Australia has certainly had a wild couple of months. From bushfires and floods and now the COVID-19 outbreak that’s currently taking up everyone’s headspace, it seems the sh!t has really hit the fan – not only in Australia but the rest of the world.
We’re a pretty positive bunch here at Ecoflo and have had our fair share of giggles at TV shows that give airtime to preppers and end-of-days types, but by gosh!, don’t we all just feel a little bit like hunkering down and waiting for this all to blow over?
Even though many of us are scared, some of us are prepared and most of us are still trying to wrap our heads around what’s happening in the world right now, there’s one thing that can be said – self-sufficiency is certainly going to be taking a new perspective in people’s lives over the next several months!
What the COVID-19 outbreak has taught us
Obviously the Coronavirus outbreak is on everyone's lips at the moment and we’re no different in the Ecoflo office. We’ve been talking about it between ourselves and also with our customers so we’ve decided to put some of our thoughts together so that hopefully amongst the craziness of the next few months, we’re able to offer some value, facts and useful information to our customers.
Composting toilets kill most viruses and pathogens
Whilst it is still very early days and not enough research has been done around faecal transmission of the COVID-19 virus, from everything we’ve been able to find it looks like COVID-19 could be transmitted by faecal matter but as we said, there’s still a lot more research needed to be done.
Here’s what we do know about viruses, bacteria and pathogens in composting toilets. If a composting toilet is used properly and temperatures are favourable, composting toilets will kill almost all harmful pathogens and nasties. This being said, it’s ALWAYS advisable to follow strict sanitation methods when handling the compost from a composting toilet.
NOTE: If you would like some more information about how to properly empty a composting toilet, please read How to empty a composting toilet – the complete guide.
There’s been much research about potentially harmful elements in human faeces (in particular amebiasis, cholera, cryptosporidiosis, gastroenteritis, infectious hepatitis, parasite-related disease, salmonellosis, shigellosis, typhoid fever, and other diarrheal diseases) and how these are broken down or killed in the composting process.
Proper composting can kill human pathogens in different types of compost (Redlinger et al., 2001). This pathogen’s destruction in a composting toilet depends on temperature, pH, moisture and storage time (Mehl et al., 2011). There have been several studies that have reported the removal of pathogenic bacteria (Tønner-Klank et al., 2007) and virus (Kazama et al., 2011) in composting toilets BUT as we’ve always said, it’s still incredibly important to practise safe hygiene and sanitation when handling the compost from a composting toilet.
The question everyone is no doubt wondering is will a composting toilet kill the COVID-19 virus. At this stage, the truthful answer is ‘we don’t know’. We assume that because most other viruses are destroyed in composting toilets (given the proper conditions) that the COVID-19 virus will also be destroyed but given there’s literally no research on this very new virus, it’s too early to tell.
Composting toilets reduce your reliance on systems that are out of your control
One thing we’ve seen in the past few weeks is that no matter how prepared some governments are, systems can become overwhelmed when a major influx or disaster happens.
The health systems of many countries are under immense pressure at the moment and many of us would have thought this impossible just a few weeks ago. Power, water, food etc, are all essential to our lives (and our livelihoods) so many people feel a little better knowing they have some form of control over these things (solar power, water tanks, composting toilets, self-sustainable farming methods, etc).
Composting toilets will save you thousands of litres of water every year and give you a usable product throughout the cycle of the seasons. Reducing your impact on our environment is another benefit but the main factor here is you’re putting the responsibility of waste management into your own hands so you have a greater level of control over how you choose to live and manage these aspects of your life.
When things break down, composting toilets still keep working
We’ve seen the devastating effects of the bushfires that have ravaged Australia in the past few months and many core utilities like water and power were cut due to the damage done as the flames raced through suburbs and towns.
If you’re without electricity or water for several days – even weeks, your family still needs to use the bathroom so, in these situations, a composting toilet relieves some of the pressure of trying to figure out alternative solutions for human waste.
No toilet paper, no problem!
To be honest, this isn’t something we thought we would ever be writing about but given the current environment in Australia and around the world, nothing is really surprising us at this time.
Composting toilets are great if you’ve run out of toilet paper and you need to think of alternatives. Many Asian nations use water from a container called a Tabo or Gayung to clean themselves after going to the bathroom. Composting toilets can certainly handle any excess moisture created by using water, you just need to ensure your exhaust fan is working to help with the evaporation process.
Other types of paper can be used in a composting toilet. As long as it will break down, you can use it although we do not recommend using any type of antibacterial wet wipe or towelette as this may kill off all the good bacteria in your composting pile (if you’re really in a bind, office paper, newspaper, coffee filters, etc can all be used).
If the last few weeks have taught us anything it’s that being prepared is something you won’t always need for a majority of the time, but for times that you really need it, being prepared can make a huge difference to the way you’re able to handle an emergency, natural disaster or worldwide pandemic.
Everyone here at the Ecoflo office would like to say a big thank you to all our customers and wish to give positive thoughts to everyone affected by what’s happened in the past few weeks around the world.