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No flush required for success!

A report on the Transition Towns Kaitāia evening ‘Most Toilets Don’t Flush’, written by Gill Minogue.

Four presenters, a large audience and lots of discussion!

Paul has extensive experience with composting toilets here and overseas, but focused on the most basic composting toilet option – dry composting using a 50 litre plastic drum with lid. Dry composting means keeping urine out of the mix – the simplest way to do this is to urinate into a wide-mouthed plastic bottle or container, then empty it around fruit trees or onto compost piles.

Christian from Mangawhai set up a display of composting toilet models that ranged from simple to sophisticated. He also introduced the Loopit, a unisex urinal fitting, an outstanding success at the recent Luminate Festival where users rated it far above the ubiquitous portable toilets. Christian highlighted the waste of water and money associated with flush toilets. He said it made no financial sense for Councils to spend millions to treat all reticulated water to drinking quality when the bulk of it gets used for washing, showering, and toileting; and then spend millions to treat the vast volumes of contaminated water in order to make it safe to release into the environment.

Jo recounted her introduction to outside showers and composting toilets in Tasmania, and her experience of composting toilets of different types here and overseas. Her most recent favourite is a simple multi-container system that includes a urine-only bin that is first two-thirds filled with sawdust; once the urine content reaches the surface of the sawdust, the whole bucket is emptied onto the compost pile.

Gill highlighted the need for every household to have its own emergency composting toilet system, ready to quickly assemble when local sewerage systems fail due to flood, earthquake or other disaster. When Christchurch earthquakes took out the city’s sewerage system, many people whipped up DIY toilets to use because portable toilets were short in supply and often unusable due to poor maintenance. Some DIY toilets were themselves a health risk however – safe handling of human waste is no longer necessarily common knowledge. Gill shared a simple plan for an enclosed one or two bucket system and encouraged people to ‘school-up’ on safe composting or disposal of human waste.

Millions of people in poor countries still have no access to basic toilets. Open defecation is still used in city slums and rural communities. Open defecation contaminates water sources and is a major vector in the spread of diarrhea and other diseases which kill over 250,000 children every year.  It is particularly unsafe for girls and women who are often attacked in that setting.  

Donating money to community and school toilet-building projects is a proven way to make a real difference in poor communities. Basic toilets literally save lives, helps reduce attacks on women and girls, and are a key factor in lifting educational achievement, particularly of girls.

The EcoCentre in Bank St will arrange a workshop on basic composting toilets if enough people register their interest.

Some clips you might be interested in:

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