Sh*t or Get Off the Composter

A small wooden shed sits in the middle of a grassy field. A sign over the door says "outhouse."
Everything old is new again! (Photo by Billy Hathorn via Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-2.0.)

We all poop, every day (hopefully!). That’s a lot of poop to deal with, and more and more people are asking whether there’s something useful we can do with it, or, at the very least, if we can dispose of it in a more sensible way. At Wired UK, Phoebe Braithwaite talks with some of the folks trying to figure out how to teach the world saner ways to deal with poop — or as they’d prefer to call it, shit.

“Defecating in drinking water is a kind of insane thing that the Romans taught us,” Klehm says. George agrees: “I don’t think that the fundamental principle of mixing shit with drinking water and then paying a lot of money and using a lot of energy to remove the shit from drinking water is necessarily the best idea,” says George. “But it’s too late, it’s not going to be retrofitted.”

The UK is, George says, a faecalphobic culture: we don’t like talking or thinking about faeces and the flaws in our sewage system go broadly unacknowledged. “We have an aversion to coming into close contact with faeces, we want it to be flushed away and we want it to not smell and we want to not think about it,” she says. One of the measures of our failure to get to grips with it is in the language we use. None of our tools, she says, quite work: poop and poo are pretty childish; faeces and excrement are too medical; waste is wrong. The only appropriately direct term, thinks Rose George, is shit.

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