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The Complicated Issue of Human Waste

Dr. de los Reyes discusses in depth the wicked problem of human waste, how systems thinking is essential to understanding and addressing this problem, and how other disciplines and perspectives are also necessary to fully tackle it.

Published onAug 11, 2022
The Complicated Issue of Human Waste

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  • This Release (#1) was created on Aug 11, 2022 ()
  • The latest Release (#2) was created on Jul 03, 2023 ().


After you’ve eaten your food, you generate waste. In modern wastewater treatment plants, waste is converted to carbon dioxide and water is cleaned. Yet billions of people around the world, including 1.4 million in the U.S., don’t have access to safe, sustainable sanitation and many (mostly children) die from related diseases and infections. UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 aims to achieve access to adequate sanitation for all. How must we think about this wicked problem? Francis L. de los Reyes III, Ph.D., discusses four key areas to target: government policies and regulations, technologies, business opportunities for sanitation companies, and social and behavioral change. 

Dr. de los Reyes is the Glenn E. and Phyllis J. Futrell Distinguished Professor -#2 of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor, and University Faculty Scholar at NC State University. He is an environmental engineer and scientist working on microbial processes for conversion of wastes to energy and resources, applied microbial ecology and global sanitation.

The Complicated Issue of Human Waste (Francis L. de los Reyes III)

This video was originally produced for an audience of entering first-year and transfer students at NC State University as a part of an interdisciplinary experience. It is available for noncommercial reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 4.0 License,



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