Scientists research ways to advance sanitation

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UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Researchers are studying ways to advance sanitation.

Jeremy Guest and John Trimmer aim to increase access to sanitation around the world.

“Right now, globally, about 6 out of 10 people – their bodily waste isn’t safely managed,” Guest, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, said. “That means when they go to the bathroom, kids can come into contact with it, adults can come into contact with it, it makes people sick.”

That’s why the researchers are trying to determine ways to improve sanitation for various localities across the world.

“Right now, we look at human waste and everything we’re excreting as this burden that needs to be managed,” Guest said. “And even now, we pay a bill to sanitation for wastewater management. In reality, that waste has energetic content.”

Trimmer, the lead author of the study, said their research will lay the groundwork for future studies on how to improve sanitation.

“The organics might have a lot of potential impact on other ecosystem services, other areas of potential benefit,” Trimmer said.

As an example, Trimmer suggested organic material could be applied to soil as a carbon storage mechanism, rather than emitting carbon into the atmosphere. He also suggested organic material could help address issues like erosion.

“Essentially, we just thought about these different resources that we could recover from sanitation like nutrients, organic matter which contains a lot of energy, water and how those might be able to link with different types of ecosystem services like regulation of water quality or air quality or provisioning of food or provisioning of timber for building materials,” Trimmer said.

To read the full study, which was published in the journal Nature Sustainability, click here.

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