composting toilets

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toilet.jpg  After running in Prospect Park yesterday morning, a friend and I noticed a series of signs for an exhibit on refugees and displaced persons organized by the relief organization Doctors Without Borders.  We followed the signs arrived just in time for the first guided tour of the morning through a mock refugee camp set up in the park.  A volunteer doctor who had just returned from his second year in the Sudan walked us through stations set up demonstrate the different areas of a refugee camp.  They had built examples of the plastic-tarp covered tents or shanty-town shacks one might see in a rural or urban camp.  They had packages of emergency food bars one might drop from a plane to starving people caught up in war zones that the doctor passed around and allowed us to taste.  They had a water station to show how water is pumped, treated and distributed.  They had a latrine and picture books to explain what a latrine was and how to use one for those who had never seen one before.  They had clinic tents and  displays on vaccination, malnutrition and treatment for cholera. 

Overall it was a fascinating exhibit and more than a little depressing since posters all around announced that there are 33 million people in the world currently displaced by conflict and these displays of food, shelter and medical care represented only what those people in countries with aid workers are receiving (to say nothing of those living in areas too violent for help to reach them).

At the water station, the doctor asked the women in particular to lift a five gallon jug plastic water to imagine waiting lugging the beast around a camp.  Apparently the ideal camp provides five gallons per person per day to cover washing, cooking and drinking needs and the women of the family wait in line for this water and bring it back to where they sleep.  I could barely lift one jug.

According to the doctor-tour guide, Americans use an average of 100 gallons of water per day.  A Brooklyn mother on the tour was outraged by this fact and as we walked from the water pump to the latrine she asked how much of that water was from flushing toilets.  She and I got to talking about composting toilets, which are less disgusting than they sound.  I had heard of these devices before, toilets that don’t use much or any water, but had never actually considered how these might work.  I’m still not quite sure how a regular household or business could effectively use one of these things.  They are large and hold waste in a chamber where it breaks down over time until it is no longer smelly and can be used as fertilizer.  Removing the fertilizer and tossing peat moss into the toilet after using it instead of flushing don’t seem very practical for indoor use, though.  It seems that in places where outhouses and portable toilets exist, these are high-class latrines that would be ideal.  I’m curious what others think.

4 Responses to “composting toilets”

  1. kimberly Says:

    in college a friend built one of these for the house she and a group of 4 or 5 others lived at. I don’t see how they can be adapted for city use, but especially in suburban places where the weather is mild, they could work fine if people could get over the outhouse aspect. They are rarely disgusting at all – never are they worse than public toilets, and they are almost always less dirty and less, if at all, smelly.

    there are so many portapotties constantly set up in Central Park for races and other big events – the parks department may as well convert to composting toilets.

  2. everydaytrash Says:

    Yeah, they seem ideal for parks!

  3. esther Says:

    if you like, I can send you a mail I made in english to explain about the system. It doesn’t have to be this odd looking and it’s very easy to make….
    my mail: (if I didn’t give it to you before?) is:
    estherslife@yahoo.fr

  4. コーチ アウトレット Says:

    期限 |記事この中で、これにが、そこにいくつかである私が見たらドン抰は知っているミドル心にそれらのすべて。 ありいくつかの妥当性しかし 私はよ取るホールド意見まで私はさらにそれに見える。良い記事、ありがとうと私たちが望む 余分な!として適切 FeedBurnerのに追加された

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