Science, Tech & Environment

Human waste feeds British crops

This is a story about poop. For this British farmer, the price of chemical fertilizer has doubled in the last 18 months, a steeper hike than even gas prices, so he's started using human fertilizer which gets phosphates into the soil and is not too expensive. Like other countries, the U.K. has rules about what kinds of products can be grown this way and salad leaves and fruits are off limits. This recycling manager at a water treatment plant which distributes the human bio-solids says the biggest problem is odor which they try and minimize. The farmer gets complaints about that too, and he says the trick is mixing the bio-solids into the soil as quickly as possible. But the water treatment manager says their supply has been outstripped by demand. This farmer says urine is also gold because it's full of valuable nutrients and it's naturally more sterile than fecal matter. This agricultural development expert says the rising food prices have hit the developing world hardest and he says urine is a good alternative especially in developing African countries. There is a cultural problem and many people find this unpalatable. But the expert says the cultural problem is a barrier, but perhaps new economic imperatives are changing that.

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