Waterless public toilets – why Australian councils should be installing them

Australia… the driest continent on the planet where over 80% of country has an annual rainfall of less than 600 mm (24 in). When looking at other continents, only Antarctica receives less rainfall than we do here in the land down under. If we live in a country that’s so dry, it only makes sense that as a society and a country that we try to mininise our impact on our drinkable water supplies as much as possible.

Many times the big process for reducing the environmental impact on our drinking water supplies falls in the hands of industry and councils around Australia. One of the easiest ways to reduce our use of the precious commodity that is drinking water in Australia is to make sure we only use it when we need it. Many households around Australia are educated about taking shorter showers, using water-friendly taps, dishwashers and showerheads and a wide range of other water saving techniques along with local councils setting in motion water restrictions when water levels get too low.

There’s also many other ways councils and organisations can help to reduce their impact when it comes to water usage and we think helping local councils around Australia understand the benefit of implementing waterless public toilets is one of the ways we here at Ecoflo might be able to make a positive impact when it comes to promoting the benefits of composting toilets to those around Australia.

What are the benefits of installing waterless toilets in public bathrooms?

Reduction in water waste

This is by far the most visible and impactful change when it comes to the reduction in wasting water in council and public facilities. If a council installs a ‘traditional flush’ toilet in a public area with high visitation rates, those toilets can be flushed anywhere from a few times to a few hundred times per day. With each toilet flush using an average of around 3 litres (based on a 5 star rating dual flush toilet), even if that toilet was only flushed an average of 5 times per day, that’s over five thousand litres of perfectly good drinking water being used where it wouldn’t need to be. Multiply that by the over 19,000 publicly available toilets (source) and that’s a LOT of water being used every year (over ninety five million litres in fact) to simply flush away waste.

A waterless toilet does exactly what the name implies. It uses no water. Not only that but after several months (depending on the frequency of use) you have a usable, top soil like product that can be used in council gardens and vegetation areas. Which brings us to our next point.

No chemicals are needed to treat waste

Many public toilets tend to be in out-of-the-way places like national parks, mountainous regions, truck stops and in our expansive outback. Getting running water to these areas can be a logistical challenge along with either piping away or storing waste matter in a septic tank for removal at a later date.

Either way, the waste makes its way to a sewage treatment plant where a range of different chemicals and processes are used to treat and change raw waste into something that can be used again. A sewage treatment plant requires considerable amounts of land, power, water and chemicals to run effectively and the by products it produces, sludge, algae, zooplankton, bacteria, phosphorus, etc need to be treated properly before any of the treated sewage can be released back into the environment.

It helps our visitors and residents understand that water is precious

By educating the public and our visitors about composting toilets, the benefits of their use and how they can reduce their water consumption by using any composting toilets available for public use, we are helping people understand that small changes can make a difference.

Not only does it introduce more people to the concepts of composting toilets (also called waterless toilets or dry toilets) it might make them consider if they might be willing to install one in their home or talk about it at their local school, workplace or organisations they’re part of.

If we are all more aware of how much water we can save by installing waterless toilets in our public bathrooms, that’s bound to raise awareness in other areas of public and private life.

There’s a usable by product

Rather than piping away waste to a sewage treatment plant or having it stored in a septic tank to be pumped out and carted off at regular intervals, waterless toilets use a natural process to break down all the harmful elements of human waste to leave a top soil like by product that can be used as a mulch or covering for non-edible plants.

This means that not only will councils reduce the costs of treating and carting human waste (particularly if a septic system is involved) there’s the added benefit of having a safe, environmentally friendly by product that can be used in gardens and other green areas.

They’re easy to install, use and manage

Many local councils are concerned about the cost to a taxpayer when setting up any public works like public toilets. Not only are composting toilets easy to install (any contractor with building experience will be able to set them up) and to use (simple educational material can be created or provided for public bathrooms) but the management of waterless toilets is incredibly straightforward. With less moving parts than traditional ‘flush’ toilets, there’s less chance of components breaking down, wearing out or breaking. This means less time spent repairing or replacing components of toilets.

If you’re part of a local council and you would like Ecoflo to talk with decision-makers about the use of composting toilets in public bathrooms, please feel free to email us or call us on 1300 138 182 and we would be more than happy to organise a discussion with the appropriate people.