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My guide to making your fortune

Justin Rowlatt | 08:37 UK time, Sunday, 29 November 2009

gold2_getty226.jpgMaking a fortune is simple. All you need to do is find something worthless and give it value.

Read on, because I will tell you how to just that. I will show you how to take a substance we all throw away and convert it into something useful.

The discovery came at a high price. It involved making one of the most humiliating television reports ever broadcast by the BBC.

BE WARNED: this report features nudity, public urination, a surprising swimming pool sequence, a discussion of one of our most taboo topics and a shocking shower cap.

It also features footage of a minor celebrity in his Speedos - can anyone spot him?

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So what has saving water got to do with making a fortune?

The answer lies in that back garden in York, featured in the video. What I saw there led me in search of the man who inspired the system.

And - three years later - I managed to track him down in his cabin in the backwoods of Pennsylvania.

The man I met in his home in the woods earlier this year has developed a revolutionary new system for dealing with one of the most fundamental processes on earth. By doing so he has become an inspirational leader, not just for John in York, but for tens of thousands of people around the world.

He has - how shall I put this? - started his own movement.

He's called Joe Jenkins and is the author of The Humanure Handbook, the world's first guide to composting your own poo.

That's right, the book that Britain's "king of compost", John Cossham, says "changed his life".

Obviously, I am alive to the comic aspects of these two men's obsession but the problems caused by human sewage are no joke. Sewage pollutes water and spreads disease. Millions of people around the world die every year from illnesses spread by sewage.

It is expensive too. Joe claims that we each produce over a kilo of the stuff every day - a total of half a tonne a year. That's 30 million tonnes of human sewage every single year in Britain. Disposing of all that waste costs hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

Which is where Joe's system comes in. Instead of regarding human excrement as a waste product Joe sees it as something that can be useful.

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Our sewage is full of nutrients: "faeces and urine," writes Joe in his book, "are examples of natural, beneficial, organic materials... they are only waste when we discard them."

What Joe's composting system does is capture those valuable nutrients and return them to the soil.

Joe collects his and his family's waste and converts it into a rich compost which he uses to fertilise his garden. Thereby, says Joe, "closing the human nutrient cycle".

I ate a venison chilli Joe prepared with "humanure" fertilised tomatoes from his garden. Delicious!

Of course the idea of composting human excrement is not new, people have been doing it for millennia. What Joe has done is brought a scientific approach to the process. He has shown that, when composted properly, all the pathogens in poo are destroyed.

He has also demonstrated that "humanure" composting can be done almost anywhere. There are composting toilets based on Joe's system everywhere from Manhattan apartments to yurts on the Mongolian steppes.

toilets_afp226.jpgAnd Joe's experiments with "humanure" can cut carbon emissions. It takes huge amounts of energy to fix the nitrogen used in most commercial fertilisers and they cause the release of huge amounts of nitrous oxide from the soil. And nitrous oxide has 296 times the global warming power of carbon dioxide.

Greenpeace estimates the effects of nitrous oxide and the emissions from the energy required to make fertiliser together account for almost half of all the direct emission from agriculture - that works out at almost 5% of total world greenhouse gas emissions!

Joe is convinced that large-scale "humanure" production could become a source of low-carbon fertility for the soil.

It could also reduce the 3.4% of the world emissions generated by waste processing.

This year, Joe has been exploring how his composting processes can be scaled up. He's had an intern from a local university working full time on the project. The ultimate aim is to make composting human waste into an industrial process.

His book and sales of his toilet system have earned Joe a very comfortable income.

The fortune will come if he can achieve his dream - spreading "humanure" across the world.

So who wants to take this technology on? Are you ready to install a composting toilet in your house?

(You will be pleased to know that, in keeping with the ethos of the Ethical Man project, this article is recycled from a previous post. Also, Francis Maude is now Shadow Minister of the Cabinet Office rather than Chairman of the Conservative Party, as he was in 2006 when the first video was filmed - but there is no reason to suppose that this has changed his approach to composting.)

Update 1545 30/11/09: Some eagle-eyed readers spotted a mistake in my copy (see comments below). This has now been corrected.
Update 1600 30/11/09: In the interests of clarity, the change referred to above was made yesterday.


  • Comment number 1.

    Joe claims that we each produce over a kilo of the stuff every day - a total of half a tonne a year. That's 30 million tonnes of human sewage every single day in Britain. Disposing of all that waste costs hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

    Your maths is shoddy.

    30 million tonnes a day would mean each individual is doing half a tonne of poo every day!

    What have you been eating?

  • Comment number 2.

    "So who wants to take this technology on? Are you ready to install a composting toilet in your house?"

    OK But first let the Government stop throwing away our money on subsidising Wind Farms [incredibly inefficient, need full time back up from regular power stations, cost per unit out of all proportion to amount that is sent to National Grid. so utter waste of Our monies!] and other so called 'Renewables' which are a sop to the Green Warming alarmists.

    Please explain why Carbon Emissions are so alarming. This planet has survived much higher levels of CO2 than we have now and as we only contribute 3% to the total, whatever we do will be swamped by Mother Nature's massive 97%. Ethically speaking of course!

  • Comment number 3.

    it's 30 million tonnes a year, not per day, sort your maths out

  • Comment number 4.

    (does simple multiplication) half a tonne x 60 million people = 30 million tonnes

    of course this varies based on whether or not I had vindaloo the night before

  • Comment number 5.

    Nitrous oxide (N2O) can be generated by organic fertilisers and legume fixing too, so care needs to be taken how this sort of thing is done, as it were.

  • Comment number 6.

    1. At 10:05am on 29 Nov 2009, FatherMacKenzie wrote:
    3. At 10:32am on 29 Nov 2009, Jon_Cornwall wrote:
    4. At 10:42am on 29 Nov 2009, sh1rts wrote:

    But... the maths is 'settled'. Cue lockdown to ensure watertight oversight. Or... making a quick change and not mentioning it. Happens aaaaaall the time. Unique. Hope there are page grabs.

    Meanwhile, I'd be interested in any H&S expert views on what might be the consequences of every home in the UK going for a non-sewage disposal treatment option.

    I just ask, 'cos when the floods caused a back-up that dumped the neighbourhood's on my back lawn I ended up with a bunch of guys from Welsh Water to 'deal' with it in near HazMat garb, and was told not to let the kids out for at least 48 hrs.

    This wouldn't be a quaint sidebar that really only applies in very few cases would it?

    The realities of the numbers of humans in the space we have often suggest certain things that might stray from the ideal.

  • Comment number 7.

    He obviously meant kilograms not tonnes.

  • Comment number 8.

    "30 million tonnes of human sewage every single year"

    used to say "every single day"

    and he didn't mean Kg, since that would be over 60 million Kg a day!
    (wow, 60 Million Kg per day is quite a pile - still 60,000 tonnes a day)

  • Comment number 9.

    I have a problem with all this composting business going on, take my next door neighbour, he has been composting for years now and a very good job he does too but..... his gardens groundlevel is now at least a foot higher than everyone elses, can everyone else see the problem here if we all go for leather composting?

  • Comment number 10.

    here's another thought for all you greenies out there, I don't have a bath but my shower is the most expensive electrical item to run in my home. So which is better (greener) water wastage (bath) or power usage (shower)?

  • Comment number 11.

    the biggest racket is carbon trading that will do nothing for climate change but make those who own the exchanges [rothschilds] the richest people in the world.

    a slice of everyones energy bills goes to the carbon exchange.

  • Comment number 12.

    Hi Globalclaptrap,

    as we are not dinosaurs perhaps the human race might find it a tad uncomfortable if the world's climate achieves the previous high levels of CO2.

    Or perhaps all the climate change deniers have another planet hidden behind the moon that they will all move to when they have made this one uninhabitable for humans?

    But rest assured there can be absolutely no way man can have altered CO2 levels, how can we?

    We have for the last 200 years (in the West) mined quarried and drilled for all of the carbon that has been taken from the atmosphere over the Earth's history 99.99999% of it without humans, burnt it and returned it to the atmosphere, no I can't see that having any impact whatsover.

    You got part of your name correct just need to think about the global part, how about changing "global" for "spouts"?

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi bakfliper,

    yes. Your neighbor will have dry land to stand on as the water level rises due to the Greenland ice melting.

    Got your snorkel?

  • Comment number 14.

    And so, #11, you have hit on an even bigger moneyspinner. Convince the politicians that something is critical, get it put into legislation that everybody has to do it, then charge a small slice on every single time somebody does do it.

    I'm off to patent the idea of having to pay 1p for a #1 and 2p for a #2 every time you use the toilet. Who needs to compost it - if 60m people visit the bathroom twice daily that means £1.2m per day for me in royalties.

  • Comment number 15.

    it's obvious you have not been to Mexico?

  • Comment number 16.

    How did FatherMacKenzie manage to mis-read the quote... that he condemns for inaccurate maths? The original text claims half a tonne per year, not per day, so the original is correct.

  • Comment number 17.

    This may seem like a good idea but people also need to consider possible heavy metal accumulations when using human faeces as manure.

  • Comment number 18.

    #2 globalclaptrap is about right. Pretty much everything this person writes is claptrap. Evidence that a little bit of knowledge is worse than no knowledge at all.
    Yes CO2 in the atmosphere has been higher. Also in prehistory we have has mass extinctions and global catastrophies. Doesn't mean we want them now. Furthermore CO2 levels haven't changed in a matter of a few decades previously its taken thousands of years - given the world time to adapt.
    Just hope for their sake globalclaptrap isn't still around to justify their views to their grandchildren in 50 year's time.

  • Comment number 19.

    Did Justin Rowlatt bicycle to Pennsylvania?

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    This is directed towards Richard among others.

    Are you aware that when the goverment report on climate change was "created" many of the contributing scientists views were edited out and subsequently the report was biased towards the views of those who are on the side and payroll of the MONEY MEN.

    We should be responsible as humans for the world in which we live, I totally agree. We should also be aware of political spin.

    What happens when you are spun around ? You get dizzy.. right.

  • Comment number 22.

    Where I live, water shortages are an everyday event, despite desalination plants furiously battling to provide the shortfall. Our rainy season starts in October. On an average year, October + November should give about 85-90 mm of rain. This year, we have had 40.6 mm. Last year: 51.3 mm and the year before that 33.0 mm whereas 2006 gave us a whacking 146.8 mm and nothing at all for the rest of the so-called "rainy season". The problem is not the fact that we are rationed (mains water 2 h/day over 3 days/week) but that the water tables are dropping like a lead brick because there are too many boreholes and, in the coastal areas, sea water is infiltrating into them. Unfortunately, irrigating spuds with brackish water does not provide ready-salted chips.

    We have installed low-volume flushes and have renounced on baths, only minimal showers. We have changed our clothes/dish washers with low water-consumption types. We have even a hot water recirculating pump, so that we don't waste water waiting for the solar-heated hot water to come through. And we turn the water off during soaping (well, most of the time, anyway!) teeth-brushing etc. In the garden, we have replaced grass with drought-resistant shrubs and have cut down 4/6 prunus fruit trees.

    However, the important point is that every house has its water meter. The owners pay for the water they use with a "negative discount"; the more water they use, the higher the cost per cubic metre, and heavy consumers pay a swingeing amount. It is quite an incentive not to waste water when you know that turning the tap on is going to increase your water bill out of proportion.

    This does not resolve the basic problem; over the last 12 years, we have had 10 years of drought, 1 year of average rain and one year of abundant rain. The IPCC have promised us increasing desertification and it is already happening.

  • Comment number 23.

    Good article but a very misleading title.


  • Comment number 24.

    To Dragon,

    Sarcasm, look it up in the dictionary, then re-read my comments.

    Judging by some of the comments above, the world is populated, sorry OVERPOPULATED, by very naive people.

    Everyone who contributes to a pension scheme supports the money men you despise, if you own any of the games consoles, you support the money men. When we have the general election individuals will vote for the party that they believe offers them the opportunity for the highest standard of living NOW, not the best chance of a future for their grandchildren, so the politician who wants power cannot be honest, because as a democracy, we don't want the truth. As to paraphrase "A few good men" "WE CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH".

    Until the reality of our situation in the West dawns (and in my opinion that will be when it is too late) that we cannot have cheap consumer goods made in countries with cheap labour AND reduce man's impact on the environment then we will continue to consume until we make our planet inhospitable to man. We in the West have exported our carbon emissions and then point at China and tell them "they" need to reduce THEIR CO2 emissions. They are OUR CO2 emissions.

  • Comment number 25.

    With so many insipid comparisons to Gambia you can't help wondering why the reporter hasn't built himself a raft and started paddling already. Clearly the lifestyle he aspires too is that of someone subject to crushing poverty in a 3rd world country.

    More banal will be the marketing that comes with 'humanure'. Apparently if you give it a clever name then it becomes new and exciting! How long before marketing deicide to offer celebrity humanure. As let's be fair most of them talk enough of it. To which we could add political humanure. Royal humanure and naturally fair trade Gambian humanure. Made by people who use less water than us. Which should help appease our guilt somewhat.

    Maybe we could even have reporter in search of gimmick humanure. A BBC speciality I believe. Perhaps next children in need we'll have celebrities defecate in buckets.

  • Comment number 26.

    There is nothing new about this.... the human waste to fertiliser story is a long one.

    Joking aside the current plans of using and use of human waste from sewage plants is dangerous and polluting. Processed waste from sewage plants has not had the heavy metals removed and other dangerous chemicals and the farmers are already using this product on the fields. With ever larger fields of dried ploughed soil, without hedge wind break and dust capture, those chemicals and heavy metal particulates not only make their way into the food chain but airborne into the home. Since it is a known fact dust from the Sahara makes its way all across the Atlantic Ocean a dry summer in the UK in a heat wave is likely to see fine particulates of heavy metals blowing into the towns and cities. Processed human waste from sewage plants should be banned from being used in farming across the whole of Europe. And food produced in other countries with this disgusting industrial process should be stopped at the European border.

    It should be seriously considered how much pollution is caused by pharmaceuticals in the composting process also. Since anti biotics have been found in the vegetable food chain coming into it via manure from cattle pharmaceuticals it is a growing problem which ever way you want to look at it. Recycled water is already a case where potable water contains hormones and drug residues in the large cities.

  • Comment number 27.

    I've got an idea.
    Why don't we carry on as we are, and let the local Water Company take care of our poo. They can digest it anerobically, to remove the nasties, then they can give it to the farmers who take it for free and put it on their land. Yep - we get "humanure" already!
    Of course, one benefit of Anerobic Digestion is that the Methane that is produced can be used as fuel for CHP (Combined Heat and Power) plants, which put power into the National Grid. Single installations on a site can produce several MegaWatts of power - one thing that this "humanure" nonsense cannot provide!

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    Let's get the math right! There were some 61.4m people in the UK in 2008. Of those, about 10% were under 10 years old. And I doubt many of those were dumping a kilo a day down the pan. About 18% were over 64, and I'd guess they've run out of steam a little too. So, if we assume the reporter is right about the 'kilo a day' for most, and we attribute about half that to the 10 and unders, and maybe 70% to the over 64's ... here's how it works. 11.05m (over 64) x 70% + 6.14m (under 10) x 50% + 44.21M (majority healthy over-eaters) x 100% = 20.08 million tonnes per annum. Slightly more in leap years ;)

  • Comment number 30.

    Justin always seems to be into self-abasement. This is what we all have to do to go green. Not just walk, but push oversized unstable loads on handcarts over cobblestone pavements. Not just use the bathroom, but use it on TV. Take the occassional dunking in truckloads of pig swill, etc.
    There is a mental state that can be described as geometry->physics->vehicles->maps. People in this mind set are carbon emitters: they like to go places, drive fast, race boats, etc. There is another mental state described as algebra->chemistry->food->drugs. These people putter around the house and garden, make dinner, brew beer, get high, and figure out ways to reuse waste. Every moonshiner in the world could go into the business of making biodiesel/propane/gasoline and get in less trouble than they do now. The chemistry is a bit more exotic, but not out of reach.
    People into exotic narratives can look up patent application "20090124839" at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO.GOV). It describes making jet fuel from biomass. Could you do this in your back yard? Could you do it with human waste? Further research exposes the truth.

  • Comment number 31.

    You should read a book called 'The Big Necessity' which has a lot of great stuff to say about the topic of human 'waste'. This is a big issue and one that we'd all be better off being more aware of.

  • Comment number 32.

    It's all very well to make your own compost but I was advised many years ago that if it was so useful why do we not do it already on a commercial basis through existing sewage works
    One concern is that our bodies secrete heavy metals and these are then excreted. This would lead to a build up of caesium,cadmium, strontium and others which would be again re cycled into the food chain either through animal or vegetable sources.
    I wish I knew the science better.

  • Comment number 33.

    What's new with a long drop toilet? My wife had one when she was being brought up in Austrailia, quite a few years ago. I won't say exactly when. You never reveal a woman's age.

  • Comment number 34.

    'Casita Verde' in Ibiza has been using these toilets since 1996.

    When I visited in 2001 they used pine sawdust to give the toilet a disinfectant scent to it. They changed the large box underneath the toilet every 6 months but then leave it to sit for a further six months before emptying it onto the plantations. They actually have two boxes and move the toilet across from one box to the other when it's full.

    I walked past a pile waiting to be spread, there was no smell at all.

  • Comment number 35.

    FIRST, I conserve by not flushing after every P! You do not need to add anything to your toilet bowl to conserve water, simply set the float mechanism lower. Third, turn off the water when you brush teeth or even when you lather to wash your hands. Where I live, we get charged for water usage and sewer. Sewer is figured that what you must use or consume, must go into the sewer.

    I also conserve water by using rented work uniforms. Not only does this save my family from water usage, it reduces work and saves on laundry detergent. We save at least $5 in detergent, 4 washloads of water, time in the dryer, and 3 hours of work to do it each week.

    We run the dishwasher only when full, and use recycled paper plates and cups, instead of piling up a sink full of plates and cups from a couple of meals each day. Next we plan to revise our roof drainage to store water as shown in the videos.

    If everyone utilizes the same techniques, water consumption could easily drop in half. If you have to pay for every liter (or gallon) of water you use, I am sure the consumption will soon become manditory.

  • Comment number 36.

    There was a time and a place for composting, but I believe it is now time to move on. Where I live, across the pond from you folks, we are moving toward converting all of our waste streams; garbage, sewage, manures, industrial wastes, hospital wastes, plastics, even road kill, into usable products. Using current technology, all of the above can be made into anything that petroleum can be made into, including green petroleum.

    We will be setting up smaller local processing centers to turn all of the waste into things we can use locally, like bio diesel fuel, nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers, propane and synthetic heating gases, electricity, even heat and water will be captured and sold. Much of the water will be recaptured, purified as needed, and resold over and over.

    In time we will have sewer lines throughout the rural farming areas, collecting all sewage, manures and food scraps and pumping it into these processing centers. Some day we might even grind garbage and plastics and send them thru the sewer pipes, using continuously recycled water to flush it all along.

    As for water shortages near the sea, they are now developing platforms that will float on the ocean and support wind, wave, tidal, current and solar power generation units, all on one platform, and use the power to cheaply desalinate sea water and pump it ashore.

  • Comment number 37.

    Personally I would rather pay a bit more tax, and have my city compost my waste, rather than compost it myself, or have it be dumped into the ocean.

    Heavy metals are not created inside the human digestive tract. If they are in our waste, it is because they are already in our food supply. Dumping our waste into rivers and oceans, does not make those heavy metals go away, it simply puts them into a different part of the food chain.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    This is nothing new.
    Human waste IS already used as a fertiliser on an industrial scale in the UK. The water companies who take away your sewage already separate the sludge from the water, dry it, process it in such a way to destroy the pathogens (there are various different ways this is done, one way is adding lime), and the dried product is then sold to farmers to put on the fields. So this is already happening; you just don't hear about it much because people don't like the idea of it, but when done properly it's perfectly safe. NB. raw sewage is hazardous, it does need to be thoroughly composted or treated first.

    In many other parts of the world, where they do not have our modern sewerage networks and treatment plants, it is also already common for composting human waste on a small scale in individual households. This would be hard to do with our modern bathrooms though, as it only works with an outside loo! you just need to dig a deep pit, put ash in every time you defecate, and then once the pit is full leave it for a year (so you need a second pit to use in the meantime) then it will be composted enough to use as fertiliser in the garden! And no water is needed (except for cleaning and washing) as no flush is required.

  • Comment number 40.

    To put costs in a broader perspective, it in fact cost £1,595 million to operate England & Wales' serweage and sewage treatment services in 2008-09 plus £2,375 million in capital spending.

    Another perspective on generation - we generate 37 dry grammes of material per day. The 'wet' numbers can be variable at the best of times.

  • Comment number 41.

    16. At 1:42pm on 29 Nov 2009, David Hicks wrote:
    How did FatherMacKenzie manage to mis-read the quote... that he condemns for inaccurate maths? The original text claims half a tonne per year, not per day, so the original is correct.

    Ah, how I wish I could work newsniffer.

    I think what may have happened is that the original WAS wrong, that was kindly pointed out, it got corrected, but that chain of events was felt unnecessary to explain by the author/editor.

    Can make those pointing out errors look silly on occasion to those not aware.

    Which is why, when I do so with the most trusted news organisation in the world, I tend now to keep a page grab.

    Never know when it might be useful, especially when settling science in some quarters.

    Like I say, happens aaaaall the time.

  • Comment number 42.

    Most of the heavy metals in sludge from large sewage plants come not from sewage waste but from industrial waste that is also discharged into the sewers.

    Each industrial plant that does this negotiates with the water treatment company the maximum concentrations of various toxins they are allowed to put in their discharge. The water treatment company then takes occasional samples of the the discharge, measures the toxins in them, scales-up to estimate the total amount of each agreed toxin discharged in every quarter, say, and bills the discharger accordingly.

    Thus the water treatment companies have a financial interest in having their sewage contaminated in this way, so long as the costs of disposing of the sewage sludge (where most of the toxins end up) aren't prohibitive.

  • Comment number 43.

    The baes thing to do with human waste is of course have several state owned anaerobic digesters which are heated using the warm water in cooling towers.

    the gas could then be usen for power or even locomotion.

    the waste has to be composted afterwards and could accelerate the composting rate of carbon high compost materials such as all the tree and hedge trimmings the council take in the winter.

    the only problem whith such a large scale development is the heavy metals issue as there are strict regulations on the amount of sewage sludge per hectare in the UK, not including nitrogen vulnerable zones etc (see the DEFRA website) the metals can be removen but not completely so a new sewage system may be required.

    even after that there is still the issue of plastics nappies condoms and all of the other wierd and wonderful things the great british public manages to flush down the toilet every year!

  • Comment number 44.

    6. At 11:24am on 29 Nov 2009, you wrote:
    1. At 10:05am on 29 Nov 2009, FatherMacKenzie wrote:
    3. At 10:32am on 29 Nov 2009, Jon_Cornwall wrote:
    4. At 10:42am on 29 Nov 2009, sh1rts wrote:

    41. At 11:30am on 30 Nov 2009, you wrote:
    16. At 1:42pm on 29 Nov 2009, David Hicks

    I was troubled by how this came about and the BBC has kindly replied to my enquiry:

    We would like to assure that this passage, from Justin Rowlatt's Ethical
    Man blog, was not altered after publication:

    "It is expensive too. Joe claims that we each produce over a kilo of the
    stuff every day - a total of half a tonne a year. That's 30 million
    tonnes of human sewage every single year in Britain. Disposing of all
    that waste costs hundreds of millions of pounds a year."

    It is a mystery to us why it was misquoted in the first comment.


  • Comment number 45.

    Further to my last post, I have now heard again from the BBC, and as it is not fully referred to in the note above, feel the explanation is worth sharing:

    We owe you an apology.

    The post as originally published did indeed contain a mistake, which was
    corrected on Sunday morning.

    We have now published an update to the blog, which makes this clear.

    The reason we confidently informed you that no amendments had been made
    to the blog was that we believed only one person on duty on Sunday had
    the privileges required to make changes to Justin Rowlatt's blog - and
    that person made no changes the copy. We have since discovered that
    there was another person on duty with the ability to change the blog,
    and this person made the change referred to in the blog comments.

    Apologies again for getting it wrong in our first reply to your

    To which I have replied:

    But I think you may owe the guy who spotted it more of one, and thanks for catching it. Which kind makes the general point I was making about a policy of flagging changes even more pertinent.

    Order, for now, one trusts, is restored. But it does show the value of checking, and persistence. On top of not being above a cranked eyebrow when things do not seem to be adding up.

  • Comment number 46.

    There's a simpler way. Using a "gray water" system, one can recycle all household water to the toilets. The toilets then drain to a series of three tanks. Nature does its bacterial magic. By the time the water exits the third tank about a month later, it's clean enough to head back to the river. This does make more sense for large office or apartment buildings, but there's no messing about with straw, sawdust or "gagging" compost piles. This meets the highest LEED standard for green architecture, conserves tremendous amounts of water, and would be readily acceptable to millions with very little change in their habits. (No nappies or condoms please!)

  • Comment number 47.

    Speaking of making green from green (well, not the first colour that springs to mind with human waste, but you know what I mean), before it vanishes may I commend this programme in almost its entirety:

    You have to get past the Tesco commercial first, but there are some very good bits, too.

    Though it is possible the end interview with Miliband. E might get Tom Heap sent to the naughty step as it was clear that our hero prefers his interviews casual and kitchen-y. Plus the numbers got a bit unsettled when his clashed with those of the boss. Bless.

    I very much liked the '50 episodes of Yes Minister' soundbite... and this is about the very boxtickocracy that in theory is securing our kids' futures quite soon as the world and its dog, and pony, descends upon Copenhagen.

    On trusts the result will have been worth it. One way is for the media to hold the wafflers to account.

  • Comment number 48.

    Humans are creative creatures. Solutions usually come from individuals and not universities or think tanks, good ideas die in those places. The governments, or as we have all learned, the representatives of banking and big business, have decided that the people are the problem. It is us and our lifestyles that cause all the problems. Regardless of the facts that business has promoted and often governments have required the current appliances, what are now determined to be negative. Yet, the larger issues of enviornmental degradation and pollution caused by power production and transport are offered the unique idea of buying the right to pollute. Government doesn't look for solutions it looks for revenue streams. I am not sure as to the distribution of incompetence and corruption in government but I do know we all end up paying for it. During the next election the parties will put forth candidates tied to the current economic crisis and although they did nothing to prevent it when warned will promise to do better next time. I would perfer leaving my humanure at my repsentatives yard or office as a sign of gratitude.

  • Comment number 49.

    A good start to cleaning up waste before it arrives at the sewage plant is to ban the use of heavy chemicals ( you have seen the television commercials with their tricky graphics that promise everything will be pure and whiter than...well...)and go back to the old ways using home made vinegar for cleaning the toilet. Easy to make.
    Perhaps centrifuges can be put to good use with sewage to remove ALL the heavy metals. Is that how it is done already?

  • Comment number 50.

    I do not think this do it yourself humanure, could ever really make a profit.

    The costs of collecting would be too great for farmers. Do we want the price of food to rise?

    For cities to divert their sewer systems to composting systems, they would first have to ban all toxic products, to prevent them from getting in our food, or invent a super-filter. Personally I don't need any toxic substances (cable actuated disc-brakes work good now), so I recommend the ban, to clean up our water-ways.

    I do think that everyone would see more profit, if we built enough electric rail transport, to phase out private motor vehicles. A 100% rail and bicycle,cargo-bike,pedal-cab transportation network, would employ more people, create more clean air, and reduce hospital visits, more than any other option. Win-Win-Win.

    (100% is a slight exaggeration, as farmers will at least need electric tractors and combines, if not also electric trucks, but these would likely be internally limited to a speed of about 20 km/hr)

    If safety boards applied the same standards to private motor vehicles, as they do all other products, we could have had that system years ago.

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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