Everybody poops. It’s the natural cycle of digestion. We dine, we digest, and we defecate. But what happens to our poop after we flush? Does it sit there in the pipes and rot? The process is actually very complex. We have sanitation facilities to thank for that.
In cities of developed countries, it’s pretty normal for toilets to be hooked up to the sewage treatment facilities nearby. These facilities work to slurp up any essential nutrients from the wastewater and break down any harmful chemicals. When we remove things like nitrogen and phosphorus from the waste, we can help clean the water to return it to our rivers. Miniature versions of these facilities can also be found in suburban or rural areas in developed countries.
However, in developing countries (and even some rural areas in the United States) toilets may not be connected to sewage treatment facilities because of cost, social, or environmental reasons. That means that about 2.5 billion people worldwide don’t have access to proper sanitation facilities. We wanted to find out if we could build a low-cost treatment option using only materials found locally to help solve this problem.