Utne Blogs > Environment

Saner Sanitation

 by Bennett Gordon


Tags: environment, technology, waste water, low-flush, no-flush, toilets, waste, Boston Globe,

The idea of flushing human waste down the toilet, mixing it with water from the laundry, the shower, and the sink, and then trying to treat the whole effluent sludge using expensive, energy-intensive industrial plants is “totally insane” according to Arno Rosemarin, research and communications manager at the Stockholm Environment Institute, quoted in the Boston Globe. There are plenty of other options that people and governments can pursue for more sane and sustainable sanitation.

A global movement is afoot to harness the “neglected treasure” of human waste, Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow writes for the Boston Globe. Low-flush toilets, waterless urinals, and composting toilets are just the starting points. Tuhus-Dubrow also writes about “vacuum toilets”—like the ones found on airplanes—bathrooms designed to give nutrients to plants, and toilets designed to separate urine, feces, and greywater. A number of barriers, including psychological ones, are preventing this kind of technology from being implemented, but any one would be preferable to the “flush and forget” system currently in place.

bennett gordon
7/24/2008 9:26:00 AM

Hi JJ, The strategies depend on which other countries you're interested in. A lot of innovative water-saving techniques are coming from Africa, in part because of the severe droughts. Composting toilets are extremely common. The Boston Globe article goes into detail about a strategy called the “arborloo,” gaining traction in rural Ethiopia, where fruit trees are grown over composting sites. The trees grow well using the compost, and the fruits from the trees can be eaten or sold. In Europe, I’ve found that toilets with two flushes (one big, one small) are more common than they are here. There’s a lot more to be said on this topic, honestly. I’ve tried to keep up on it for a while: http://www.utne.com/2008-07-23/Environment/Saner-Sanitation.aspx?blogid=26#comments And I’ll try to write more about new ideas that I find. Thanks, Bennett Gordon


jj moates
7/24/2008 7:53:17 AM

Gee is this all you can say on this subject? How about how other countries compost it and use it?