Waste

Ducking into the men’s room in the midst of the Schipol polyglot after my ride over the pond, I came across something I had heard about, but had never seen.  The report said that putting a fly in the urinals improved men’s aim.  Sure enough, they had etched or somehow engraved a black insect shape into the white ceramic.  Despite the fact that it looked more like a trout fly than a real one, and despite the fact that I clearly knew it was a simple image, it was irresistible.  One’s aim is indeed truly drawn toward trying to hit the fly, even though one ‘knows’ it will do no good.

Of course it does do some good, because the fly is placed where it is on purpose, as this is the spot with the least ‘sprayback’, so aiming there reduces cleaning and public hazard.  So simple, and such a strong psychological effect.

We’ve been pooping and peeing for 350 million years, and we’ve been dealing with the result of waste accumulation due to crowding since Hammurabi wrote out the first law of sewage.  We’re still not doing every well.  As I walked away from the from the wall of gleaming porcelain mouths, my unit tsked, clanged, and whooshed a couple of gallons of water through, mixing a pint or so of liquid waste with perfectly good water, and then dumped the whole lot into a system that produces nothing but cost.

We do the same with solid waste, and back at home, we are about to spend a great deal of money for the privilege of mixing our waste immediately with tons of good water and running it gradually out through our dense Presumpscot clay ground to filter it.  The first builders of latrines and privies had to deal with the smell, which isn’t, of course, pleasant.  The invention of Sir Thomas Crapper’s toilet, on which modern toilets are based, had the wonderful advantage of allowing you to void waste inside your shelter without having to put up with the smell.

Today, the waste of good water is more a problem than the waste itself.  What we now have available to us is technology that could rapidly dry out the waste (thus eliminating the smell also) which would give is a net gain in good water, and incidentally, give us the basis for a dry composted material.  This may sound disgusting, but the composting toilets my father installed in 1972 still produce, over time, a dry and odorless dirt that can be added to a garden without penalty.

Why should we mix our bodily waste with clean water and then run it underground to settle out without using it again?  It is another of the ways of human beings that make no sense.  Pollution is just a resource in the wrong place at the wrong time.  If we could capture some of the resources we waste, everyone – even the poor Zimbabweans trying to vote today – would succeed.

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One Response to “Waste”

  1. George Jones Says:

    I wonder if you ever have time to read comments people post on these? Probably not. Anyway, your writing on waste struck a chord with me since I am going through septic system trouble at home. The upshot is that there might not be a leach field at all. The town of Waldoboro has no records, and a “map” left by the previous owner is completely inaccurate. Until the ground thaws and we can do some digging, Paul and I are left to speculate. The whole affair is troublesome because we live in a watershed area, and our neighbors nearby have been cited and forced to make costly repairs. To buy us some time, I had the holding tank pumped. That is when I was told it only holds 750 gallons, another ominous sign that things weren’t done right. Knowing that when that tank fills up, the effluent will begin running again, I have instituted drastic measures at home. No showers, we take those at the Y, laundry is being done next door at my mom’s and we endeavor to catch every bit of water that otherwise would go down the drain. You would not believe how many bucketfuls of water that is! Those we pour in various places on the property. While we wait for hot water to rise, we catch the cold water in watering cans. The houseplants never had it so good. That leaves the toilet, which gets flushed only when absolutely necessary, mostly twice a day. I don’t know how long we can go on like this, but this activity has shown me the appalling amount of water we waste. Who knows, a composting toilet might be next.

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