Dry toilets for all, forever?

This post was developed as a submission for The Conversation. I have to rework it because “the article covers a huge amount of ground, and that there isn’t immediately a ‘golden thread’ that can be easily identified.” I like it, so it’s going to live here in its current form 🙂

When the probability of Day Zero was first announced in January 2018, the realisation that the extreme drought in Cape Town may affect the functioning of the sewer systems became apparent to everyday people. Through my work in [resource recovery from wastewaters](http://www.futurewater.uct.ac.za/FW-WWBR) and particularly how [sanitation can contribute to the circular economy](http://www.toiletboard.org/media/17-Sanitation_in_the_Circular_Economy.pdf) I have been thinking about the benefits of dry sanitation. I am intrigued by the potential of biological means to recover value from diffuse pollution. But could they ever be introduced at large scale?

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Keeping the loop in mind

Presentation at the UCT Summer School, the pdf is available on the Future Water Institute website.

Kevin asked me to present on Innovations in Urban Water Management, through talking about my house. Instead I wanted to talk about systems, and took a term from the start-up scene ‘keeping the end in mind’, as in, keep your goal in mind, what you want to achieve, or what you want to sell it for. But really, we’re working with systems, and I want to focus on where these systems, these loops come full circle.

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Jouissance toilet 2.0 – the foam flush

Why? We’re in drought, so we don’t have water to flush toilets. The nutrients in shit should be re-used, and that is difficult when we dilute it with loads of water and mix it with god knows what else to be shipped off somewhere to be so-called ‘treated’. Also, flushing toilets mean we are flushing nutrients into receiving water bodies (even with excellent wastewater treatment, we’re still not doing well enough). So flushing is just a stupid idea. More about this in a presentation (pdf, 5MB) I recently gave.

If you don’t know already, I have a dry toilet. I love my dry toilet. It’s indoors, I’m affluent, privileged. This is not about toilets for poor people. This is about dry toilets for everyone.

But, many people don’t like the idea of looking at their shit, so we’re trying to get the experience of the white ceramic sparkly-clean ‘flush and forget’ ‘out of sigh(t) out of mind’ toilet, with the cost-saving benefits and environment and resource recovery goodness of dry toilets. I think currently the foam flush may be our best bet.

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Jouissance toilet

My house was featured in Earthworks. Obviously I’m thrilled, but also a tad apprehensive. While I have a dry toilet in an affluent (medium density) urban environment, I am not suggesting that people at large use this; the practitioners (specifically Richard Holden) seem to agree that flush toilets remain the best default option – from a (rather centralised) waste management perspective. I don’t know how much of that is user psychology, I don’t think we’ve explored the options from the city planning, health, waste management and engineering sides… hence my interest. On the other hand, it’s worth taking a leap and seeing where it goes. So, one step at a time. Continue reading “Jouissance toilet”