Ecological sanitation, also known as ecosan or eco-san, is a sanitation process that uses human excreta and household wastewater as resources to be recovered, treated (where necessary), and reused, instead of as waste. Unlike most conventional sanitation methods, ecological sanitation processes human waste (as well as sometimes animal waste, and organic kitchen waste) to recover nutrients (usually for the purpose of growing crops) that would otherwise be discarded.
Ecosan is based on the systematic implementation of reuse and recycling of nutrients and water as a hygienically safe, closed-loop and holistic alternative to conventional sanitation solutions. Ecosan systems enable the recovery of nutrients from human faeces and urine for the benefit of agriculture, thus helping to preserve soil fertility, assure food security for future generations, minimize water pollution and recover bioenergy. They ensure that water is used economically and is recycled in a safe way to the greatest possible extent for purposes such as irrigation or groundwater recharge.
Objectives of Ecosan
The main objectives of ecological sanitation are:
• To reduce the health risks related to sanitation, contaminated water and waste
• To prevent the pollution of surface and ground water
• To prevent the degradation of soil fertility
• To optimise the management of nutrients and water resources.
Advantages of Ecosan
Advantages of ecological sanitation systems are:
• Improvement of health by minimising the introduction of pathogens from human excreta into the water cycle
• Promotion of safe, hygienic recovery and use of nutrients, organics, trace elements, water and energy
• Preservation of soil fertility
• Contribution to the conservation of resources through lower water consumption, substitution of mineral fertiliser and minimisation of water pollution
• Improvement of agricultural productivity and food security
• Preference for modular, decentralised partial-flow systems for more appropriate cost-efficient solutions adapted to the local situation
• Promotion of a holistic, interdisciplinary approach
• Material flow cycle instead of disposal of valuable resources