Ethan Arpi

Clean and Green: The Brave New World of Composting Toilets

Composting ToiletThis past Saturday, The Washington Post ran an article, Fighting Our Flux Fixation, on the increased use of eco-friendly toilets in the DC region. What piqued my interest was The Post’s discussion of composting latrines, which have the potential to improve sanitation in many urban and rural areas that are not part of a centralized sewer system. As described by The Post, composting toilets are a ?high-tech version of an outhouse,? where waste is concentrated and gradually decomposed into fertilizer, which can be used to enrich soil and strengthen agriculture, the backbone of rural life.

Even as the United Nations seeks to connect more than a billion people to sewers in the next decade, many waste management experts now concede that conventional sewer systems are not the answer to the challenges that developing countries face. Instead of relying on sewer systems that consume vast quantities of fresh water and dump treated waste into rivers, these experts have embraced the composting alternative where waste from entire cities and villages is decomposed into fertilizer and used to support local agriculture. At the World Water Forum held in Mexico this past spring, several groups of environmentalists proposed exactly that.

However, until local and national governments are able to fund such large scale infrastructure, introducing composting toilets on a smaller level will have to do. For an entrepreneur with an interest in waste management, this could be an intriguing business opportunity. In fact, our own Alex Bloom wrote an entry earlier this year about Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, a social entrepreneur who has been installing such facilities throughout India. Perhaps someone willing to get their hands dirty will follow Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak’s lead.

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World Resources Institute