A Letter to Surfers Against Sewage

by James Lea, 7 September 2005

This letter was sent in response to an online campaign run by Surfers Against Sewage who "campaign for clean, safe recreational waters, free from sewage effluents, toxic chemicals and nuclear waste" and was submitted via http://www.sas.org.uk/contactsas.asp.

Dear Surfers Against Sewage

In the solutions section of your website you focus on full sewage treatment as the only means of preventing discharge of human waste to sea. I see this is treating the symptom of the problem rather than the cause.

I believe the core problem is our antiquated Victorian sewage system, in which human waste is mixed and flushed out with drinking quality water (itself a huge waste of water) to undergo costly and energy intensive treatment at centralised plants - with varying degrees of success.

In the long term a far better solution would be humanure composting, in which individuals or local communities take responsibility for their crap - rather than flushing it down the drain - and turn it into fertile soil to use in the garden, allotments or agriculture.

I think Surfers Against Sewage should raise this, not as a short term solution, but to highlight the fact that alternatives do exist which need to be designed in at the point of 'waste' creation - namely the toilet.

Composting toilets are well established technology, and something we've thought about installing at home as part of our recent eco-renovation project. In Canada they've taken this a step further, and introduced municipal composting schemes [1] for which "organics are a valuable resource not garbage" [2]

Furthermore, if legislation compelled new-build homes to incorporate composting toilets, we could expect far less sewage to make its way to treatment plants. This in turn would yield massive financial savings for the water companies, as well as cleaner seas, rivers and beaches for the rest of us.

I'd be happy to discuss this with you further. In the meantime wishing you all the best with your campaigns

James, Brighton


[1] http://www.compost.org/

[2] Honourable Leona Dombrowsky Minister of the Environment, Spring Workshop and Annual General Meeting Association of Municipal Recycling Coordinators Hockley Valley Resort February 17, 2005 http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/news/speeches/021705.htm


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-- (c) James Lea, www.GreenLiving.co.uk, 2005 - 2007 --