Ever wondered what happens to your poo once it drops into the toilet?

Perhaps you’re lucky enough to live in a country where you don’t have to think about it. Because for billions of people, there is no safe toilet or sanitation service to take away the waste, allowing poo to get out into the open air where it’s spread by flies, making people seriously ill.

And even where there is some sanitation infrastructure, pipework can break or raw sewage can be emptied into the environment, contaminating farmland and water sources.

Dealing with our poo properly is not only about averting danger, it’s also about seizing an opportunity. Poo, safely treated and reused, has massive potential as an affordable and sustainable source of energy, nutrients and water. Sanitation systems also generate jobs and investment opportunities.

By 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals aim to reach everyone with sanitation, and halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase recycling and safe reuse.

To achieve those goals, we need everyone’s poo to take a 4-step journey.

The 4-step journey

1. Containment

Poo must be deposited into a hygienic toilet and stored in a sealed pit or tank, separated from human contact.

2. Transport

Pipes or latrine emptying services must move the poo to the treatment stage.

3. Treatment

Poo must be processed into treated wastewater and waste products that can be safely returned to the environment.

4. Disposal or reuse

Safely treated poo can be used for energy generation or as fertilizer in food production.

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