Tag Archives: United Kingdom

Is the UK’s recognition of right to sanitation half-hearted?

In a statement issued on 27 June 2012, the UK Government officially recognises sanitation as a human right under international law. However, in their interpretation of this right, the government excludes “the collection and transport of human waste”. It also does not accept, in their entirety, specific U.N. documents on the right to water and sanitation.

The UK had originally abstained from voting on the resolution on the right to water and sanitation at the UN General Assembly in 2010. It stated then that it did not believe that there was a sufficient legal basis under international law to declare sanitation as a human right.

Facing growing international pressure by NGOs and UN Special Rapporteur Catarina de Albuquerque, the UK announced on 15 June 2012 that it would support the inclusion of commitments to the right both to safe drinking water and to sanitation as a human right in the Rio+20 outcome document.

What the implications are of the UK’s interpretation of the right to sanitation is unclear. Maybe the government should send their legal advisers to a slum during the rainy season to see what happens when there is no adequate collection and transport of human waste.

Related news:

  • Rio+20: Canada finally recognises human right to water and sanitation, E-Source, 13 Jun 2012
  • Right to water and sanitation: finally declared legally binding in international law, E-Source, 19 Oct 2010

Related web sites:


  • UK recognises right to sanitation, UK FCO, 27 Jun 2012
  • Isabella Montgomery, UK Government supports right to sanitation inclusion at Rio+20, FAN, Jun 2012

UK: Thames Water sewermen singing for fat-free drains

Thames Water’s east London sewermen have released their own reworded version of the carol Good King Wenceslas to stop people flushing turkey fat and wet wipes down the drain during the Christmas holidays. The song is part of the water company’s “Bin it – don’t block it” campaign to educate the public about sewer blockages. Around Christmas, 25 per cent more fat goes down drains in the London and Thames Valley area (pop. 8.7 million) served by Thames Valley. The company estimates that 500 tonnes of fat will end up it the drains in December 2010.

Thames Water is donating 1p (1.5 US dollar cents) to WaterAid for every hit the film gets on YouTube (up to a maximum of 200,000 views, ending on 31 January 2011).

Large build up of fat in Reading sewer. Photo: Thames Water

Besides awareness-raising campaigns, Thames Water is working with the water industry and trade associations to develop the SNAP (Sewer Network Action Programme) SNAP protocol, which will determine whether or not an individual product is flushable in terms of sewer disposal.

Related web sites:

Source: WaterAid, 21 Dec 2010 ; Thames Water, 21 Dec 2010

UK: local handwashing campaign may go nationwide

A local hand washing campaign that attracted national and international attention, could be rolled out to benefit schools, local authorities and businesses through out the United Kingdom.

It is only one year since Hull and East Yorkshire NHS [National Health Service] Trust, a national leader in tackling healthcare infections, launched Give Soap a Chance into the local community. In that short space of time, healthcare professionals estimate that tens of thousands of local people have benefited, whilst nationally, a host of key business, political and charitable players have offered support. Now, it is being promoted as a blueprint for tackling the spread of infections right across the country.

The campaigns encourages everyone to wash their hands properly and more often through the media, through schools and businesses and online through the Give Soap A Chance web site.

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UK toilet politics: Indian-style commodes scrapped

Councillor Farooq Ahmed called the lavatories 'an embarrassment to Rochdale' which had stirred up racial tension. Photo: ALAMY

A major shopping centre in Greater Manchester is removing the new Indian-style commodes it had installed after a public backlash against the move sparked fears of rising racial tension.

The shopping centre is visited by nearly 140,000 people every week, including Asians.

Outside the UK, the news also attracted the attention of the media in India.
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UK: ‘Poo-powered’ car seen on the streets of Bristol

A “poo-powered” VW Beetle has taken to the streets of Bristol in an attempt to encourage sustainable motoring.

Photo: Geneco

The Bio-Bug runs on processed methane gas generated as part of the raw sewage treatment process.

Wessex Water engineers estimate the yearly waste from 70 average households would generate enough gas to run the car for 10,000 miles (16,100km).

Despite being powered by fuel created from sewage, the car does not smell unpleasant.

“It performs like a normal car – you wouldn’t know it was powered by biogas,” a company spokesman said.

‘Surplus gas’

To use biogas as vehicle fuel without affecting vehicle performance or reliability the gas needs to be treated to remove the carbon dioxide content.

GENeco, part of Wessex Water, imported specialist “cleaning” equipment to treat the raw methane generated at the sewage treatment works in Avonmouth.

The spokesman added: Our site has been producing biogas for many years which we use to generate electricity to power the site and export to the National Grid.

“With the surplus gas we had available we wanted to put it to good use in a sustainable and efficient way.

“We decided to power a vehicle on the gas offering a sustainable alternative to using fossil fuels which we so heavily rely on in the UK.”

Read more about the Bio-Bug on the Geneco web site.

Source: BBC, 05 Aug 2010

UK water firm hires ‘mad scientist’ to investigate sewer monsters

A UK water firm has taken a unique approach to tackling sewer blockages by hiring a ‘mad scientist’ to look into U bends.

Richard Hubert

‘Scientist’ Richard Hubert was called in by United Utilities after the firm dealt with more than 15,000 blockages last year.

The firm is using the character as a humorous way to tackle what it sees as a ‘monstrous’ increase in people using toilets to flush away everyday rubbish such as cotton buds, nappies, sanitary products and razors.

The United Utilities “What not to flush” campaign page includes an online “beat the sewer monster ” game, videos, a “dirty downloads” gallery, and practical tips to prevent blockages.

You can follow Mr Hubert’s investigations by watching him on Youtube, or by liking his page on Facebook.

Web site: whatnotoflush.com

Source: Luke Walsh, edie, 14 Jun 2010

UK: timer device limits civil servants to ten minutes in toilet

Civil servants have been limited to spending a maximum of ten minutes in the toilets – after timers were installed.

Dozens of workers have been caught out since the cost-cutting measures were introduced at the Government Office for the West Midlands (GOWM).

A hidden sensor switches off the toilet light after ten minutes of use.

Staff have condemned the GOWM for the move, which was introduced in a bid to help save millions of pounds.

One worker at the offices in Birmingham said: ”This was brought in without any staff consultation and is both humiliating and degrading.

”Timers have been installed on the lights in the toilets, but everyone was already complying with requests to switch the lights off as we left.

”Can you imagine the indignity of being in a cubicle, letting nature take its course, when suddenly the lights go out, and you have to fumble in the dark to make yourself decent, before struggling to make your way out towards the main door to the toilets where the switch is?

”All the while you are praying someone doesn’t enter the toilets and see you struggling in the dark with your trousers round your ankles.

”This is an undignified and unsafe practice, implemented in a misguided attempt to save cash and energy.”

Similar changes are expected to be rolled out around the country to meet Treasury targets for Whitehall departments to make “efficiency savings” worth £11 billion a year.

The GOWM is in charge of delivering Whitehall’s policies on Health, Justice and Education in the Midlands, and reports back to Westminster on the region’s needs.

A spokeswoman for the government office defended their toilet light switches insisting they save money and energy.

She said: ”We have introduced a range of measures across Government Office buildings to reduce avoidable energy consumption and we are continuing with that work.

”The introduction of sensor switches has not raised comments from staff or visitors and we will continue to explore ways in which to reduce further our carbon footprint.”

Fiona McEvoy, West Midlands Spokeswoman for the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ”What planet are GOWM bosses living on if they think installing this ridiculous device equates to an efficiency saving?

”At best this is an inconvenience for staff, at worst it’s a hazard and a ludicrous waste of public money.

”Perhaps executives at GOWM haven’t enough to do if they’ve been dreaming up ways of making savings that look more like schoolboy pranks.”

Source: Telegraph, 29 Mar 2010