Time to talk about poo: KPU & Science World speaker series

Thu, Feb 22, 2018

Poop, excrement, number two, human waste: no matter how you say it, this topic can be an embarrassing. And that poses a problem for our environment.

“Get comfortable talking about poo,” laughs Dr. Paul Richard, a policy studies instructor and chair of the environmental protection technology program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU).

When we don’t talk about human waste, we treat it as waste, and what could be a resource ends up polluting the environment. 

Richard is giving the next talk in the KPU & Science World speaker series on March 6 at the TELUS World of Science. He’ll wade into the muck of what’s wrong with current methods of handling human waste from the bad design of toilets and washrooms to how current sewage practices pollute our environment.

“Stool is a great source of energy and fertilizers, but we neglect it in part because we don't want to talk about it or aren't aware of the issue,” explains Richard. “It is changing, but too slowly. In contrast, Europe has projects where biogas is extracted from waste to fuel buses, or where half of the electrical power and heat of a residential complex is generated by the residents’ own poo. We shouldn't waste it.”

Richard developed the concept for this presentation after noticing that many students in his wastewater class were uncomfortable talking about feces. Richard saw an opportunity to educate. In this graphic and eye-opening talk, he’ll explore excess nutrients in water; fecal coliforms on B.C.’s beaches; parasites like crypto and toxo in drinking water; plastics in the ocean; and how so-called flushable wipes clog our sewers.

Improving treatment of human waste in a way that creates real and sustainable change will require collective action, including policy changes, but Richard says individuals can also play a role.

“I'd love for everyone to think about what they flush (and minimize flushing, especially what shouldn't be flushed, such as dental floss), but especially, just to stop and think about poo,” says Richard. “What it is, where it comes from and the gazillion bacteria that make it and have a lot to do with our health.”

Why We Need to Talk about Poo
WHEN: Tuesday, March 6 at 7 p.m.
WHERE: Science World at TELUS World of Science (1455 Quebec St., Vancouver, B.C.)
INFO: Doors open early at 6 p.m. for a set of interactive, hands-on activities and scientific demonstrations. The event is free but registration is requested. To register and learn more, visit kpu.ca/scienceworld

This speaker series is a partnership between KPU and Science World that supports the expansion of science in our communities. This free public series works to engage, entertain and educate guests with fascinating insights into the world of science.

By Tatiana Tomljanovic