Composting Toilets!

A way to stop wasting energy and our drinking water

By Jane Fasullo

Did you know it is not necessary to use water to get rid of human waste? Doing so not only uses up valuable clean water resources, it also lowers the water pressure of the aquifers of Long Island allowing salt water to intrude. Places like Long Beach and Northport have already had this happen.

 

Sewage treatment systems use large amounts of energy(1)(2)(3), give off large amounts of greenhouse gases, and malfunctionand overflow especially during storm events which pollutes our waterways. Cesspools and septic systems decompose the waste anaerobically (without air) which leave a lot of nitrogen that finds its way into our aquifers (drinking water) and our bays where it wreaks havoc. On the other hand, waterless and bio-foam toilets decompose the waste aerobically (with oxygen) using living organisms which absorb large amounts of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen and more, thereby decreasing the amount available to form gases like carbon dioxide (CO2)(4), nitrous oxide (NO2)(5), hydrogen sulfide (H2S)(6), methane (CH4)(7) andammonia (NH3)(8) (to mention just a few).                    

 

Based on this, our water based toilets should be replaced with the cleaner,moreenvironmentally responsible, water

free or extremely low water (bio-foam) toilets which have been used by people for centuries, especially in places where

water is not able to be used (no supply or it freezes in winter).

Another great benefit of these “composting” systems is that they cost less to install than septic, cesspool or sewer systems!

 

If you’re thinking outhouse, loose that thought. The toilet bowl is porcelain or enamel on steel which fits in your bathroom’s existing space (or less! - see the pictures) and cleans easily. And the system uses a draw down fan which takes odors away from your nose and out of the room, and is 100% safe to use.  

 

These alternatives have been used in northern European countries for centuries and in the US and Canada for decades. Sweden has stations along its route 6.

At the University of British Columbia, a 30,000 square foot office complex was equipped with composting toilets so the  building did not need to be connected to the sewer system(9). In Seattle, a large office building called the Bullett Center,  has nothing but these toilets(10). The Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Annapolis, MD had a system installed over 5 years  ago. They didn’t have to remove anything from the solid waste storage tanks for 3.5 years, and what they took out, they used to fertilize their plants(11). See a National Geographic film about it.

At the University of British Columbia, a 30,000 square foot office complex was equipped with composting toilets so the  building did not need to be connected to the sewer system(9). In Seattle, a large office building called the Bullett Center,  has nothing but these toilets(10). The Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Annapolis, MD had a system installed over 5 years  ago. They didn’t have to remove anything from the solid waste storage tanks for 3.5 years, and what they took out, they used to fertilize their plants(11). See a National Geographic film about it.

 

In Vermont, an ever increasing number of homes, restaurants, roadside rests, and commercial establishments are using these toilets, including the Vermont Law School in South Royalton(12). At Black Rock Forest, a 3,830 acre nature  preserve in Cornwall, NY which is used for educational, recreational and scientific study, these are the only toilets available for  as many as 120 guests.(13)  A closer location, the Bronx Zoo, has an Eco-bathroom where biological foam, using less than two ounces of water, cleans each bowl after each use. See more about this bathroom. At the Queens Botanical Garden(14), the Visitor and Administration building has two composting toilets for the Garden’s staff that use three ounces of water with each flush. The Hollenback Community Garden in Brooklyn(15) installed their toilets several years ago. There are more(16), and the number of such toilets is on the rise in NYC with plans for a similar bathroom at the Fresh Kills Parkon Staten Island(17) and at the Well House in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park(18) where an eco-friendly bathroom will be complete by 2015. The output of this bathroom will be used as plant fertilizer. In February 2012, Metro North completed renovations of its Cortlandt Rail station(19) in Westchester.Included is a restroom equipped with a composting toilet system with foam-flush toilets. Composting toilets are also at the Lime Hollow Nature Center(20) in Cortland, NY but these are the park model which are not good for regular use by a large number of people.

Composting toilet manufacturers make models that include units for outdoors (often called “park models”), small self-contained in-room units, and “whole house” systems which can have multiple toilets hooked up to one composting

bin. The easiest to maintain and that do the best job of composting are the whole house units.

 

Unfortunately, our NYS public health rules will not allow a composing toilet with grey water handling system to be the only residential toilet. A septic system must be installed or the house has to be sewered. We hope the state changes its position on this sane, safe, lower cost method of handling effluent and grey water, especially for low lying homes.

 

A number of companies make models that can be sold and used on Long Island. These include Clivus MultrumEnviroletSun-MarACS SancorBiolet, to mention just a few.  

 

At present, the best full-time-use in-house systems are made by the first two companies.

Photo credits (used with permission):

 

Photo 1: originated on the Envirolet toilet company web pages and can be found at

https://picasaweb.google.com/104688251612065624637/ProductPhotos?feat=embedwebsite#5522785015564818786

 

Photo 2: from the Clivus Multrum website http://www.clivusmultrum.com/green-building-neptune-school.php

 

Photo 3: from https://www.google.com/search?q=Bronx+zoo+eco+bathroom&client=firefox-a&hs=Mxz&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=46R8UarTHM394AOp-YHgDQ&ved=0CDsQsAQ&biw=925&bih=575

 

1 - http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1978STIN...7915439S “Total energy consumption for municipal wastewater treatment”, Smith, R.   “Providing reliable wastewater services and safe drinking water is a highly energy-intensive activity in The United States.” A 1996 report prepared for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) estimated the energy demand for the water and wastewater industry would be approximately 75 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) per year, or about 3 percent of the electricity consumed in the U.S. (Burton 1996).

 

2 - http://water.epa.gov/scitech/wastetech/upload/Evaluation-of-Energy-Conservation-Measures-for-Wastewater-Treatment-Facilities.pdf    In this report, “Quantities of all forms of energy consumed for collection, and treatment of municipal waste water were estimated. Heat energy was equated to electrical energy by a conversion factor of 10,500 Btu/kwh. Total energy consumption, expressed as kwh/mg of waste water treated, ranges from 2300-3700 kwh/mg. Energy used for construction of the treatment plant and the sewage system represented 35-55% of the total energy consumed. The remainder used for plant operation was predominately (65-75%) electrical energy.”

 

3 – http://www.ncsafewater.org/Pics/Training/AnnualConference/AC10TechnicalPapers/AC10_Wastewater/WW_T.AM_10.30_Menendez.pdf    “… in the United States, and nationwide, approximately 4% of the total electricity consumption of 100 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) is used for water supply and wastewater treatment.” 

 

4 – http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/pdfs/bamf_wastewater.pdf Wastewater Treatment Gas to Energy for Federal Facilities

 

5 - http://cleantechnica.com/2010/05/27/greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-wastewater-treatment-plants-get-closer-scrutiny/

 

6 - Hydrogen Sulfide http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_sulfide

 

7 - http://www.armstrongmonitoring.com/cm2.cfm?fid=3&lang=1&sid=10&extranet=0&html=sewage-waste-water-hydrogen-sulfide-hazardous.html

 

8 - Ammonia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammonia

 

9 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._K._Choi_Building   

 

10 - http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlerealestate/2012/10/25/bullitt-centers-green-amenities-include-composting-toilets/

 

11 - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/24/AR2011012404669.html

 

12 - http://www.vermontlaw.edu/Experience_VLS/The_Campus/Debevoise_Hall/Environmental_Features.htm

 

13 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Rock_Forest and www.blackrockforest.org  A 3750 acre preserve in the Hudson Highlands at 129 Continental Rd., Cornwall, NY  12518  (845) 534-4517.

From www.blackrockforest.org/docs/about-the-forest/GreenBuildings/ScienceCenter.html - “Waterless composting toilets reduce water use. The Center has three composters in its basement, and the Forest Lodge has four. Together, they can save over 420,000 gallons of water a year, and produce safe, nearly odorless compost material.”

 

14 - http://www.clivusmultrum.com/green-building-queens.php

 

15 - http://hollenback.pbworks.com/w/page/18771289/Click%20here%2C%20for%20more%20details%20on%20how%20it%20works

 

16 - http://www.clivusmultrum.com/green-building-bronx.php and

       http://www.clivusmultrum.com/green-building-projects.php and

       http://www.mainese.com/documents/annualmeetingdocuments12/clivus.pdf

 

17 - http://freshkillspark.wordpress.com/2009/07/07/composting-toilets-on-the-rise-in-public-spaces/

 

18 - http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/03/19/no-flush-green-toilets-coming-to-prospect-park/  and  www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/relief-green-latrine-planned-brooklyn-prospect-park-convert-waste-plant-fertilizer-article-1.1292144#ixzz2RiBp5AxX

 

19 - http://www.mta.info/press-release/metro-north/mta-metro-north-railroad-project-cortlandt-wins-planning-award

 

20 - http://www.limehollow.org/visit/sustainability-composting-toilets.htm

 

 

View the Greywater action founder’s own home toilet with explanation.

  • Facebook Social Icon

The Sierra Club, a non-profit organization, is the nation’s longest standing volunteer driven environmental organization. Its purpose is to ‘explore, enjoy and protect the planet’. It does this by educating the public and influencing public policy decisions — legislative, legal, and electoral.


Copyright 2020 by Sierra Club Long Island Group