreds of nonprofit, non-governmental, and governmental institutions continue to struggle with providing safe disposal of human feces. Composting toilets appear to offer an option which could be key to achieving one of the World Health Organization's Millennium Health Goals. Many similar efforts have failed for a variety of ecological, sociological, and technical reasons. To date, no one has studied the relative value of installing traditional toilets versus composting or recycling toilets. This project represents a rare opportunity to do so. The data will assist relief organizations in selecting culturally appropriate technology, potentially saving money, lives, and reducing the environmental impact of managing human feces.
What are the goals of the project?
Our goal is to clearly identify cultural, technical, and health-related barriers to recycling human waste products. We will provide answers to the following questions:
- Can human waste be safely recycled in rural areas of developing countries?
- What cultural barriers exist to such technologies?
- Are there health risks associated with recycling human waste? If so, how can they be avoided?
- What can be modified about existing technologies to make them more accessible and safe?