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  • Writer's pictureJere Folgert

Garden Fertilizer and Garden Soil, made from Human Waste

Updated: Jan 16

Imagine this: instead of sending your "business" on a one-way trip to the sewer, you transform it into a magic potion for your garden. Yes, we're talking about human waste, but not in the messy way you might think. We're talking about a process called "humanure" or "ecological sanitation," where your precious poo gets a makeover into a valuable fertilizer and soil conditioner.


But before you picture your backyard sprouting miniature thrones, hold on! We're not talking about burying raw sewage in your petunias. Humanure requires a little TLC, like composting in special toilets or sealed containers that let friendly microbes break down the waste and kill any nasty pathogens. Think of it as a high-tech spa for your, er, leftovers.

The result? A nutrient-rich compost teeming with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, the holy trinity of happy plants. It improves soil structure, attracts helpful earthworms, and even helps retain moisture, all thanks to the magic of decomposition. Plus, you're recycling what would otherwise pollute waterways and contribute to greenhouse gases – talk about win-win!


Of course, using humanure isn't just about saving the planet (although that's pretty awesome). It's about closing the loop, creating a sustainable system where waste becomes resource. It's a reminder that everything in nature, even the seemingly gross stuff, has a place in the cycle of life.


But before you go full-on "humanure hero," research the regulations and best practices in your area. Not all places are ready for this revolutionary approach, and safety is paramount. But with proper setup and education, humanure can be a powerful tool for sustainable gardening, a testament to the fact that even our most personal contributions can nourish the earth. So, go forth and spread the word (not the actual waste, please!), and maybe one day, your garden will be blooming thanks to the power of humanure. Just remember, with great compost comes great responsibility (and maybe a hand sanitizer dispenser near the rose bushes).



A Story about Human Waste and Fertilizer

"A young boy named Tommy was very curious about the world around him. One day, he asked his father what the different names for human waste were. His father was surprised by the question, but he was happy to answer it. He told Tommy that there were many different names for human waste, including poop, poo, crap, doo-doo, and number two. He also told Tommy that some people used more formal names, such as feces or excrement.


Tommy was fascinated by all of the different names for human waste. He asked his father why there were so many different names. His father explained that different cultures and languages have different ways of talking about things and that human waste is no exception. He also told Tommy that in some cultures, human waste and animal waste is used for growing food, depending on the situation. Tommy was grossed out and thought his dad was joking.


Tommy was a curious boy. At school, he was watching a documentary about how food is grown. In the documentary, he learned that human waste is used to make fertilizer.


Tommy was shocked. He couldn't believe that people would use something that came out of their bodies to help grow food. He realized his father was not joking. He asked his parents about it, and they explained that human waste is a valuable resource. It contains nutrients that can help plants grow strong and healthy.


Tommy was still a little grossed out, but he started to see the value in human waste. He realized that it's important to recycle and reuse resources, and that human waste is a perfect example of that. He also realized that it's important to be respectful of other people's cultures and traditions. In some cultures, human waste is seen as a valuable resource, and it's used to help grow food.


Tommy decided that he wanted to learn more about human waste and how it's used to make fertilizer. He did some research online and in the library, and he even visited a wastewater treatment plant. He learned a lot about the process of turning human waste into fertilizer, and he was amazed by how much science and technology goes into it.


Although Tommy is a strong advocate for using human waste to make fertilizer, during his quest for knowledge, he also learned there are a few drawbacks to using human waste as fertilizer. One is that it can contain harmful pathogens, such as E. coli and Salmonella. These pathogens can cause food poisoning if they are ingested. To reduce the risk of contamination, human waste must be treated to kill any pathogens before it is used as fertilizer. Another drawback is that human waste can contain heavy metals, such as lead and mercury. These metals can accumulate in plants and animals that consume them, and can pose a health risk to humans who eat these plants or animals. To reduce the risk of contamination, human waste must be tested for heavy metals before it is used as fertilizer. Finally, human waste can have a negative impact on the environment. If it is not properly treated, it can pollute waterways and soil. To reduce the environmental impact, human waste must be treated and disposed of properly.


Tommy learned that using human waste could be a sustainable way to grow food. And he also believes that it's important to educate people about human waste and its many uses."




What is Fertilizer Made from Human Waste?

Shit, Crap, Poop. Human waste, including sewage from our municipal sewage treatment facilities is turned into fertilizer through a process called anaerobic digestion. This process uses bacteria to break down the organic matter in sewage, producing methane gas and a solid called biosolids. The methane gas can be used to generate electricity, and the biosolids can be used as fertilizer. To turn sewage into fertilizer, it is first treated at a wastewater treatment plant. This process removes most of the harmful bacteria and other contaminants from the sewage. The treated sewage is then pumped into an anaerobic digester, which is a large tank that is kept at a temperature of around 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The anaerobic digester contains bacteria that break down the organic matter in the sewage. This process produces methane gas and biosolids.


Using sewage to make fertilizer can help to reduce the amount of waste that is sent to landfills. It can also help to reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers, which can pollute the environment. However, there are some concerns about the use of biosolids as fertilizer. Some people worry that they may contain harmful bacteria or heavy metals. It is important to make sure that biosolids are properly treated before they are used as fertilizer.


Here are the steps in turning sewage into fertilizer:

  1. Sewage is collected from homes and businesses.

  2. It is transported to a wastewater treatment plant.

  3. The sewage is treated to remove harmful bacteria and other contaminants.

  4. The treated sewage is pumped into an anaerobic digester.

  5. The anaerobic digester contains bacteria that break down the organic matter in the sewage.

  6. This process produces methane gas and biosolids.

  7. The methane gas can be used to generate electricity.

  8. The biosolids can be used as fertilizer.


Advantages of Fertilizer Made from Human Waste

There are a number of advantages to using fertilizer made from human waste.

  • It is a sustainable resource. Human waste is a renewable resource that can be used to fertilize crops. This helps to reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers, which can be harmful to the environment.

  • It is a cost-effective fertilizer. Human waste is a relatively inexpensive source of nutrients. This makes it a viable option for farmers who are looking for a cost-effective way to fertilize their crops.

  • It is a nutrient-rich fertilizer. Human waste is a good source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are essential nutrients for plant growth.

  • It helps to improve soil health. The nutrients in human waste can help to improve soil structure and fertility. This can lead to better crop yields and a healthier environment.

  • It helps to reduce water pollution. When human waste is treated and used as fertilizer, it helps to reduce the amount of wastewater that is sent to treatment plants. This can help to protect water quality and reduce the risk of waterborne diseases.


However, it is important to note that there are also some potential risks associated with using fertilizer made from human waste. These risks include:

  • The risk of disease transmission. If human waste is not properly treated, it can contain harmful pathogens that can cause disease. This is a particular risk for farmers who are not familiar with the proper treatment methods.

  • The risk of environmental contamination. If human waste is not properly disposed of, it can contaminate soil and water. This can have a negative impact on human health and the environment.


It is important to weigh the risks and benefits of using fertilizer made from human waste before making a decision about whether or not to use it. If you do decide to use it, it is important to make sure that it is properly treated and disposed of to minimize the risks.


Disadvantages of Fertilizer Made from Human Waste

Here are some of the disadvantages of fertilizer made from human waste:

  • The risk of disease transmission. If human waste is not properly treated, it can contain harmful pathogens that can cause disease. This is a particular risk for farmers who are not familiar with the proper treatment methods.

  • The risk of environmental contamination. If human waste is not properly disposed of, it can contaminate soil and water. This can have a negative impact on human health and the environment.

  • The social stigma. Some people may find it objectionable to use fertilizer made from human waste. This could be due to religious or cultural beliefs, or simply a personal preference.

  • The cost of treatment. It can be expensive to treat human waste so that it is safe to use as fertilizer. This cost could be passed on to farmers, making it more expensive for them to produce food.

  • The availability of treatment facilities. Not all communities have access to treatment facilities that can properly treat human waste. This could limit the use of fertilizer made from human waste in some areas.


It is important to weigh the risks and benefits of using fertilizer made from human waste before making a decision about whether or not to use it. If you do decide to use it, it is important to make sure that it is properly treated and disposed of to minimize the risks.


What Happens to Plants that Take Up Heavy Metals?

Plants that take up heavy metals can be affected in a number of ways. The heavy metals can interfere with the plant's ability to take up nutrients, and they can also damage the plant's cells. In some cases, the heavy metals can even be toxic to the plant.


The effects of heavy metals on plants can vary depending on the type of metal, the amount of metal that is taken up, and the plant species. Some metals, such as lead and cadmium, are particularly toxic to plants. These metals can interfere with the plant's ability to produce chlorophyll, which is essential for photosynthesis. This can lead to stunted growth, chlorosis (yellowing of the leaves), and even death.


Other metals, such as zinc and copper, are essential for plant growth in small amounts. However, if these metals are taken up in too high of amounts, they can also be toxic to plants. These metals can interfere with the plant's ability to absorb other nutrients, and they can also damage the plant's cells.


The effects of heavy metals on plants can be reduced by a number of factors. One factor is the pH of the soil. Heavy metals are more likely to be taken up by plants in acidic soils. Another factor is the type of soil. Heavy metals are more likely to be taken up by plants in sandy soils than in clay soils.


Plants can also be protected from the effects of heavy metals by using chelating agents. Chelating agents are chemicals that bind to heavy metals and make them less available for uptake by plants.


If you are concerned about the effects of heavy metals on plants, you should test the soil in your garden before planting. You can also choose plants that are known to be tolerant of heavy metals.

Do Heavy Metals from Fertilizers Remain in Plants?

Whether or not heavy metals from fertilizers stay in plants depends on a number of factors, including the type of metal, the amount of metal, the type of fertilizer, and the plant species. Some metals, such as lead and cadmium, are more likely to stay in plants than others. These metals are not essential for plant growth, and they can accumulate in the plant's tissues over time. This can lead to toxicity in animals and humans who consume the plants.


The amount of metal that is applied is also important. The higher the amount of metal that is applied, the more likely it is that the metal will stay in the plant. This is because the plant's ability to take up and transport metals is limited.


The type of fertilizer can also affect whether or not the metal stays in the plant. Some fertilizers, such as ammonium sulfate, can release metals from the soil. This can increase the amount of metal that is available for uptake by plants.


Finally, the plant species can also affect whether or not the metal stays in the plant. Some plant species are more tolerant of heavy metals than others. These plants are able to take up and transport metals without accumulating them in their tissues. If you are concerned about the effects of heavy metals on plants, you should test the soil in your garden before planting. You can also choose plants that are known to be tolerant of heavy metals.


What Happens to the Human Body, if Heavy Metals are Consumed?

When heavy metals are consumed, they can enter the bloodstream and be distributed throughout the body. They can then accumulate in organs and tissues, where they can cause damage. The severity of the damage will depend on the type of metal, the amount of metal that is consumed, and the length of time that the person has been exposed to the metal.

Some of the effects of heavy metal poisoning can include:

  • Neurological problems, such as memory loss, confusion, and seizures

  • Kidney damage

  • Liver damage

  • Reproductive problems

  • Cancer


In severe cases, heavy metal poisoning can be fatal.


If you think you or someone you know may have been exposed to heavy metals, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. There are a number of tests that can be done to determine if there is heavy metal toxicity, and there are a number of treatments that can be used to remove the metals from the body.


Here are some of the ways to prevent heavy metal poisoning:

  • Avoid eating or drinking anything that may be contaminated with heavy metals.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling anything that may be contaminated with heavy metals.

  • Wear gloves and other protective gear when working with materials that may contain heavy metals.

  • If you are concerned about the levels of heavy metals in your home or workplace, have them tested by a qualified professional.


If you are exposed to heavy metals, it is important to take steps to remove them from your body. This may include chelation therapy, which is a process that uses chelating agents to bind to heavy metals and remove them from the body.

Garden Soils and Compost Made from Human Waste

Human waste is a valuable resource that can be used to make garden soils and compost. It is a rich source of nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It also contains beneficial bacteria that can help to improve soil health. However, human waste must be treated before it can be used safely in gardens. The treatment process kills harmful pathogens that can cause disease. There are a number of different ways to treat human waste, including:

  • Composting: Composting is a natural process that breaks down organic matter, including human waste. The composting process kills harmful pathogens and produces a nutrient-rich compost that can be used in gardens.

  • Anaerobic digestion: Anaerobic digestion is a process that breaks down organic matter in the absence of oxygen. This process produces biogas, which can be used as a fuel, and digestate, which can be used as a fertilizer.

  • Heat treatment: Heat treatment is a process that kills harmful pathogens by exposing them to high temperatures. This process can be used to treat human waste that is not suitable for composting or anaerobic digestion.


Once human waste has been treated, it can be used to make garden soils and compost. Garden soils made from human waste are rich in nutrients and beneficial bacteria. They can help to improve soil health and promote plant growth. Compost made from human waste is also a valuable resource. It is a rich source of nutrients that can be used to fertilize plants. It can also be used to improve soil structure and drainage.

Human waste is a valuable resource that can be used to make garden soils and compost. It is important to treat human waste before it can be used safely in gardens. The treatment process kills harmful pathogens that can cause disease.

Advantages of Garden Soils and Compost Made from Human Waste

Some of the advantages of garden soil or compost made from human waste:

  • It is a sustainable resource. Human waste is a renewable resource that can be used to make garden soil and compost. This helps to reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers, which can be harmful to the environment.

  • It is a cost-effective resource. Human waste is a relatively inexpensive source of nutrients. This makes it a viable option for gardeners who are looking for a cost-effective way to improve their soil.

  • It is a nutrient-rich resource. Human waste is a good source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are essential nutrients for plant growth.

  • It helps to improve soil health. The nutrients in human waste can help to improve soil structure and fertility. This can lead to better plant growth and a healthier environment.

  • It helps to reduce water pollution. When human waste is treated and used to make garden soil or compost, it helps to reduce the amount of wastewater that is sent to treatment plants. This can help to protect water quality and reduce the risk of waterborne diseases.


However, it is important to note that there are also some potential risks associated with using garden soil or compost made from human waste. These risks include:

  • The risk of disease transmission. If human waste is not properly treated, it can contain harmful pathogens that can cause disease. This is a particular risk for gardeners who are not familiar with the proper treatment methods.

  • The risk of environmental contamination. If human waste is not properly disposed of, it can contaminate soil and water. This can have a negative impact on human health and the environment.


It is important to weigh the risks and benefits of using garden soil or compost made from human waste before making a decision about whether or not to use it. If you do decide to use it, it is important to make sure that it is properly treated and disposed of to minimize the risks.


Disadvantages of Garden Soils and Compost Made from Human Waste

Some of the disadvantages of garden soil or compost made from human waste:

  • The risk of disease transmission. If human waste is not properly treated, it can contain harmful pathogens that can cause disease. This is a particular risk for gardeners who are not familiar with the proper treatment methods.

  • The risk of environmental contamination. If human waste is not properly disposed of, it can contaminate soil and water. This can have a negative impact on human health and the environment.

  • The social stigma. Some people may find it objectionable to use garden soil or compost made from human waste. This could be due to religious or cultural beliefs, or simply a personal preference.

  • The cost of treatment. It can be expensive to treat human waste so that it is safe to use as garden soil or compost. This cost could be passed on to gardeners, making it more expensive for them to grow their own food.

  • The availability of treatment facilities. Not all communities have access to treatment facilities that can properly treat human waste. This could limit the use of garden soil or compost made from human waste in some areas.


It is important to weigh the risks and benefits of using garden soil or compost made from human waste before making a decision about whether or not to use it. If you do decide to use it, it is important to make sure that it is properly treated and disposed of to minimize the risks.

Here are some additional disadvantages:

  • The potential for allergic reactions. Some people may be allergic to the proteins found in human waste. If you have any concerns about allergies, it is important to talk to your doctor before using garden soil or compost made from human waste.

  • The potential for contamination with heavy metals. If human waste is not properly treated, it can contain heavy metals such as lead and mercury. These metals can accumulate in plants and animals that consume them, and can pose a health risk to humans who eat these plants or animals.

  • The potential for contamination with other harmful substances. Human waste can also contain other harmful substances, such as viruses and bacteria. These substances can pose a health risk to humans who come into contact with them.


It is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with using garden soil or compost made from human waste. If you do decide to use it, it is important to take steps to minimize the risks.

How do Commercial Farmers use Fertilizer Made from Human Waste?

Farmers use fertilizers made from human waste in a variety of ways. Some farmers use it as a direct application to the soil, while others use it as a compost or in a liquid form. The method used will depend on the type of fertilizer, the crop being grown, and the climate.


Direct application of human waste fertilizer is the simplest method for commercial farmers. The fertilizer is spread on the soil and then tilled in. This method is often used for crops that are grown in rows, such as corn and soybeans.


Composting human waste fertilizer is a more complex method, but it can be beneficial for the soil. The fertilizer is mixed with other materials, such as straw or leaves, and then allowed to decompose. This process can take several months, but it helps to break down the nutrients in the fertilizer and make them more available to the plants.


Liquid human waste fertilizer is a newer method that is becoming more popular. The fertilizer is mixed with water and then sprayed on the plants. This method is often used for crops that are grown in greenhouses or in containers.


The use of human waste fertilizer can have a number of benefits. It can help to improve crop yields, reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers, and improve soil health. However, there are also some potential risks associated with the use of human waste fertilizer. It is important to make sure that the fertilizer is properly treated and that it is not applied to crops that are used for human consumption.


Here are some of the benefits of using human waste fertilizer:

  • It can help to improve crop yields. Human waste fertilizer is a rich source of nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These nutrients are essential for plant growth, and they can help to increase crop yields.

  • It can reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers. Synthetic fertilizers can be expensive, and they can also pollute the environment. Human waste fertilizer is a more sustainable alternative to synthetic fertilizers.

  • It can improve soil health. Human waste fertilizer can help to improve soil structure and fertility. It can also help to suppress plant diseases and pests.


However, there are also some potential risks associated with the use of human waste fertilizer:

  • It can contain harmful pathogens. Human waste can contain harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites. These pathogens can contaminate crops and make people sick.

  • It can be a vector for disease. Human waste can be a vector for diseases, such as cholera, typhoid, and diarrhea. These diseases can be spread to people who come into contact with the fertilizer.

  • It can pollute the environment. Human waste can pollute surface water and groundwater. It can also contaminate soil and crops.


It is important to make sure that human waste fertilizer is properly treated before it is used. The fertilizer should be treated to kill any harmful pathogens. It should also be treated to remove any contaminants.


How Does Soil or Fertilizer Made from Human Waste, Help Plants?

Soil made from human waste can grow plants in a number of ways.


Nitrogen

Human waste is a good source of nitrogen, which is an essential nutrient for plant growth. Nitrogen helps plants to produce chlorophyll, which is necessary for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy.


Phosphorus

Human waste is also a good source of phosphorus, which is another essential nutrient for plant growth. Phosphorus helps plants to produce roots and seeds. It also helps plants to absorb water and nutrients from the soil.


Potassium

Human waste is also a good source of potassium, which is an essential nutrient for plant growth. Potassium helps plants to regulate their growth and development. It also helps plants to resist diseases and pests.


Organic matter

Human waste also contains organic matter, which is a type of plant material that has decomposed. Organic matter helps to improve soil structure and drainage. It also helps to provide plants with nutrients and water.


Beneficial bacteria

Human waste also contains beneficial bacteria, which are microorganisms that help to break down organic matter and release nutrients into the soil. These bacteria can also help to protect plants from diseases and pests.


Other nutrients

Human waste also contains other nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. These nutrients are essential for plant growth and development.


Diseases

It is important to note that human waste can also contain harmful pathogens, which are microorganisms that can cause disease. These pathogens can be harmful to humans and animals. It is important to treat human waste before using it to grow plants.


Environmental impact

It is also important to consider the environmental impact of using human waste to grow plants. Human waste can contaminate soil and water if it is not properly treated. It is important to use human waste in a way that does not harm the environment.


Conclusion

Soil made from human waste can grow plants in a number of ways. It is important to treat human waste before using it to grow plants. It is also important to consider the environmental impact of using human waste to grow plants.


Do Large-Scale Commercial Farmers use Fertilizer Made from Human Waste?

Yes, some large commercial farmers use fertilizer made from human waste. This type of fertilizer is known as biosolids, and it is made from treated sewage sludge. Biosolids are a valuable source of nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. They can also help to improve soil structure and fertility.


However, there are some potential risks associated with the use of biosolids. Biosolids can contain harmful pathogens, such as E. coli and Salmonella. These pathogens can contaminate crops and make people sick. It is important to make sure that biosolids are properly treated before they are used. The treatment process should kill any harmful pathogens and remove any contaminants.


There are a number of ways to use biosolids as fertilizer. One way is to apply them directly to the soil. Another way is to compost them with other organic materials. Biosolids can also be used to make liquid fertilizers.


The use of biosolids as fertilizer is controversial. Some people believe that it is a safe and effective way to use a valuable resource. Others believe that it is a risky practice that could pose a health hazard.


The decision of whether or not to use biosolids as fertilizer is a complex one. It is important to weigh the potential benefits and risks before making a decision.


Where in the United States do Commercial Farmers use Fertilizer Made from Human Waste?

Human waste fertilizers are used in the United States in a variety of places, including:

  • Cropland: Biosolids are used as a fertilizer on cropland, such as corn and soybeans.

  • Pastureland: Biosolids are used as a fertilizer on pastureland, such as for grazing cattle.

  • Forests: Biosolids are used as a fertilizer on forests, such as for timber production.

  • Golf courses: Biosolids are used as a fertilizer on golf courses, to keep the grass green and healthy.

  • Public parks: Biosolids are used as a fertilizer on public parks, to keep the grass green and healthy.

  • Residential lawns: Biosolids are used as a fertilizer on residential lawns, to keep the grass green and healthy.


The use of human waste fertilizers is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has set standards for the treatment of biosolids to ensure that they are safe for use.


The use of human waste fertilizers has both benefits and risks. The benefits of using biosolids as fertilizer include:

  • They are a valuable source of nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

  • They can help to improve soil structure and fertility.

  • They can reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers.

  • They can be used to reclaim land that has been contaminated with waste.


The risks of using biosolids as fertilizer include:

  • They can contain harmful pathogens, such as E. coli and Salmonella.

  • They can contain heavy metals, such as lead and mercury.

  • They can contain other contaminants, such as pesticides and herbicides.


The decision of whether or not to use biosolids as fertilizer is a complex one. It is important to weigh the potential benefits and risks before making a decision.


There is no one definitive map that shows who uses fertilizer made from human waste. However, there are a number of maps that show the distribution of biosolids production and use in the United States.


One such map is the Biosolids Production and Use 2017 Report, which was published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This report shows the amount of biosolids produced and used in each state in the United States.

Another map is the Biosolids Land Application 2017 Report, which was also published by the EPA. This report shows the amount of biosolids land applied in each state in the United States.


These maps can be used to get a general idea of where human waste fertilizers are used in the United States. However, it is important to note that these maps do not show the specific locations where biosolids are used.


If you are interested in learning more about the use of human waste fertilizers, you can contact the EPA or your local wastewater treatment plant.



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GroEat Farm is a small, sustainable family farm located in the beautiful Hyalite Foothills, in the shadows of the Gallatin Mountain Range. The hardneck varieties that they grow on their farm flourish, due to the combination of the very cold winters, heavy snowpack, moist spring, temperate summers, and the nutrient-rich and dynamic alluvial soils, washed down from the Gallatin Mountain Range.


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