Yesterday I learned about the composting toilet. The composting toilet, in particular the Clivus Multrum, is a self-contained, waterless and odorless toilet treatment system. And guess what? It uses NO chemicals, NO water, and releases NO polluting discharge.
Now, most people probably think this idea, although good for the environment, is a little crazy, or at least a little gross. A lot of people do not want to deal with their own waste, and in fact don’t, by flushing it away to magically go somewhere else. However, there are many consequences and a general unawareness to what happens when we turn a handle and instantly make our waste go away through the sewer system.
The sewer system can be detrimental to the environment. According to Laura Orlando, Executive Director of the Resource Institute for Low Entropy Systems (RILES), sewage treatment is designed to address only a handful of parameters: biodegradable organics like proteins, carbohydrates and fats from food and excreta; and suspended solids. It does not address the 42 billion pounds of chemical substances produced or imported in the U.S. for chemical and industrial use. These chemicals end up in the byproduct of sewer systems, known as “sludge”. There is no way to treat the toxic byproduct and it ends up being dumped on acres and acres of land, contaminating the soil for live stock and plants.
Composting toilets provide an alternative to sewer systems. It is a more holistic approach that turns human waste into a nutrient dense compost that can be returned to the earth.
However, implementing these systems require political maneuvering, as big business and major political players control the sewer systems and waste regulations, making it hard for composting toilets to compete.
There is also the issue of lifestyle. The idea of using a composting toilet and dealing with your own waste is foreign and unheard of for most. But, with a little bit of awareness and understanding of the process, people can learn the benefits of composting toilets.
I had the opportunity to meet Laura Orlando at Abby Rockefeller’s house to learn more about composting toilets. Abby Rockefeller installed composting toilets in her house in the 1970’s and continues to advocate for their benefits to the environment and public health.
This experience reminds me of the importance, yet again, of what awareness can do. Society does not always get it right – the norm may not always be what is right. If we look past these habits and tendencies, and base our decisions on facts and research, we can move toward a healthy planet and environment.