Urgent Evoke

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I was just forwarded this article from the New York Times by an alternative energy list I'm on.

Its called the PeePoo, and its a biodegradable plastic bag with urea crystals in it to sterilize human waste and make it bioavailable. It will cost as much as a plastic bag, which some slum dwellers are currently using.

I have mixed feelings about humanure. Its actually a subject that hits REALLY close to home for me. I recently had a representative from a local, family owned soil company in Southern California. They offered to donate soil to our Chefs Du Potager project, but when I asked him what type of soil he said much of their stuff was composted biosolids, or sludge.

Growcology is looking to eventually become organically or biodynamically certified, and human sludge is one of the amendments that can compromise that certification process. I told him we couldn't use that, but their potting soil product (which we unwittingly featured in our Tabletop Gardens video) contains no humanure and would be great for our plots if they could spare it.

He said he'd get back to me, he had to go up to San Francisco that evening.

I didn't hear from him again until this morning, but over the weekend an organic farmer on the board of Growcology called me to say that there were protests this week in San Francisco over free 'Organic' compost that had been given out to city residents.

"Organic" compost that contained human biosolids, which is barely regulated by the EPA and can potentially contain huge quantities of VOACs, heavy metals, steroids, etc.

So now I don't know what to think. I found this article corroborating what our board member told me, but not implicating the particular company we were dealing with. So now I don't know if I should deal with them at all, if they are decietfully marketing their products and spreading potential toxins.

I am personally conflicted beyond just wanting free soil, because philosophically I believe all biological waste SHOULD be composted and recycled through the closed-loop system that is our planet. To just throw away rich nutrients is wasteful.

However, our current lifestyles integrate countless toxic materials into our diet, our medicine, our homes, and our work. As long as people are treating their bodies and homes worse than we treat landfills, the stuff coming out of us will be useless as an eventual nutrient.

Someday compost toilets and technologies like the PeePoo will be much more prevalent, but hopefully those using them won't be filling themselves and the compost bags full of toxins. Its worth re-examining our diets and healing practices, but that is a luxury the people in Africa and India who'll recieve these bags don't have...

photo source: A Design Mafia

Views: 39

Comment by David Perner on March 9, 2010 at 12:28am
I've seen articles about these, they look interesting. I guess my question would be, whereas we in the West have all these contaminants in our diets, is this still as much of a problem for people more likely to be eating something they grow themselves? Without factory farm meat, loads of preservatives, etc, would developing nation humanure actually be higher quality than ours?
Comment by Linda Holt on March 9, 2010 at 12:44am
IDK - There is just something about consuming one's own peepoo that doesn't sit well with me (yuck). Hard to imagine that this would become an accepted practice without the company skirting it like it appears they may have done with you. It puts me to mind of Monsanto seed engineering, food irradiation and other questionable practices that go on behind the increasingly health challenged rabble.
Comment by David Perner on March 9, 2010 at 12:49am
Ultimately though, the fact that we don't cycle nutrients in agriculture is a huge problem. Right now, we mine phosphates from Florida to use in fields in Iowa, where a substantial fraction flows into the Mississippi River to end up in the Gulf of Mexico. Then it's shipped across the country, to be eaten and excreted with all the remaining nutrients in, let's say, Bangor, Maine. This linear system of resource consumption has to change, and so at some point we're going to have to learn to "eat our own peepoo." (although hopefully after plants have turned it back into something more appetizing! haha)
Comment by Linda Holt on March 9, 2010 at 12:52am
And maybe ignorance will then be a good thing - lol
Comment by Arjen de Jong on March 9, 2010 at 12:59am
If you consider that, you have been eating animal 'peepoo' for years, then maybe you are less revolted by the idea? This is just what fertilizer is after all, unless it's chemical stuff.
Comment by Nick Heyming on March 9, 2010 at 1:14am
Yeah, its not like they're advocating REBURGER...

You raise a good point David, and I think their peepoo would probably be much less contaminated in those countries, provided multi-national corporations weren't spewing toxins there that they're not allowed to spew here due to environmental regulations.

Which they probably are.
Comment by Linda Holt on March 9, 2010 at 1:49am
I use cow & chicken poo and even fish emulsion in my organic graden so I'm not ignorant to the growth cycle. I wonder if we'll be able to by certified organic peepoo?
Comment by David Perner on March 9, 2010 at 1:57am
@Linda- I apologize if I made it sound as though I thought you were ignorant of the growth cycle. I've just become increasingly aware of how we have to change our linear model of resource consumption and my enthusiasm about the topic might have gotten the better of me.
Comment by Linda Holt on March 9, 2010 at 2:14am
No apology necessary! I just think about the diet of the average Floridian, the insane number of diseased individuals who reside in this neck of the woods, and wonder (I haven't done a speck of research) on the liklihood of pathogens like Mrsa surviving in the soil. Not to mention the odor. . . which is very different from those gentle grain eaters.
Comment by Ethan Gray on March 9, 2010 at 5:44am
Greta article. Thank you, Nick. Very interesting and have been researching the 'PeePoo' bag concept for a while now. I enjoyed the stance you took on the issue. Well done on your contribution to the Evoke network. You truly deserve your positon as an evoker. Your articles evoke many interesting thougts and ideas =]


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