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< prev - next > Water and sanitation Sanitation Compost toilets 29 4 13 (Printable PDF)
Compost toilets
Practical Action
the owner at no cost. The cost can be higher or lower depending on the complexity and
permanence of the construction, the materials used and the level of refinement of the details
sought by the owners. The roof, superstructure, internal finish and the door are the chief
variables and can significantly affect the cost.
Benefits of compost toilets
The use of compost toilets means that cities and peri-urban areas do not need to extend
capital intensive sewerage networks and sewage treatment plants. The recurring cost of
maintaining additional infrastructure is also avoided. Both these factors represent a huge
saving. Also, in areas where toilets would be flushed with municipal water there is an
enormous saving in water requirements. Cross contamination between water mains and sewers
is eradicated where compost toilets are well established as the standard sanitation technology.
Soils are steadily improved by the regular addition of good quality compost. Conventional
sewage treatment invariably leaves a dangerous sludge that still needs further treatment or
incineration whereas compost toilet systems produce a useful product.
In water logged areas where there was previously no satisfactory sanitation system operating,
the benefits that compost toilets provide are clear. They can prevent ground and surface water
contamination and protect people’s health in areas where open defecation on the ground or
directly into water bodies has been the norm. The production of safe compost and effective
use of the urine and wash water are also a significant benefit.
The technology also lends itself extremely well to areas with hard rocky soils where excavation
of pits is difficult, expensive or inappropriate. Again the compost is valuable and can help to
provide a better chance of establishing plant cover on thin and fragile soils.
Summary - advantages of the compost toilet
No need to dig pits.
No need for sewers and treatment plants.
No need for external infrastructure.
Safe and affordable for anywhere but especially high water table and or water scarce areas.
Does not pollute the ground or surface water or the soil.
Does not produce flies or smell.
Uses less water than any other toilet. A water flush toilet for a family can use 100,000
litres of water a year for flushing; the compost toilet saves all this water.
Totally self-contained sewage treatment on site. There are no sewage pipes, no septic
tanks, and no dangerous emptying of hazardous sludge.
No mosquitoes. Septic tanks and pit latrines often have poorly fitting covers or the covers
are not carefully replaced after emptying. These places then become prime breeding sites
for mosquitoes. In a compost toilet there is no place for mosquitoes to breed.
Produces safe, useful, non-odorous compost.
The evaporative plant bed can support growth of attractive flowers, fuel wood, vegetable or
References and further reading
Ecological Sanitation in Sri Lanka
Video: This video explores the options, and shows how the EcoSan toilet can provide
an answer. Each stage of construction is shown in detail
Low-cost sanitation technology - Zimbabwe
Video: EcoSan toilets built in Zimbabwe.
Ecological Sanitation: a concept Practical Action Technical Brief
Reuse of faeces and urine Practical Action Technical Brief
Training Manual for Eco-toilet Construction Commitment Consultants, SPACE,
BASA, and Practical Action Bangladesh.