The (social) science of compost toilets

This weekend, TMS sent me off to Black Mountains College in Wales for a short course on building compost toilets. The community garden at Margate has been developed over the last year or so, and the aim now is to experiment with better ways to manage waste.

Black Mountains College has a very similar grassroots approach to setting up an educational institution to The Margate School, though with regenerative environmental practice taking precedence. The Margate School is an art school founded by a sociologist, and BMC is a horticultural and environmental management school co-founded by artists. In other words, everything interesting and progressive that I’ve experienced this year has come out of the breakdown of disciplinary siloes and boundaries. One of the students I met is old friends with Maz who coordinates the programmes at TMS – so they seem to attract a similar type of person too!

The course was run by Richard Luff (pictured below), an international public health engineer who has developed waste systems for refugee camps and disaster areas around the world. As well as the more spatial and construction-focused elements, we learned about the science of waste management (chemistry and engineering), particularly in the context of current issues of water pollution and water poverty. I had to do maths, which is not a strength of mine! We also discussed the history of waste and cultural relationships to it as part of the development of technologies on various scales.

I’ve come away with a lot of ideas and a sense of challenges we will have within the very limited space of the community garden. I will shortly be putting together a team for planning and building, but want to use this project as a teaching opportunity too, so we’ll see how this develops in the next few weeks.