Plumbing Innovation: The Rise in Popularity of the Solar Toilet

Photograph: Michael Hanson/Gates Foundation

The solar toilet is the latest in a line of revolutionary new plumbing and sanitation concepts to hit the market, and another innovation that speaks of the speed of technology development of our generation. Without water or energy, the solar toilet can compost human waste into food for the soil that can immediately be applied to the landscape.

With a capacity for four human adults’ daily use, the solar toilet is not connected to any plumbing or tanks and promises to eliminate expenses while at the same time saving our precious resources: water and energy. At the same time, it contains no leachate that may contaminate water.

Image Credit: UC Boulder
Image Credit: UC Boulder

What is a Solar Toilet?

Solar composting advanced toilets are self-contained, free-standing units that use cost-effective and convenient organic materials to promote effective composting. The watertight plastic bin contained in the solar chamber provides plenty capacity for daily use.

Weighing 300 pounds, the portable solar toilet is built on a 4’X8′ platform. It is easy to be transported and assembled onsite.

A translucent roofing material that covers the stall provides ample daylight, which passive solar energy helps with the composting and evaporation process. Convection currents provide ventilation.

Benefits of Solar Toilets

Solar toilets have the ability to eliminate odors while they produce ready-to-use, odorless compost. But the most beneficial feature of the composting solar toilet, is that it brings a partial solution to the environmental pollution and water crises that are threatening our planet and human existence.

By supplying compost, the solar toilet provides additional benefits, as compost is necessary for healthy crops. The humus-like compound is created by micro-organisms such as fungi, actinomycetes and bacteria, however, it will not contaminate any water surfaces.

How Solar Toilets Work

Source: Enviro Options, Hill 60 Bump

The solar composting toilet is easy to transport, install and managed. It uses the sun and biodegradable materials (sawdust or peat moss) to complete the composting process.

Sun energy enters through the roof, providing energy to the toilet and evaporating any excess liquids that the compost can’t absorb . It is kept dry automatically, and worms contained in the bin underneath the toilet help to speed up the process of composting.

A vent allows air to pass by convection currents through a storm-proof ventilator, and does not allow insects to enter. Any pathogens in the compost will be eliminated by heat and by the duration of the composting process. On average, the toilet should be emptied every six months, depending on frequency of use.

The solar toilet is handicap accessible, although manufacturers are working on a specific model that will be bigger, with a wider, self closing door and grab bars.

In keeping with all the other conveniences, the solar toilet is manufactured using easy-to-clean, durable construction materials. The modular design makes it easy to repair any damage.

Now you can make the best of a crappy situation and turn your sewerage into something useful – compost – while saving the planet.

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Written by Tanya Klien

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