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Composting Toilets for Water Crises
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Predictions of more-severe droughts and worsening water shortages as the Earth’s climate changes have led to an increased interest in composting toilets. These toilets, once deemed just for “hippies? or for areas without access to municipal sanitation, have evolved into sophisticated machines that many now prefer to conventional toilets. In addition to potentially saving the planet billions of liters of water a day through no-flush or extremely low-flush systems, composting toilets can provide nutrient-rich compost and even fertilizer for crops and other vegetation.

According to the advocacy group Composting Toilet World, the basic practice of composting human waste has been used in China for centuries, and it is still prevalent in some rural areas today. Historical as well as modern composting toilets function much like conventional flush toilets, but they use little or no water. Instead of sending waste into the municipal waste stream, composting toilets store it in an on-site compartment to facilitate natural aerobic decomposition, eventually producing a nutrient-rich compost. When used properly, the systems are odorless and kill any waste-borne pathogens. Some systems separate liquid from solid waste to create a liquid fertilizer in addition to the compost. Toilet designs range from the relatively simple, do-it-yourself bucket or bin systems featured in The Humanure Handbook, to hi-tech patented systems like Biolet, Envirolet, and Sun-Mar.

Typical “low-flush? toilets in the United States and Canada use 6 liters (1.6 gallons) of water per flush, notes Scott Smith, vice president of Canada-based Sancor Industries, which manufactures Envirolet Composting Toilet Systems. Thus, by switching to a no-flush composting toilet, a person can save more than 8,000 liters (2,000 gallons) of water per year, assuming an average flush rate of four times daily. “In 25, 50, 100 years, we probably won’t have…the luxury of using clean water to wash away waste,? Smith observes.

For many parts of the world, flushing with clean water (often water that has been purified to drinking quality standards) has never been an option. According to the World Health Organization, as many as 1.1 billion people, almost all in the developing world, still do not have access to safe water, and some 2.6 billion people—about 4 in 10—lack access to basic sanitation. Every year, 1.6 million people die from diarrhoeal diseases spread by unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation.

Scott Smith of Sancor Industries notes that his company will be offering lower-cost composting toilets starting in 2007 in hopes of serving the developing country market. According to Smith, it is important to promote the systems in both developed and developing nations. While the compost resource the toilets provide can be beneficial to people across the globe, the real issue is saving water, he explains: “Composting toilets are a solution to the water crisis that is coming.?

Alana Herro writes for Eye on Earth (e²), a service of World Watch Magazine in partnership with the blue moon fund. e² provides a unique perspective on current events, newly released studies, and important global trends.

[image: Envirolet]

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In addition to reducing water usage, managing human waste through composting toilets can improve the sanitary environment in some situations, helping to make available water cleaner.

For a central location with several practical "DIY" articles on building and using compost toilets, take a look at:

Posted by: Curt Beckmann on 9 Dec 06

The use of treated and sanitary water for the convenience of transporting bodily waste is one of the worst of our modern practices. Yes it was instrumental in the reduction and prevention of disease however like many convenient practices it is not reviewed. When millions, if not a billion or more, people lack safe drinking water how can we as a society continue to urinate and deficate in CLEAN water. This practice is not only wasteful but the "do it and forget about it" attitude that it has engendered has resulted in rural septic systems being one of the worst contributors to water pollution because they are not properly cared for. Composting toilets require the active participation of their users as opposed to the flush it and forget it attitude currently the norm. In addition to protecting water supplies, through reduced use and reduced contamination, composting human waste helps to close the nutrient cycle in soils thereby improving crop yields and reducing dependancy on artificial fertilizers. What is needed is the development of community sized systems to appropriately "finish" the materials so that they do not pose a health threat as in the past.

Posted by: Max Kennedy on 12 Dec 06

Composting Toilet World is a Web site of Envirolet, not an advocacy group. The original creator of the site sold it to this company. It's promotional now.

Posted by: Carol Steinfeld on 14 Dec 06

Composting Toilet World is a promotional site for Envirolet, a division of Sancor. It is not an advocacy group.

Posted by: Carol Steinfeld on 14 Dec 06

Carol: We are an advocacy group for the use of composting toilets and yes, we make & sell composting toilets. Just as much as your Ecowaters organzination promotes your book on composting toilets and the composting toilets you sell.

We took over the domain (ie paid for it) when the owner was going to shut down and no one else would take it over.

We see no issue with "green capitalism." We sell a great, green product and yes we are a company. How else are we going to move something like composting toilets into the mainstream.

Happy Holidays!

Posted by: Scott Smith on 19 Dec 06

More Breaking News!

The Envirolet Buzz blog ( is also a site owned & operated by Envirolet (Sancor) designed to demonstrate Envirolet composting toilet technology in the field and, God-forbid, sell composting toilets (i.e., save water from being flushed down the drain).

Posted by: Scott Smith on 19 Dec 06



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