Reframing human excreta management as part of food and farming systems

Robin Harder*, Rosanne Wielemaker*, Sverker Molander, Gunilla Öberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Recognition of human excreta as a resource, rather than as waste, has led to the emergence of a range of new and innovative nutrient recovery solutions. Nevertheless, the management of human excreta remains largely rooted in current sanitation and wastewater management approaches, which often makes nutrient recovery an add-on to existing infrastructures. In this paper, we argue that framing human excreta management as a resource recovery challenge within waste management obscures important trade-offs. We explore the factors that would be brought to the fore by reframing human excreta management as part of food and farming systems. We find that such a reframing would accentuate (at least) six aspects of critical importance that are currently largely overlooked. Recognizing that the proposed framing may also have its limitations, we argue that it has the potential to better guide human excreta management towards long-term global food, soil, and nutrient security while reducing the risk of compromising other priorities related to human and environmental health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115601
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2020


  • Human excreta management
  • Nutrient management
  • Nutrient recovery
  • Resource recovery
  • Sanitation
  • Wastewater management

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