Waterless Toilets – What the Third World Needs Now
For millions of people living in Third World countries, access to basic sanitation is limited or absent. In many of these areas, due to the lack of running water, the same rivers used for bathing and recovering cooking water are also used for emptying and disposing of refuse. The biggest problem with such contamination is the risk of water-borne illness, a major cause of death in infants and children in poor countries. One of the best solutions to this problem is waterless toilets.
Waterless toilets are not a new invention. In fact, they have been around for decades. One of the biggest barriers to their use and integration in Third World countries is education. Groups like the Peace Corps and UNICEF routinely travel to such countries to promote better sanitation by providing waterless toilets and training people in their use and maintenance. Unfortunately, there are far more areas that need such support than there are volunteer groups and funds they provide.
There are nowadays different types of waterless toilets, and some are more practicable for use in third world countries than others. Probably the most commonly used is the sawdust, because it is extremely simple. Sawdust toilets are nothing more than a 5 gallon bucket fitted with a toilet seat at the top. They are very cost effective to build and distribute on a large scale. For the maintenance of the system is only a sufficient supply of sawdust, peat moss, sand or other finely divided substances required. This material is used to cover the waste inside the toilet after each use to avoid odors in the bathroom area. In dry climates with abundant sandy soil, these systems are easy to care for. However, sawdust toilets are only a good solution for people living in remote or rural areas, as they need land in an area at least fifty meters away from the main residence. This land should be a place where the compost heap can be kept and the buckets routinely emptied as they fill up. Obviously, this would not work in densely populated urban areas.
A better alternative for urban areas are waterless composting toilets. These are professionally made systems that collect all waste and compost internally. The main problem with this solution is the cost. Waterless compost toilets are often prohibitively expensive and require grants or donations from generous benefactors to implement on a large scale. The advantage of composting toilets is that they do not take up much space because all the waste is disposed of in the toilet itself. They are very easy to use and to maintain; However, they require a continuous supply of bulk materials such as peat moss and wood chips. This filler should be added to the toilet daily to maintain the proper balance of carbon and nitrogen in the compost. As a result, the waste is degraded quickly and odorless. Access to such a blocking material may be restricted in some urban areas, and it may not be financially feasible for people to buy it, and this could pose another potential hurdle to their use. Ideally, this hurdle could be overcome if an urban community could provide bulk to the residents with little effort.
In one way or another, better sanitation is needed in Third World countries. Millions of people fall ill and thousands die each year from diseases caused by contaminated water supplies. Waterless toilets would allow residents of such countries to dispose of their waste in a hygienic manner without wasting or contaminating their limited freshwater resources.