Nicholas C Kawa
Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationOhio State U.
Grant numberGr. 9787
Approve DateApril 27, 2019
Project TitleKawa, Nicholas (Ohio State U.) "Waste or Resource? The Contested Use of Human Excreta in Midwestern Agriculture"
NICHOLAS KAWA, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, was awarded funding in April 2019 to aid research on “Waste or Resource? The Contested Use of Human Excreta in Midwestern Agriculture.” Prior to industrialization, human excrement was commonly employed as a resource for agricultural fertilization. Following the advent of the hydraulic sanitation system, however, it became increasingly directed into waterways rather than reincorporated into terrestrial agroecosystems. To counter this trend, many industrial cities are seeking to use treated sewage sludge, or “biosolids,” as a renewable resource that can be applied as a soil amendment for agricultural production as well as use in urban recreational settings, including parks, gardens, and golf courses. This research demonstrates how the use of biosolids in the American cities of Chicago and Columbus (Ohio) comes to “make sense”—experientially, economically, and ecologically—to users and wastewater experts. Specifically, this project highlights how direct sensorial experiences (particularly of odors or their absence) as well as notions of economic and ecological “good sense” contribute to the social acceptability of biosolids usage. Furthermore, it shows how sanitation infrastructures, socio-cultural norms, and health considerations both contour and constrain such usage. Lastly, this research draws attention to how contaminants of emerging concern that are barely perceptible in sanitation waste raise profound questions about the challenges of urban sustainability in this period known as late industrialism.