Sustainable sanitation and climate change
What have toilets got to do with climate change?
The effects of climate change threaten sanitation systems – from toilets to septic tanks to treatment plants. For instance, floodwater can damage toilets and spread human waste into water supplies, food crops and people’s homes. These incidents, which are becoming more frequent as climate change worsens, cause public health emergencies and degrade the environment.
How do toilets protect our health?
4.2 billion people live without access to safely managed sanitation. Instead they often use unreliable, inadequate toilets or practise open defecation. Untreated human waste gets out into the environment and spreads deadly and chronic diseases. Sustainable sanitation systems, combined with the facilities and knowledge to practise good hygiene, are a strong defence against COVID-19 and future disease outbreaks.
How can toilets help fight climate change?
Globally, 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused. Wastewater and sludge from toilets contain valuable water, nutrients and energy. Sustainable sanitation systems also make productive use of waste to safely boost agriculture and reduce and capture emissions for greener energy.
What does a sustainable sanitation system look like?
Sustainable sanitation begins with a toilet that effectively captures human waste in a safe, accessible and dignified setting.
The waste then gets stored in a tank, which can be emptied later by a collection service, or transported away by pipework.
The next stage is treatment and safe disposal. Safe reuse of human waste helps save water, reduces and captures greenhouse gas emissions for energy production, and can provide agriculture with a reliable source of water and nutrients.
WORLD TOILET DAY 2020
What is being done?
UNU-FLORES has long been advocating for the safe use of wastewater, working together with local and international partners to address the sanitation problem around the world. The SludgeTec project, conducted in pilot regions in Guatemala and Mexico, is a leading...
To achieve universal sanitation, as covered in SDG 6 target 6.2, one important piece of information to know is what expenditure is required to achieve it – how much is needed, where it is needed, and when it is needed. As progress is made towards the SDG targets, new...
In this collection of stories from around the world, UNICEF shows that while the challenges are significant, meeting the goal of universal sanitation by 2030 is possible – with greater investment, sustained effort and increased rates of sanitation coverage. Many...
In this blog to accompany the launch of the State of the World’s Sanitation report, Yvonne Magawa (ESAWAS), Batsirai Majuru (WHO), Bisi Agberemi (UNICEF), Jan-Willem Rosenboom and Alyse Schrecongost (BMGF) make the case for sanitation as a public good. For too long,...
In this blog to accompany the launch of the State of the World’s Sanitation report, Kelly Ann Naylor and Bruce Gordon, Heads of WASH for UNICEF and WHO respectively, make the point that no country has achieved high income status without first investing in sanitation....
This new report from WaterAid, Living in a fragile world: The impact of climate change on the sanitation crisis, explores the devastating intersection of poor sanitation and the fragility of health services, all impacted by the unpredictable nature of the world’s...