Argument on Wikipedia: honey bucket or bucket toilet? And the winner is: bucket toilet

  • muench
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Argument on Wikipedia: honey bucket or bucket toilet? And the winner is: bucket toilet

Have you ever heard the term "honey bucket" before (for a dry toilet that uses a bucket)? Probably people living in the U.S. and Canada have; but people in other countries?
The first time I heard about it was when I came across its page on Wikipedia:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_bucket

I realised it's actually a bucket toilet (or a bucket latrine if you prefer). I made some small changes to improve the article and then I suggested that the page should be re-named from honey bucket to bucket toilet.

This has caused a huge discussion on the talk page of the article, see here:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Honey_bucket

It seems that the two sides of people arguing are: North American Wikipedia editors who are not actually dealing with sanitation issues and who want it to stay as "honey bucket". Joe and I are arguing to change it and our main argument is that in the international sanitation literature the term honey bucket is not used. Also it is a strange euphemism, as excreta has nothing to do with honey! (except, perhaps, that it can also have a value).

Running a survey here on the forum will not really help with the argument because Wikipedia has some policy that the opinion of experts weighs no higher than the opinion of lay people (and strangely, all 5000 SuSanA members are suddenly classified as "experts" in this sense *). They also have a policy of:

"Use commonly recognizable names - Wikipedia does not necessarily use the subject's "official" name as an article title; it generally prefers to use the name that is most frequently used to refer to the subject in English-language reliable sources."

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Article_...y_recognizable_names

But if you have an opinion on this term, please feel free to put it here and to also copy it to the talk page of the article:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Honey_bucket

You can do so even without having a Wikipedia login. Just click on "edit source" and finish your statement with the four tildes: ~~~~ as this provides a "date stamp" for what you've written (but it will be an anonymous contribution without showing your name).

You all know how much I like Wikipedia. But it is discussions like these that can be rather frustrating and disheartening when all that Joe and I want to do is to improve the standard of sanitation-related articles on Wikipedia. :-( Well, I guess, on a positive note, it seems to have some people interested in the sanitation topic...

Regards,
Elisabeth

* One of the other Wikipedia editors wrote about this:

It has lasted peacefully here for 10-1/2 years under that name without any brouhaha from "specialists in the field." Any survey of members of a specific group would fall under WP:OR and would be inherently biased. AND, the origin of a word or phrase is immaterial, and smacks of a unique bias ′in its own right.


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  • muench
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Re: Honey bucket?? Shouldn't it be called bucket toilet or bucket latrine? An argument on Wikipedia.

Oh and I also meant to encourage forum members from South Africa to help me improve this article about bucket toilets by telling me which are the best references to cite. So far the article only says this about South Africa:

South Africa

The "bucket system" was used by low-income communities in South Africa. The South African government aims to replace this bucket system with sanitary sewers and other sanitation systems, but as of 2015, this has not yet been completed in the entire country.[citation needed]


I have heard about how apartheid was related to the bucket system and forced a sub-standard sanitation on a huge number of Black people in poor townships (theoretically with the right kind of bucket, wood chips, composting, perhaps urine diversion etc. a "dry bucket toilet" could also work but this is not how it was done back then, and what is meant with the term "bucket toilet"). Without me having to do a lengthy literature search, could someone please tell me the most pertinent pieces of information to quote? Or, even better, just add it directly to the article yourself. :-) (or get one of your students or interns to do it)

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  • Carol McCreary
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Re: Honey bucket?? Shouldn't it be called bucket toilet or bucket latrine? An argument on Wikipedia.

No, Wikipedia. The term 'honey bucket' doesn't cut it. That's a bucket toilet.

As I see it, 'honey bucket' as a colorful, almost endearing but hopelessly out-of-date term. It's derogative and disparaging. A 'honey bucket' would have been used by a country or small town person without the wherewithal to construct a proper outhouse.

To really test this, keep asking a lot of people. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term "honey bucket"? I'd bet for a significant proportion of Americans it would be a porta potty. The Honey Bucket corporation is one of the major providers in a very powerful sector of the economy. www.honeybucket.com/

When I google "honey bucket," this nice 5 gallon bucket for beekeepers also pops up. Wikipedia page does not. www.agrisupply.com/product.aspx?p=90519&...zBtcgCFYpgfgodqOsIvQ

A honey bucket in emergencies? Not if there's a risk of flooding or a pipe breaking seismic event.

In emergencies you need a toilet with two buckets: One for PEE and one for POO.
Urine separation and safe containment of feces is the system chosen by dozens of emergency agencies.





Kudos to the bright folks in the New Zealand Permaculture Guild who figured it out and helped the people of Christchurch as they waited three years for sewer service to be restored. Find them at Relieve Portland, Oregon toilet activists PHLUSH met them online in Sept 2011, the month they posted first instructions on line. The City of Portland Department of Emergency Management adopted the system in October 2011 and now is working with many other jurisdictions to document various options for safe, longer term waterless sanitation following the predicted Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.

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Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.
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  • joeturner
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Re: Honey bucket?? Shouldn't it be called bucket toilet or bucket latrine? An argument on Wikipedia.

I'm fairly confident we are going to win this particular spat because nobody has attempted to even engage with the argument or put forward evidence that "honey bucket" is used outside of North America.

But this is certainly something that is very off-putting to people wanting to add "real" sanitation information to wikipedia. There are some who just want to play games and make ridiculous arguments based on nothing at all - some really do just want to argue that black is blue. For some it seems that they just want to witness a fight likea crowd of children watching boys fight in a school playground.

To me the simple fact is that people around the world are going to read about "bucket toilets" in the media, in non-technical information (from the WHO etc), in technical information from governments and so on. It is therefore not unreasonable to have a wikipedia page with information about it to give them some quality information to read. Unless they are in the tiny minority of people in North America who have heard of this term, there is almost zero chance that they'll be looking for "honey bucket".

As a general rule, Elisabeth and I try not to get into discussions with people who have no interest in sanitation topics on wikipedia, because they're frequently a waste of effort. The idea of the project is not for the general population but for people who are looking for information about sanitation, and I think we're doing a pretty good job - though obviously still more which can be done on a range of topics we've been working on. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation

If there is a lesson here, I think it is probably that in future we might want to avoid trying to change pages with North American slang terms. Whilst "honey bucket" is the same as "bucket toilet" in every respect, it would have been a lot easier just to start a "bucket toilet" page.
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  • Carol McCreary
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Re: Honey bucket?? Shouldn't it be called bucket toilet or bucket latrine? An argument on Wikipedia.

Well, Joe, I'm unsure of where and how "honey bucket" is used in North America.

This morning I surveyed my yoga class - 6 adults aged in their thirties through sixes living in on the Olympic Penninsula halfway between Seattle and Victoria BC.

Not one person said a honey bucket was "bucket toilet" For four of them was a a ports-potty, a plastic sanitation unit with a tank. For one it was an outhouse. Another had the image of a yoked double buckets of night soil carried by a Chinese peasant.

"A colonial English word perhaps? Maybe used in Farmers of Forty Centuries?" I asked. Everyone thought it possible. While at first glance I don't see anything in King's work to that effect, I was cheered that others had read the book. (And they were impressed I was asking on behalf of Wikipedia. I assured them I was merely supporting super smart sanitation experts with a bit of reflection on word use and editing.)

Dictionaries agree 'honey bucket' is clearly not an appropriate title for a Wikipedia article on bucket toilets.

www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/american/honey-bucket Collins dictionary says it's slang
dictionary.reference.com/browse/honey-bucket Dictionary.com says it "Facetious Older Use"
www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/english/honey-bucket Oxford North American says "North American informal"
Your Dictionary www.yourdictionary.com/honey-bucket Your Dictionary.com says"slang" Origin:"figurative, figuratively use: jocular euphemism"

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  • joeturner
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Re: Honey bucket?? Shouldn't it be called bucket toilet or bucket latrine? An argument on Wikipedia.

Right, I'm not even sure it is very widespread in N America.

What is certainly true is that:

  • Alaska historically had a faecal collection system in buckets which were called "honey buckets". I don't know how many communities still have this, but from what I hear they are being fazed out.
  • There is a brand of temporary chemical toilets in North America called honeybucket at honeybucket.com - this seems to be the equivalent of a brand we have called portaloo in the UK.
  • US military slang for latrines was/is sometimes "honey bucket".

It is possible that this is just a relic term which has mostly gone out of use in North America, just like the term "privy" used to be widespread in the UK but is rarely used by anyone under 80!
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  • muench
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Re: Honey bucket?? Shouldn't it be called bucket toilet or bucket latrine? An argument on Wikipedia.

Thanks Carol and Joe! Meanwhile a lot lot of new people have also contributed on the Wikipedia talk page which is great (scrol to the bottom):
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Honey_bucket

Nice to hear about your Yoga class survey, Carol. :-) It's interesting that almost all of them (= people from the U.S.) did connect honey bucket to some type of toilet (but not in particular to a bucket toilet). I had to double check what you meant with "porta potty" (another funny term!). It's a portable chemical toilet. Here in Germany they are often called Dixi Toilets because that company seems to dominate the market. Seems weird that a company who sells or rents out portable chemical toilets would call them honey buckets...? Are they re-using the material afterwards (I doubt it as the blue liquid in the toilet would make that impossible).

I also did a mini-survey and checked with my husband who's South African and the word "honey bucket" meant nothing to him. Not a dry toilet, not a chemical toilet, not any toilet. Just perhaps a bucket to store honey in.

I find this discussion about terms interesting and relevant and I think it shows to us a shortcoming in our sector: the fact that different people/countries use different terms, that we use euphemisms instead of calling the things by their more exact name, ill-defined terms and so forth. That's one aspect of unprofessionalism that our sector is grappling with (also because anyone thinks they can have an opinion about this, maybe because anyone is a toilet user). That's why I think proper Wikipedia page titles are important, as are lists of abbreviations (like this one: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_abbreviations_used_in_sanitation ) or glossaries like the one in the Eawag-Sandec compendium: ecompendium.sswm.info/glossary

(their compendium doesn't even mention this odd term of "honey bucket")

There will be less confusion once we all start using more standardised, well-defined terms.

Kind regards,
Elisabeth

P.S. Carol, the photo that you had attached in your post above for some strange reason diseappeared again. Could you perhaps re-insert it? It was there before, so I don't know what happened for it to disappear. Must be a bug in the system.

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Re: Honey bucket?? Shouldn't it be called bucket toilet or bucket latrine? An argument on Wikipedia.

Within the framework of Wikipedia, every person can make an adjustment or adding some text. If you have a good argument it will be incorporated. I agree than honey bucket is a rather nonsense terminology.

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Re: Honey bucket?? Shouldn't it be called bucket toilet or bucket latrine? An argument on Wikipedia.

Yes, honey bucket, beyond doubt, is a strange term!

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  • muench
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Re: Argument on Wikipedia: honey bucket or bucket toilet? And the winner is: bucket toilet

I just wanted to "close the loop" on this one: after much discussion on the talk page of the article, it was finally agreed by the Wikipedia community that the page should be renamed to "bucket toilet" and you can see it here now:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bucket_toilet

If you would like to see the "inner workings" of Wikipedia and see the arguments that were exchanged for honey bucket versus bucket toilet then please see here on the talk page of the article:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Bucket_toilet

I must admit it was quite a battle. Some other Wikipedians seem to not like "experts" or academics editing Wikipedia pages and think that such people are inherently "biased" and lobbying pig-headedly for their own cause (and thus only "lay people" should edit). My approach to solve this would be to get even more sanitation experts involved on Wikipedia to show them that we can also write perfectly well, neutral and objective to add to this online encyclopedia!

I hope someone from the SuSanA community will still help me to improve the article further. Like I wrote in my post above on 8 October:

+++++++++++

Oh and I also meant to encourage forum members from South Africa to help me improve this article about bucket toilets by telling me which are the best references to cite. So far the article only says this about South Africa:

South Africa

The "bucket system" was used by low-income communities in South Africa. The South African government aims to replace this bucket system with sanitary sewers and other sanitation systems, but as of 2015, this has not yet been completed in the entire country.[citation needed]



I have heard about how apartheid was related to the bucket system and forced a sub-standard sanitation on a huge number of Black people in poor townships (theoretically with the right kind of bucket, wood chips, composting, perhaps urine diversion etc. a "dry bucket toilet" could also work but this is not how it was done back then, and what is meant with the term "bucket toilet"). Without me having to do a lengthy literature search, could someone please tell me the most pertinent pieces of information to quote? Or, even better, just add it directly to the article yourself. (or get one of your students or interns to do it)

+++++++

Furthermore, I am looking for interested people to help improve the Wikipedia article on portable toilets ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_toilet ). This article is in dire need of improvement as it currently equates portable toilet with chemical toilets which is simply not true! We have a lot of other mobile toilet examples by now (see e.g. here www.forum.susana.org/forum/categories/52...tions-public-toilets )

For more information see here on the talk page of portable toilet:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Portable_toil...portable_toilet_page

If you're willing to help please reply in this thread or start putting content on the talk page or on the article page itself.

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • SeBer
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Re: Argument on Wikipedia: honey bucket or bucket toilet? And the winner is: bucket toilet

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Hi Elisabeth,

a widely used reference on bucket toilets in SA is "Mjoli, NP (2012). Evaluation of Sanitation Upgrading Programmes – The Case of the Bucket Eradication Programme. WRC Report No. 2016/1/12. ISBN 978-1-4312-0326-0"

It gives an overview over what has happened across the country in order to substitute the bucket toilets which were installed during Apartheid with adequate sanitation. Here in South Africa the term bucket toilet or bucket system is directly linked to the Apartheid regime, so the term is very much stigmatized. As you can imagine, this makes it also very hard to introduce cartridge based toilet systems. The moment people perceive it as a bucket the issue becomes super political.

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  • milli
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Re: Argument on Wikipedia: honey bucket or bucket toilet? And the winner is: bucket toilet

Dear Senta,

thanks a lot for the reference that you provided. I have built it into the Wikipedia article on bucket toilets as follows:

The South African government set up a bucket eradication programme in order to eradicate all pre-1994 sanitation buckets from the formal townships and replace them with sanitary sewers and other sanitation systems. According to the Department of Water Affairs & Forestry, in 2005 the bucket sanitation backlog in formal townships was estimated at 252,254 bucket toilets. In 2009, the majority of the pre-1994 buckets were eradicated. However, this change has not been completed throughout the country. In 2013 the use of bucket systems was still common in the Free State, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Northern Cape provinces.

A study in 2012 evaluated South Africa's bucket eradication programme and highlighted the following weaknesses: "One-size-fits-all" toilets were constructed that did not meet the special sanitation needs of vulnerable groups; health and hygiene education and user education had not been integrated; community participation barely took place; and operation and maintenance of water treatment works were neglected, as were water conservation and water demand management.


Note there is also a Wikipedia page on " Water supply and sanitation in South Africa " which talked about the bucket eradication program like this:

In February 2005 the government launched a programme to eradicate the use of bucket toilets. Bucket toilets consist of a bucket placed under a toilet seat; in formally established settlements the buckets are emptied on a daily basis by the municipality and the content is brought to a sewage treatment plant. However, buckets are also used in newly established informal settlements. There were 250,000 bucket toilets in formally established settlements as of 2005. There was a strong political will to carry out the program. As of March 2008, 91% of the bucket toilets were replaced by flush toilets or Ventilated Improved Pit Latrines where water was not readily available.

However, communities resisted the construction of latrines, forcing construction to a standstill and asked for flush toilets. There had been no community participation in the choice of technologies. The programme was very much focused on the provision of infrastructure, with little emphasis on sustainability and hygiene promotion, so that the health impact was limited. The deadline to complete the program was moved from 2007 to 2010.


As you're in South Africa, you might find it interesting to take a look at the article and see if it's OK (it might be in need of updating, if someone has the time...).

If there's anything that should be changed or if you come across new publications on the bucket system in South Africa that are worth citing, please let us know.

Best regards,
milli

Danijela Milosevic
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