University of Bath researchers say testing of their fake faecal sludge could help teach those in the developing world how to safely dispose of raw sewage. Jim Drury reports.
Raw sewage disposal in the developing world is a huge problem. Many don't have access to flushing toilets, using pit latrines instead. Drying beds which use natural sunlight and heat to kill parasites and pathogens can help. But it's not easy to tell when dried faeces is safe to move. University of Bath researchers developed this fake faecal sludge to help provide answers. SOUNDBITE (English) POSTGRADUATE RESEARCHER, UNIVERSITY OF BATH, NAOMI DEERING, SAYING: "We hope that by saying that we can replicate the drying process in a drying bed with fake faecal sludge. We can then take different moisture contents of this faecal sludge and we can take different temperature and relative humidity conditions and say that if this is the moisture content of your faecal sludge, so if it's entirely liquid, and you have this relative humidity, this temperature, then this is how long it's going to take in the drying beds before you can remove it and then you compost it and then you just use it as a soil conditioner in agriculture or you just bury it in a pit and it is safe." The team replicates the conditions of regions affected, using a sludge recipe including yeast, peanut oil, hemp fibre, and shredded tissue. It closely replicates the chemical and physical properties of real faecal sludge. SOUNDBITE (English) POSTGRADUATE RESEARCHER, UNIVERSITY OF BATH, NAOMI DEERING, SAYING: "750,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoea related diseases, which is huge. That's not to account for the number of children whose growth is stunted because of diarrhoea, that's not to account for how many school days children lose because they've been ill. We also know that for every one dollar invested in better sanitation you get a five dollar return in economic benefit." The team hopes the fake sludge will help them provide guidelines to communities to develop their own faecal sludge treatments.