How should we call the excreta-derived product of a composting toilet or a UDDT? Do we need a new term?

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How should we call the excreta-derived product of a composting toilet or a UDDT? Do we need a new term?

Note by moderator: The first few posts of this thread were originally in this thread about odorous gases from composting toilets.

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Chris* - I apologize for harping on this issue but I think it's vital that the language we use be a) appropriate and b) descriptive. Contrary to the material that you are referring to (the contents of a UDDT or composting toilet), "biosolids" is the specific term coined in 1991 by the Water Environment Federation and by design created to divert attention away from the material that its and its supporters were hoping to mass market, specifically sewage sludge. As you know, sludge (otherwise known as "biosolids") consists of the solids extracted from wastewater treatment plants and as such consists of far more than water, urine, feces and, if applicable, toilet paper. I would argue that we as sustainable sanitation advocates should therefore do everything in our power to distance ourselves from the term itself, the industry that uses this term, the material it describes and the surreptitious nature of the phrase's origins. Here's background on my criticism:

http://www.prwatch.org/files/pdfs/tsigfy_chap8.pdf

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* Note by moderator (EvM): Kai was referring to what Chris had written here (emphasis added by me):
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/70-com...ing-in-general#12716

Joe, that eThekwini Municipality mentions health risks from extracting biosolids from properly used UDDTs is apparently due to psychology and social norms, not documented cases of people getting sick.


Kai Mikkel Førlie

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Re: What do we know about odorous gases from composting toilets (or from composting in general)?

Hi Kai,

Point taken. The problem is that we do not have a term everyone agrees on. Many (incl. Christoph) argue that this not compost, although with the high humidity in the air here in the upper Amazon, our one-year-old final product is likely indistinguishable from what they would call compost. (It is black, has no smell, and anyone would want it for their garden.) Humanure is a good word, but it has its opponents. I often call it ''recycled cover material'', since that is what I use it for again, and after a year the feces have mostly disintegrated and it mostly consists of the cover material that had been used. Soil would be pretty accurate, but would have its opponents, so what about ''novo-soil''?? What is your favorite, Kai?

Best wishes,
Chris Canaday

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Re: What do we know about odorous gases from composting toilets (or from composting in general)?

I am partial to "humanure" but would be open to another term. In fact, it would be great to open this question up to everyone on the forum vis-a-vis a proper naming contest. Perhaps SUSANA could provide something to the winning wordsmith (as an incentive for everyone's participation)? This issue comes up frequently so it would be great if we could all vote on something and then promise to use whatever the majority agrees upon from then on. It would be nice if we could put this matter to rest for once and for all. Moderators?

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Re: What do we know about odorous gases from composting toilets (or from composting in general)?

Hi Kai,

Poor thread - but lets go for another round.
biosolids:
I think the definition by EPA of biosolids is not wrong.

Biosolids are the nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of sewage sludge (the name for the solid, semisolid or liquid untreated residue generated during the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment facility). When treated and processed, sewage sludge becomes biosolids which can be safely recycled and applied as fertilizer to sustainably improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth.

http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/wastewater/treatment/biosolids/

I think the point is what do you define as "can be safely recycled and applied as fertilizer to sustainably improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth".

But for me there is no need to change the name. As we do speak of wastewater reuse (even though some wastewaters might have heavy metals or other substances), as we speak of urine fertilizer (even though some might contain pharmaceutical substances), as we speak of humanure (even though it might contain helminth eggs).

So for me no need to invent a new name.
I know you are completely opposite on that Kai :woohoo:


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Re: What do we know about odorous gases from composting toilets (or from composting in general)?

Ah, but Christoph, the EPA biosolids rule (a.k.a. the "503 rule") does not have jurisdiction over the contents of an ecological toilet. The individual states, with zero oversight or direction from the EPA or any other federal agency or federal law or regulation, are tasked with managing this material. So "biosolids" absolutely positively does not pertain to the byproducts of an ecological toilet and so should never be used to refer to same.

For ease on my part, I refer you the applicable section of the Wikipedia article on UDDTs that I assisted in writing (pay particular attention to the relevant citations):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urine-diverting_dry_toilet#Regulations

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Re: What do we know about odorous gases from composting toilets (or from composting in general)?

Kai,
as a non native english speaker I understood the definition of biosolids in a more general way....in my understanding "sewage sludge becomes biosolids", "Composting material becomes biosolids" and "dried feces become biosolids", as for me biosolids was a gathering word for all material which after treatment "can be safely recycled and applied as fertilizer to sustainably improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth" - even just plain composting material without feces or treated animal manure.
Searching around I understand that there seems to be a strict difference - as for instance publications always express animal manure and biosolids.
Therefore I understand that the expression is only valid for sewage sludge which was not clear to me. Which would be the general word for the above mentioned applications?

Regards
Christoph
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Re: What do we know about odorous gases from composting toilets (or from composting in general)?

Christoph - That is the one million dollar question. I think we're lacking the language and I would therefore look forward to what others have to say on the subject.

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Re: What do we know about odorous gases from composting toilets (or from composting in general)?

On the term issue, the first term I saw for the toilets that this group calls the "UDDT" was Vietnamese Double Vault Composting Toilet. After that groups started calling the toilet's solids produced "compost". I explored the name of the toilet in my dissertation and decided to call the toilet : an "alkaline desiccation" toilet and particularly rejected the use of the word "compost toilet". I will have to check how I referred to the solids (I believe I was not consistent), however I believe first perhaps you should agree on a name of the toilet then you can just refer to it as that toilets "solids", i.e. UDDT solids. That is not very "sexy" (good for promotion) but it would be accurate, if the toilet name is agreed upon.
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Re: What do we know about odorous gases from composting toilets (or from composting in general)?

DrBates:
Yes UDDTs have their origin in Vietnam. I would guess the English term composting was a misnomer translated from the Vietnamese. Maybe we can dig up the original terminology.

I do like the term you suggest: UDDT solids.
--Arno

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Re: What do we know about odorous gases from composting toilets (or from composting in general)?

1959 is what I learned...from a Vietnamese doctor. That was a different soci0-cultural-political context....I am guessing that they (the gov't) (if they implemented the program) had more control over the people, and controlled their operation better.
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Re: What do we know about odorous gases from composting toilets (or from composting in general)?

KaiMikkel:

Ok..if you don't want to use EPA language because they dont have jurisdiction, you can look at some of the state Departments of Health....they do have jurisdiction in many States.....see what is in their codes. I will try to check Louisiana and Florida, where I am from

David
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Re: What do we know about odorous gases from composting toilets (or from composting in general)?

David - thanks for your input. I recently reviewed many US state's (and Canadian province') rules and most use the very archaic (and inaccurate) term "waste" while others rely on the misleading term "compost". I say misleading given that many toilets allowed under the respective rules cannot produce compost without a secondary treatment step, particularly if they are used full time (and not designed for such use). A small handful of states make use of one of the following terms: "discharge", "liquids" or "effluent" when referring to the 'non-solids' portion of the contents, but as might be expected only one that I was able to locate could be construed to be referring to urine (as in a urine diverting dry toilet). Moreover, I was unable to find any specific reference to UDDTs. But this is all sort of beside the point.

The goal of my request was to arrive at a brand new term, something that most of us could agree upon and that is descriptive but not too 'wonky'; in other words, something that most folks in our sector will find acceptable and, most importantly, something 'sexy' enough for widespread use out in the larger world. We need to be able to market this material AND most importantly differentiate it from other nutrient-rich materials already in the marketplace.

Kai Mikkel Førlie

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