General Question

Nimis's avatar

Should human waste be used as compost?

Asked by Nimis (13219points) October 27th, 2011

I know it sounds gross, but if you think about it
it would have all naturally returned to the Earth.
(If not for our estranged relationship to things that leave our own bodies.)

We use cow manure as fertilizer.
Why not human excrement?

In China, the placenta is prized for its medicinal properties.
Maybe menstrual blood also has some nutrients?
Stop gagging. I’m not proposing that we consume it.
But it probably wouldn’t be all that bad for compost.

We use so much energy cleaning sewage water. And I don’t even want to think about how much I’ve put into landfill since I hit puberty. Could we just use it for compost instead?

Is the main barrier that we get the heeb-jeebs just thinking about it?
If it were possible to do so, would you do it?
Why or why not?

I just googled a bit while composing this question and found that Alice Waters got trounced for supporting human waste as compost.

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34 Answers

marinelife's avatar

No, thanks. You are what you eat, after all.

wundayatta's avatar

There are composing toilets. This is pretty common. Many people already compost human waste. If you do it properly, there are no problems.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

The problem is any pathogens present would be bad news for other humans.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

I read somewhere that when human waste is used as compost, especially when mixed with other mammal or avian waste, there is a highly accelerated risk of bacteria evolving new capabilities or sharing genetics. Farmers then pick up these bacteria and spread new diseases into the human population.

Ayesha's avatar

It has its advantages and disadvantages. Once used, its up to the user if the good points out shadow the bad ones or vice versa.
It reduces Pathogens and weed seeds. Has no odour.
But the reasons for it being under-utilized were that some had no idea that it could be beneficial to crops, others were concerned about problems regarding health and high transportation costs. (At least thats what I’ve been told).

Nullo's avatar

AFAIK herbivorous waste is better suited to the task.

CWOTUS's avatar

In the quantities that human excrement is produced by municipal collections of people (villages, towns and cities), there’s just too much to be able to use in this way, regardless of efficacy. It’s more likely to be used as fuel, in the form of processed sewage sludge, and even then it’s not common.

Here’s an article from a normally reliable source (The Straight Dope) that you may find interesting.

faye's avatar

It would compost effeiciently only from vegans. Cow manure works because cows are vegetarians! Even dairy products are kept from our garden composts.

janbb's avatar

I stayed on a commune once where it was.

Coloma's avatar

Gah! No! Maybe if you are a strict vegan, but recycled waste from carnivores is nasty.

I can’t find the source, but, if you Google “Japanese scientist that makes meat from sewage” you’re in for a real “treat.” Yep, this guy makes meat products from human feces that have, obviously been pasteurized. No thanks, I’ll eat acorns and chicken feed first. :-(

Coloma's avatar

I can share my “special recipe” fertilizer though.
Mix one wheelbarrow full of recycled goose poo pool water with a dash of Miracle grow, and, VIOLA the best fertilizer in town.

My plants are so big it would take a machete to chop ‘em down. lol

Coloma's avatar

Another huge downfall would be maggot infestation, considering shit is the main course for fly reproduction next to carrion. Double gag!

lillycoyote's avatar

It can make for a pretty good fertilizer. Human waste was used traditionally in Asia, particularly Japan, and other parts of the world. I’s sometimes referred to as night soil but night soil is basically unprocessed human waste so it can be pretty risky because it can spread diseases and parasites.

Composted humane waste, something someone dubbed humanure is safer and also is a very good fertilizer.

It really makes sense to use it; however, that being said, you won’t find me composting my own or anyone else’s feces for use in my garden any time soon.

Coloma's avatar

@lillycoyote “night soil? Wow! I just learened something new and amusing! haha

lillycoyote's avatar

@Coloma Yeah, I learned about night soil when I was writing a paper on the Japanese in college. I was kind of surprised because I had always thought of the Japanese as being so fastidious and formal in terms of their culture and art, etc. but, I guess, as you know, farmers and people who keep livestock don’t really have the luxury of being fastidious and avoiding all things icky. :- ) What I learned from the wiki article that I didn’t know was that apparently the “waste” from the wealthy was considered more valuable because they supposedly had a better diet. Coloma’s Ducky Doo Fertilizer, for you maybe? Could be a big business. :-)

Garebo's avatar

They tried it already and called it Millorganite, and once people got wind of it they stopped buying it.
In a perfect world when people pooped natural stuff that would be cool, but I certainly don’t want all the filth people consume today, in my tomatoes, or I say potato-no f’n way 80% of this societies diet is crap! Hogs eat better. Do I want more estrogen, I get enough of it already from the food I eat. If there was Testosterone in that Pooh, I would be all for it.

boxer3's avatar

There is a guy in the town I went to highschool in who supposedly uses his fesces as fertilizer to grow his veggies, fact or fiction you decide.

personally using my waste as compost really really just grosses me out….

lillycoyote's avatar

@Garebo Thank for the info on Milorganic. I didn’t realize there was a human waste fertilizer on already on the market. The stuff is still being made and some people seem to like it.. I think the reviews there are hilarious: ”Genuine Human Manure from Milwaukee!;” one lone voice crying out ”It’s poo.” LOL.

prasad's avatar

Well, it’s called biogas.
Not only it can be used as fuel but the remains can be used as compost.
May be you can see this and this.

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cazzie's avatar

Our human waste in the city I live in here in Europe IS recycled. The technology is simple and it works. To get squeamish about this… I find that childish.

I’ll see if I can find a link, but it might be in Norwegian…

There you have it.

(speaking of childish, the first I heard about this was watching a kids science TV show locally produced here in town.)

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t get the squeamishness about human waste. It’s just waste, like other waste. It may be made up of different stuff due to different diets, but it’s still just waste. It’s not like you have to take a bath in a latrine or something.

The microbe danger is something to be concerned about, but that is, apparently, easily dealt with. After that, we’re talking about keeping waste out of our sewers, minimizing the demand on waste treatment plants, keeping sewage out of storm water runoff and finding ways to fertilize our plants. Heck, if it really bothers you, use it to fertilize trees and bushes instead of vegetables.

Coloma's avatar


Yeah, well..does a bear shit in the woods? I’ll let the bears, bobcats and cougars fertilize the trees.

Scat! ;-)

wundayatta's avatar

@Coloma Boooooooooo! Isn’t there a rule about bad puns somewhere around here?

My neighborhood, however, has a paucity of bears, bobcats and cougars. We do have lots of dogs, but the owners are supposed to pick up after them. Having said that, I have to wonder, far too often, why there is dogdoo on my back lawn? Can’t we train them to fertilize the rhododendrons?

Coloma's avatar


Haha..I hear ya, I have 20 acres of raw woodland across the road from me, and my ONLY end of the road neighbor lets his Lab come through my gate and crap on my lawn! Slab ‘o lab at least once a week.

I like to ambush them with a rousing ” GOOD MORNING!” watch the old geezer and his geezer lab look startled and then he sheepishly waves and calls his dog under his breath.

Busted! lol

cazzie's avatar

Please, folks… it’s common sense. Go to my link and do a google translate if you need to, but educate yourselves on the issue.

prasad's avatar

@cazzie Here is translated (to English) page. Thanks.
Edit: oops. Sorry. Translation is undone. Please press the translate button on top.

cazzie's avatar

sorry, I couldn’t work out how to get a translated page when one of my settings is for Norwegian.

cazzie's avatar

@Coloma Can’ your goose chase off the dog? I would like to see a YouTube video of that.

Coloma's avatar


Actually, I have been meaning to make a couple of videos of him, doing his various “tricks.” haha, maybe soon. But..I keep him away from dogs, not a good combo and while he;d probably get in a few punches and tweaks, very few dogs can handle being around waterfowl without going into chase and kill mode.

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lillycoyote's avatar

Here is @cazzie‘s link, translated into English, I hope, unless it disappears too.

Response moderated (Spam)

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