By Delaney Hildreth–
An Ohio State University professor presented their findings about human waste Feb. 26.
The University of Louisville’s department of anthropology hosted professor Nicholas Kawa in Shumaker.
Kawa opened the lecture, “The Other Side of Our Food System: The Use of Human Waste as an Agricultural Resource” with the question, “Is human waste really just waste, or might it be something more?”
He then gave an overview on the history of human waste and how it had once been considered a resource. Farmers would use it as fertilizer and people who collected it could receive valuable items like precious metals, for trade.
But with the rise of new technologies like flush toilets, waste was directed into sewers and waterways.
Instead of being a resource, human waste is now a pollutant.
Now, human waste is being reclaimed. Biosolids, or waste that has been treated and sanitized, can be found as fertilizer and even a source of power as of today. Several cities like Tacoma, Wash., and Milwaukee, Wis., have major biosolid composting programs that keep a lot of waste from polluting the environment.
To spread the good news of biosolids, Kawa and his research team set up a make shift garden on OSU’s campus and created a publication about the topic. As its advantages become more well-known, more areas are investing in reusing human waste.
Justin Mog, assistant to the provost for Sustainabilty Initiative, said Louisville’s Metropolitan Sewer District has created a fertilizer from biosolids called Louisville Green. Waste that would be taking up space in landfills around the region is now being re-purposed and given back to the earth.
On campus, U of L has been working to be more sustainable through several operations like the campus common gardens and the bikeshare program. Biosolids have yet to be implemented.
“Biosolids aside, U of L does a tremendous amount of composting of other organics (food waste, coffee grounds, yard wastes, animal bedding, etc.) both on and off campus,” Mog said.
“To my knowledge there haven’t been any conversations about trying to use it on campus,” he said. “If students were to demand an end to chemical fertilizers on campus, I think the administration would listen.”
Photo by Delaney Hildreth//The Louisville Cardinal