A particularly religious people living in a land filled with rivers need to get rid of their excreta. They have disfavoured sewers and dumping waste on water because they venerate oceans and rivers, these bodies of water are divine for them and should not be tainted by human waste.

They are not tremendously urbanized, 3/4 of them live on the countryside and their most populated city tops it's population at 200 thousand, and they dispose only 16th century, and earlier time's, technology.

How can they get rid of their waste without "tainting" their water, then?

  • 9
    $\begingroup$ How about digging a pit in the soil? that's I do during camping. $\endgroup$
    – Mr.J
    Feb 7, 2019 at 4:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Mr.J That would work for a few people, for a while. But we are talking cities here, and cesspits won't do the job. And at some point they'll need to be cleared, buried or burned, which offers more problems than solutions, I think. $\endgroup$
    – Jedboo
    Feb 7, 2019 at 4:34
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Composting toilets. Well understood, and reasonably common: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composting_toilet $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Feb 7, 2019 at 6:04
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Composting toilets sound like a great idea! But what about urine, and how would composting toilets work in a larger scale? (Maybe you'll want to make a fully fledged answer, my dude) $\endgroup$
    – Jedboo
    Feb 7, 2019 at 6:12
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Jedboo: Even with the option of using bodies of water, septic tanks are still used nowadays. It doesn't offer more problems than solutions or else no one would be using it. $\endgroup$
    – Flater
    Feb 7, 2019 at 12:04

5 Answers 5


How can they get rid of their waste without "tainting" their water, then?

Night Soil holds the key.

Feces were excreted into a container such as a chamber pot, and sometimes collected in the container with urine and other waste ("slops", hence slopping out). The excrement in the pail was often covered with earth (soil), which may have contributed to the term "night soil."

  • Night Soil (Yep!) is to be collected from the cities and distributed to fermentation parlours, surrounding the towns, then upon it's ripeness, spread over the farmland as fertiliser.

(Of course any Nitrates for use in making "eherm", fireworks, "eherm", can be seperated regularly at the fermentation parlours.)

  • The cost to the town's purse of doing this can be easily offset by a small levy charged on the sale of farmed goods.

  • This has been done historicaly in ancient Greece, China, England, Japan, Mexico - and is currently being done in India and Japan.

  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like a nice idea! But what about, um, ‘liquid’ waste? Does it work as nightsoil too? $\endgroup$
    – Jedboo
    Feb 7, 2019 at 5:02
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Lonha True, that doesn't seem to have stopped people doing it for (at least) a couple of thousand years. Cholera has killed so many, but fewer when an efficient system was in place to break it all down and set the balance of microbes to a more manageable level.. $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2019 at 5:13
  • 16
    $\begingroup$ @Lonha the traditional solution to that is waiting and composting. Using fresh human shit to fertilize strawberries will spread pathogens; putting human shit together with other organic waste in a pile, waiting two years and then using it as a soil to fertilize strawberries is considered safe. $\endgroup$
    – Peteris
    Feb 7, 2019 at 9:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In England, the people who collected urine were called "Petermen" - as it was Saltpeter that the explosives industry wanted. Some wars were fought over saltpeter deposits (also called guano). regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/… and johndbrown.com/petermen-gunpowder-and-urine-laws $\endgroup$
    – Tangurena
    Feb 7, 2019 at 16:11
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Jedboo urine is a valuable resource as prior to modern chemistry it was the primary source of ammonia.This was necessary for everything from tanning leather to fulling cloth, fixing dyes, and then as the cleaning agent in laundries. It is all a valuable resource. $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2019 at 18:30

Long drops are still common in many countries. A deep hole is dug, an improvised seat put over it and people use it. Rural communities even today aren't as finicky as city people these days, you just hold your breath as best you can.

When it's full enough, you fill it in and dig another. I know several that have been in daily use for big households for at least 5 years, probably much longer.

According to the link an estimated 1.77 billion people were using them in 2013 and 85 million were built in India alone during a campaign to improve sanitisation.


Building materials

Both poo and pee (human) can be used in the making of bricks when mixed with other ingredients.

Citizens who want to build their own house must 'save up' for it in terms of their own excreta which they deposit at the out-of-town brick-making factory.

Solid waste

Scientists Discover How to Make Bricks Out of Human Waste

Millions of tonnes of leftover biosolids are increasingly stockpiled every year around the globe... However, it is estimated that 30% of biosolids are unused and stockpiled.” ... prototypes of these bricks were made and tested to compare with traditional building materials. The tests found that the bricks were sturdy and would hold up to the most stringent global building regulations. The creation of the bricks also uses less energy than traditional building materials, and they are better for insulation as well. https://themindunleashed.com/2019/02/scientists-discover-how-to-make-bricks-out-of-human-waste.html

Liquid waste

Researchers have found a way to grow bricks sustainably from human urine.

... The "bio-brick" is made by mixing sand with a bacteria that produces urase — an enzyme that breaks down the urea in urine while at the same time producing calcium carbonate. When mixed, the result is a brick that is on-par with limestone bricks. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-26/cape-town-university-researchers-make-bricks-from-urine/10432766

Your society can specialise in exporting these high quality bricks (made to a 'secret recipe') to other peoples near and far.

Of course this is where the phrase "to sh*t a brick" originated.


I have often used self composting toilets. They don't require a lot of maintenance, can be used daily by a small household, generate a usable byproduct and have zero smell.

I am fairly certain, the designs I've used, could be tweaked to operate in a 16th century context. The basic idea is very simple.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I visited a kibbutz a few years ago that used composting toilets (exclusively). It seemed to be working fine for their community of a few hundred. $\endgroup$ Feb 8, 2019 at 2:37

Human waste disposal is effective through creative use of composting and fecal sludge management.


Check out this website for a good idea on compost

Check this article cited 119 times as well

the attached file is the British Columbia guidelines on how to make a compost toilet. Doing it properly won't make anyone sick and can be done in any home with a garden. The government can even set up large composting structures like real life for people to engage in this together. Stuff from skit will be the order of the day.

Fecal sludge management:

From Wikipedia

Fecal sludge management (FSM) (or faecal sludge management in British English) is the collection, transport, and treatment of fecal sludge from pit latrines, septic tanks or other onsite sanitation systems. Fecal sludge is a mixture of human excreta, water and solid wastes (e.g. toilet paper or other anal cleansing materials, menstrual hygiene materials) that are disposed in pits, tanks or vaults of onsite sanitation systems. Fecal sludge that is removed from septic tanks is called septage.

FSM is necessary in densely populated areas where a proportion of population is not connected to a sewerage network, and the covering and rebuilding pit latrines is not possible. This is the case in most urban areas of developing countries, but such services are also used in developed countries where sewerage systems are unavailable.

Using smart systems this technique can be applied Nationwide.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding! If you have a minute, please take the tour and have a look at the help center. Could you please elaborate on how exactly your proposed solution could be implemented within the scope of the question ("only 16th century, and earlier time's, technology")? It doesn't have to be scientifically accurate, but in general we encourage longer answers with explanations. Read more about how to write good answers $\endgroup$
    – Elmy
    Feb 7, 2019 at 9:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Much better; thanks for improving your answer! $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Feb 7, 2019 at 15:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .