Nature Climate Change: Groundbreaking Research on GHG Emissions Offset of SOIL’s Sanitation Solution
Around the globe, 4.5 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation with 1 billion of those living in densely populated urban settlements. Many urban residents rely on pit latrines where human waste is not safely managed and carries the potential to contaminate water sources and critically endanger public health. To address the urgent need for safely managed sanitation in the communities we serve, SOIL’s water-wise sanitation solution in Haiti is designed to remove human waste from dense urban neighborhoods to mitigate the spread of waterborne disease, prevent negative environmental impacts from untreated waste, and transform the waste into earth-restoring compost.
The sanitation sector is responsible for a significant amount of global methane emissions, but SOIL has shown that container-based services emit less methane, and compost offers potential for carbon sequestration. Because of the scale of the global urban sanitation crisis and SOIL’s commitment to supporting replication, we have long conducted research to evaluate the climate impact of SOIL’s solution at scale – and we have big news.
New Findings on Climate Change Mitigation in Sanitation
Now, an exciting new study on SOIL’s sanitation solution, published in Nature Climate Change, reveals further groundbreaking climate benefits of our container-based sanitation service and puts Haiti at the forefront of research at the intersection of sanitation and climate change. Over the past 4 years, SOIL’s team, working with academic partners, worked to better understand and quantify the climate impact of SOIL’s full-cycle sanitation system relative to traditional sanitation options such as pit latrines and septic tanks. The new research, led by Dr. Rebecca Ryals (UC Merced) and Gavin McNicol (Stanford University) represents an exciting breakthrough for the sanitation sector as a whole and opens up the possibility for the sector to pursue climate offset revenue.
The study found that methane emissions from SOIL’s system of container-based sanitation and composting waste treatment were more than 1 or 2 orders of magnitude smaller than traditional sanitation technologies and that SOIL’s sanitation system results in the mitigation of 126 kg per capita per year in CO2 equivalents (that would be nearly 800 kg per household per year in CO2 mitigation potential)!
“Tackling the public health impact of these untreated faecal matter fluxes is a sustainable development priority,” says the research team, as they contributed over 870,000 sanitation-related deaths globally in 2016. “The provision of safely managed sanitation may offer a vital sustainable development synergy via the mitigation of GHG emissions.”
Further, the researchers estimated that if replicated at a global scale in densely populated urban areas, “the implementation of human waste composting for 1 billion people… could mitigate 13 to 44 percent of methane (one of the leading gas contributors to climate warming) emissions from the sanitation sector.”
SOIL Study in the Media
Human Waste Treatment Helps Solve Climate Change Puzzle, New Study Shows “Providing safe, sustainable sanitation can improve public health and strengthen local economies. Fewer people getting sick means fewer days lost from work and an increase in productivity. However, sanitation innovations such as off-site composting can also provide new revenue sources for sanitation providers. The compost can be sold to recover some of the cost of service provision. With this study, we’re showing a large amount of methane can be mitigated,” – Gavin McNicol, postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University and article author.
What to do about greenhouse gases from poo “On balance, that makes the climate impact of composting waste about 20-fold lower than that of open sewers and 27-fold lower than pit latrines, the researchers calculated.”
Closing the “poop loop” proven to improve ecosystems. “The compost itself becomes a carbon sink. We showed that spreading compost on grasslands helps the plants take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and increases water retention, and it’s an amazing resource to restore depleted soils.” – Dr. Rebecca Ryals, agroecologist and article co-author.
We want to share our profound gratitude with the research team that has worked with us over the years to conduct this important study for SOIL and the movement for ecological sanitation more broadly. These new findings present exciting new opportunities for the role that the global sanitation sector can play in climate change mitigation while supporting critical inclusion for under-resourced urban communities. You can check out the full article in Nature Climate Change by clicking the button below.
SOIL depends on individual donations from people like you to fund our lifesaving, earth-restoring sanitation services in Haiti. Please consider supporting SOIL today.
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