In taking the water out of flushing, we’ve still got to get rid of the waste. How can we do that? There are three main ways:
Let’s start with packaging toilets, because they are the most simple and versatile. Packaging toilets seal the waste away with each flush – often in plastic liners that then twist to seal in the waste and prevent smells from escaping, much like a diaper genie. When the liner cartridge runs out of ‘flushes’, you simply take the waste out like you would your garbage and put in another refill cartridge. You can usually get just under 20 flushes per cartridge.
Packaging toilets require either a battery or electricity source to operate the motor that does the packaging, so they are not 100% ‘off grid’ in that sense, but they are great for small or mobile spaces, and the battery can be charged with a solar charger, making them a very green option. Many companies are trying to develop 100% biodegradable liners, so watch this space to become an even greener option!
Composting toilets turn human waste into a wonderful resource – fertilizer-rich compost! The first thing to know is that it is important to separate out the solid from the liquid waste – that’s where most of the smell comes from! Composting toilets have a urine diversion unit that separates solids from liquids so that each can do their thing.
From here on out, it depends what type of composting toilet you go for. Simple ones with no electrical parts will store the urine in a tank that you can empty out. The solids will need to be regularly mixed with another material such as sawdust to help dry it out, and it will be turned regularly. You will need to empty the solid waste every month or so depending on how many people use it and how often they use it.
Other more high-end composting toilets use electricity or a battery to evaporate the liquids and desiccate the solids, speeding up the process. This also ensures that the waste is greatly reduced in volume.
For both toilets, the end product is material that is ready to be returned to the earth as fertilizer!
Incinerating toilets burn the waste entirely, leaving nutrient-rich ash behind. These toilets are more energy-intensive and require both a power source as well as infrastructure – a room with a vent pipe. The ash produced can be used as a fertilizer, much like compost, and the small volume means that there is little maintenance required. Given the energy and infrastructure required, these toilets can be a more expensive option.
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