Thinking about Crap: Should Houses Have Composting Toilets?

"Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown"-even Jack Nicholson could not beat the political forces around real estate development and water. All development depends on its delivery and the removal of its waste. In Ontario they spent $ 800 million of taxpayers money so that real estate developers could build surburban sprawl all over our best farmland and dump it all in to Lake Ontario a few miles from our drinking water inlet. You can drive a bus through this thing. Most of the money in developing suburbs is the underground infrastructure, the veins and arteries carrying water and waste.

Yet most of our waste water need not go to the sewer, gray water from showers and sinks could be used in gardens for irrigation. The only water that is a problem is that from the toilet- so why don't we try and get rid of it? Perhaps we should have composting toilets in our houses. One of the problems has been the design of composting toilets; most are simply not as carefree or comfortable to use as a conventional toilet, and many people are used to the porcelain bowl with water in it. Composting toilets also require some care, daily maintenance and upkeep.

However the major manufacturers are getting closer and closer to making the composting toilet experience more home-like. Sun-Mar makes the Centrex system with a flushing china bowl, Clivus Multrum makes a foam-flush unit, but both need space underneath for the composter.

That is why I am intrigued by the new Envirolet VF vacuum flush system. An electric pump is connected to a Dometic vacuum toilet, mascerates the waste and toilet paper, and sends it to the composter, which can be in a closet next door, out of sight, out of mind, out of smell. The bathroom experience is unchanged from the current pattern.

Someone still has to go and add sawdust and peat moss once a day, and there still is a bit of liquid that has to be dealt with, but with proper gray water management a house or an apartment does not have to be connected to the big pipe any longer. Once the process of adding the material is automated it will be almost carefree. If the closet had acess to the exterior or a corridor in multiple unit buildings it could be maintained by an outside service and the homeowner would never know.

It also uses a lot more electricity than a flush unit like the Centrex to run that vacuum pump and mascerator, but compared to the resources used in building the systems and dealing with waste now, it is probably a net saving on energy. If you have a basement or a two storey home, a straight gravity system is probably more appropriate.

If we are truly going to develop a zero waste society and protect our water resources, we are going to have to start thinking about dealing with all of our wastes and not keep flushing some of them down the pipe. Perhaps houses should all have composting toilets; certainly the toilets are almost good enough to do it. ::Envirolet

Tags: Composting | Waste