Tag Archives: USA

Trash Dance – The Movie

Trash Dance Still – Night Performance. Photo: Andrew Garrison

All over the world, “unseen men and women [...] do the work that most of us do not want to do”: collecting our waste. Seldom, do they get a chance to be in the limelight.

In 2008, former scavengers from India joined leading fashion models on the catwalk in New York.

In 2009, 24 garbage collectors and 16 of their trucks staged a trash ballet in Austin, Texas. More than 2,000 people came to watch. Director Andrew Garrison turned Allison Orr’s choreography into a prize winning documentary that premiered in 2012 and is now available on DVD. Watch the trailer and an amateur video of the original 2009 performance.

Sanitation promotion history: US New Deal posters

Posted created in 1940 by John Buczak for the US Federal Art Project. Collection Library of Congress

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the US Government launched a series of economic programmes collectively known as the New Deal. The largest  of these programmes, run by WPA, the Works Progress Administration (renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration), employed millions of unemployed people to carry out public works projects. Most famous was the WPA Federal Art Project (FAP) that employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects.

The FAP created over 200,000 separate works including 2,000 posters. Shown  here are several posters promoting sanitation and hygiene from the WPA poster collection of the Library of Congress.

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USA: sanitation workers figure in presidential election campaign

“We’re kind of like the invisible people. He doesn’t realize, you know, the service we provide,” says sanitation worker Richard Hayes, who has picked up the trash at Mitt Romney’s Californian house.

Hayes and fellow sanitation worker Joan Raymond appear in an online ad campaign by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The campaign suggests that Republican presidential candidate Romney is benefiting from government services while threatening to cut them back. Representing 1.6 million public service workers, AFSCME is supporting President Barack Obama in the 2012 US election.

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USA: Amnesty and WaterAid “Give a Crap about Human Rights” campaign

From now until World Toilet Day, 19 November, WaterAid USA and Amnesty International USA are urging people to Give a Crap about Human Rights by supporting the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act.

This Act would help provide 100 million people with “first-time, sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation within six years”.

The “Give a Crap about Human Rights” campaign is part of Amnesty’s Demand Dignity Campaign sub-programme on the human right to housing. This includes work on equal access to services for people living in inadequate housing – and clean water and sanitation are crucial services, and basic human rights.

Go to the Give a Crap about Human Rights web page for more information.

Source: Amnesty International USA,

Occupy Wall Street’s greywater treatment system and “sanitation working group”

6 October 2011, Day 21 of Occupy Wall Street.. Photo: David Shankbone / Wikimedia

Protesters participating in the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York have constructed a greywater treatment system to recycle dishwater contaminants. The filtered water is used for the plants and flowers in Zuccotti Park where the protesters have their base camp.

The Wikipedia entry on Occupy Wall Street has a separate section on sanitation, which was becoming a “growing concern” according to the owners of Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Office Properties. “Sanitary conditions have reached unacceptable levels”, they said, claiming that protesters were refusing to cooperate to clean up the park since their arrival on 17 September 2011. The protesters do, however, have a “sanitation working group” that sweeps and picks up garbage. In a comment on the Occupy Wall Street forum, one user said:

The Brookfield statement explains that they usually hose down the plaza and they have not been able to since the protestors are there. That’s about the only thing the protest is preventing.

Members of the OWS Sanitation Working Group. Photo: @wesupportoccupy / Twitpic

In a report on the popular US satirical programme the Daily Show, owners of nearby restaurants and delis voiced their irritation among the growing number of protesters using their toilets.

Source: Wikipedia – Occupy Wall Street ; FoxNews.com: Zucotti Park (User Submitted), OccupyWallStreet Forum, 07 Oct 2011 ; John Del Signore, Gothamist, 07 Oct 2011

CLOO – new app uses social media to share toilets

This app turns any private toilet into a public toilet accessible to friends & friends of friends using social media connections, with the aim to solve the problem of too-few easily accessible toilets in cities. CLOO allows registered users to charge a small fee for the use of their toilet.

CLOO was developed by Hillary Young & Deanna McDonald.

For more info go to: www.cloo-app.com

USA handwashing survey – Public Handwashing Takes a Hike


Public Handwashing Takes a Hike

  • More Adults (85%) Than Ever Observed Washing Hands in Public Restrooms
  • Men Are Doing Better, But Women Are Still the Hand Cleaning Champs

BOSTON, Sept. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Mom’s advice about cleaning your hands may finally be starting to get through.

In the latest observational study sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute® (formerly The Soap and Detergent Association), 85% of adults washed their hands in public restrooms, compared with 77% in 2007. The 85% total was actually the highest observed since these studies began in 1996. The results were announced at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, an infectious disease meeting sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology.

In a separate telephone survey, 96% of adults say they always wash their hands in public restrooms, a percentage that has remained relatively constant over the years.

On behalf of ASM and ACI, Harris Interactive discreetly observed 6,028 adults in public restrooms in August 2010 to note whether or not people washed their hands. Researchers returned to six locations in four cities where two previous studies were conducted: Atlanta (Turner Field), Chicago (Museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium), New York City (Grand Central Station, Penn Station), and San Francisco (Ferry Terminal Farmers Market).

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Belgium: undertakers plan to dissolve dead and flush them into sewage system

Belgian undertakers have drawn up plans to dissolve the corpses of the dead in caustic solutions and flush them into the sewage system.

The controversial new method [called Resomation] is said to be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than running highly polluting crematoria or using up valuable land for graves.

The departed would go into the sewage systems of towns and cities and then be recycled in water processing plants.

The proposals are being studied by the EU and if approved, it would mean the procedure could be used across Europe.

However, opponents of the plans say it smacks of a Frankenstein callousness towards the dead and one survey in Belgium found many people found the idea “disturbing.”

“The idea is for the deceased to be placed in a container with water and salts and then pressurised and after a little time, about two hours, mineral ash and liquid is left over,” said a spokesman for the Flemish Association of Undertakers.

The European Commission is investigation whether the resulting liquid could safely be flushed into the sewage system. Authorities in the northern Belgian region have yet to decide whether to approve the process.

Six states in America – Maine, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Oregon, and Maryland have recently passed legislation that allow the process to be used.

Although experts insist that the ashes can be recycled in waste systems, the residue from the process can also be put in urns and handed over to relatives of the dead.

Related web sites:

Source: Allan Hall, Telegraph, 07 Jul 2010

USA, Austin, TX: toilet rebates not cost effective, city says in canceling program

The City of Austin is ending its toilet-rebate program as water utility officials shift limited dollars to other water conservation measures.

Low-flow toilets will still be available free of charge for residents and business owners willing to pick them up at a local city-contracted vendor. This program targets individuals, as opposed to contractors, who often sought rebates for many toilets at once.

City officials say water conservation is as big a priority as ever, but reimbursing homeowners and businesses for low-flow toilets purchased at retailers was not cost-effective compared with other water-conservation programs. The rebate program is an example of how incentives for buying eco-friendly products can lose their effectiveness as those products become widely available and prices drop.

High-efficiency toilets use about 63 percent less water than older models, according to the water utility. The city offered the rebates in an effort to conserve water. That in turn allowed the city to conserve resources and avoid steep price increases that would occur if Austin uses more water than allowed under a contract with the Lower Colorado River Authority, which provides most of the city’s water.

But the toilet rebate program is no longer the best method for conserving water, said Drema Gross, acting water conservation division manager for the Austin Water Utility. The rebate, which included installation costs until recently, cost the utility up to $200 per toilet, she said; by contrast, simply giving away the toilets costs the city about $71 (the per-toilet cost of a wholesale contract).

“When you look at the cost/benefit of the rebate program, it just doesn’t give us as much bang for the buck,” Gross said.

In a sense, the program is also a victim of its own success.

It began in the mid-1990s , but was targeted mainly to single-family homes. In 2009 , the city decided to shift emphasis to large buildings such as apartment complexes and hotels.

Private contractors also recognized a business opportunity, city officials said. Contractors began approaching apartment complexes and offering to handle the work of switching out old toilets en masse; in essence, a building owner could get dozens or even hundreds of new toilets installed with almost no effort, on the city’s tab.

Some members of the city’s Resource Management and Water and Wastewater commissions wondered whether the city needed to offer such a rich enticement to install a widely available appliance.

In November 2009 — barely a month into the city’s budget year — the rebate program had exhausted almost all of the $2.3 million the city had budgeted for water-conservation measures, including subsidies for rainwater collection barrels and low-flow washing machines. The City Council approved an additional $3 million , but the toilet rebate program promptly chewed through that as well.

Five months into the 2010 budget year, the city had almost doubled the number of toilet rebates it had accepted the year before; apartment-complex rebates increased nearly eightfold, to 7,697.

“The demand that we saw far exceeded what we expected,” Gross said.

Web site: City of Austin Free Toilet Program

Source: Marty Toohey, Statesman.com, 29 Jun 2010

The delicate toilet question – what are the best water-saving options?

Few people enjoy chatting casually about the bathroom, let alone about toilets. But since they’re responsible for as much as 40 percent of the water consumed inside most households, and water is becoming an increasingly precious resource, it’s time to talk toilets here at Sheep Dog Hollow. 

(For new readers, Sheep Dog is the 100-year-old farmhouse that we’re attempting to renovate in a green and economical manner. For our regular readers, please forgive the repetition.)   

Now I confess that I stole the “talk toilets” line from a Sierra Club website, which has a delightful post that starts right up front: “Let’s talk toilets…” (Writing for the highly respected, very proper Monitor, I figured I had to get to the point in a more refined, less direct manner.)   

Among other things, the post notes that “The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that water managers in 36 states expect water shortages in the next 10 years, even under normal, non-drought conditions.”   

Being a reporter, I simply had to go to the original GAO document [PDF] for a bit more info. It turns out that it was published in July 2003, more than six years ago. I needed to check it because in an earlier post, my research had turned up that in 2009 a whopping 45 states expect water shortages under normal conditions. From 36 to 45 is a pretty big increase in just a few years, but it also reinforces what the GAO found back in 2003:

State water managers expect freshwater shortages in the near future, and the consequences may be severe….. Drought conditions will exacerbate shortage impacts. When water shortages occur, economic impacts to sectors such as agriculture can be in the billions of dollars. Water shortages also harm the environment. For example, diminished flows reduced the Florida Everglades to half its original size. Finally, water shortages cause social discord when users compete for limited supplies.  

So now back to the toilet talk and what kind we’d like to put in at Sheep Dog. I’m afraid we’re not even going to consider a composting toilet. I’m just not that advanced yet in the world of green. We’re going for low-flow toilets instead. (Please, composting fans, tell me I’m wrong….)   

But it turns out that the world of low-flow toilets is much more complicated than first appears.   

Prior to 1994, most toilets in the United States used about 3.5 gallons of water for each flush. Then a new federal law kicked in that required all new toilets sold to use only 1.6 gallons a flush, according to the Sierra Club water-wise toilets website mentioned above:

“….in the toilet trade they’re actually called “ultra low flush toilets” or ULFTs. If you go toilet shopping and the salesperson tells you a ULFT is something special, don’t be fooled. It merely meets the minimum legal requirements for a john.”  

Those ultra low-flow toilets are just the lowliest of the green flushing toilet possibilities out there. Greener ones include high-efficiency toilets (HET) to those that qualify for the EPA’s WaterSense label. I’ll delve more into those in my next post. (I’m already 300 words over my limit.)  

In the meantime, it’s possible to check to see how much water your current toilet uses. Indeed, you could have one of the estimated “100 million toilets” in the US that still flushes using 3.5 gallons of water.  

Source – CS Monitor