Human waste

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This article is about the biowaste. For other kinds of waste produced by humans, see waste.

Human waste is a waste type usually used to refer to byproducts of digestion, such as feces and urine. Human waste is most often transported as sewage in waste water through sewerage systems. Alternatively it is disposed of in nappies (diapers) in municipal solid waste.

Human waste is considered a biowaste as it is a good vector for both viral and bacterial diseases. It can be a serious health hazard if it gets into sources of drinking water. The World Heath Organization reports that nearly 2.2 million people die annually from diseases caused by contaminated water. A major accomplishment of human civilization has been the reduction of disease transmission via human waste through the practice of hygiene and sanitation, including the development of sewage systems and plumbing.

The amount of water needed to process human waste can be reduced by the use of waterless urinals and composting toilets and by recycling greywater. The most common method of waste treatment in rural areas where municipal sewage systems are unavailable is the use of septic tank systems. In remote rural places without sewage or septic systems, small populations allow for the continued use of honey buckets and sewage lagoons (see anaerobic lagoon) without the threat of disease presented by places with denser populations. Honey buckets are used by rural villages in Alaska where, due to permafrost, conventional waste treatment systems cannot be utilised.

Human waste is used to irrigate and fertilize fields in many parts of the developing world where fresh water is unavailable. Sri Lanka's International Water Management Institute (IWMI) published a report which suggests that there is great potential for wastewater agriculture to produce more food for consumers in urban areas, as long as there is sufficient education about the dangers of eating such food uncooked.[1]

Human waste that has been treated by a hot composting process can safely be used to improve the soil for food crops.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Human Waste Used by 200 Million Farmers, Study Says, National Geographic News, August 21, 2008
  2. ^ Jenkins, Joseph, The Humanure Handbook, a guide to composting human manure, Joseph Jenkins, Inc, 2005