Composting toilets: Ready for Prime Time?

TreeHugger has floated the idea of composting toilets for houses before; the consensus among commenters was "Composting toilets are NEVER going to make it into the main stream market. Debating it is silly." Or is it? Ontario Green Party candidate Shane Jolley says it's time to allow builders to take toilets in new subdivisions off the pipe.

"People have an aversion to dealing with our own waste, but this type of toilet uses far less water and makes far fewer demands on our resources. There's work to be done educating people about how compost toilets work and the benefits, but there should be financial incentives and effort made to implement this concept."

The Star continues: For generations, we've spent vaults of money to purify and pump water to our homes. Then we foul it and pump the results to sewage plants, to spend more making it clean enough – we hope – to dump into our lakes and rivers.

The composting toilet's mechanics are simple: the waste, via gravity, goes into a tank where, mixed with wood chips, it composts. The result is fertilizer, though the process requires time and a ventilation system – basically a fan – for odours.

In parts of the planet where drinking water is in short supply, the main selling point of composting toilets will likely be the huge amount of H2O that can be saved. But will builders in Canada find it worthwhile to take the human waste-disposal process off-grid?

"We pay up to $8,000 per house in levies for sewage," says Craig Marshall of Marshall Homes. "If we could save half of this money and save water too, the public might be prepared to go along with it.

"There's a way to go in terms of public acceptance. Now, the first thing people want when they have, say, a cottage, is a flush toilet. A toilet that doesn't flush and use water isn't an easy sell."

Even big developers are not laughing about it, although they are not yet selling them.

"The idea of consumers taking the compost down 30 floors doesn't seem realistic," says Andrew Pride of Minto Developments. "We are looking at ways that rainwater could be used for toilets, rather than compost-oriented solutions." ::The Star

The current system of installing huge concrete pipes to carry our crap into someone else's backyard may be convenient but isn't sustainable. It is time to look seriously at the alternatives, like Shane is. ::Shane Jolley