Smart Toilets? A Revolution May Be Coming to Your Bathroom

It turns out that there's a double-win in most bathrooms around the world with "NoMix" toilets that separate urine from solid waste.

Being green is all about solving problems and grabbing overlooked opportunities. It turns out that there's such a double-win in most bathrooms around the world; if we had "NoMix" toilets that separate urine from solid waste, municipal wastewater plants would have a significantly easier task (and produce more methane to generate electricity), and we could much more easily extract precious nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen for use as fertilizer (instead of using fossil fuels). So what's stopping us from going NoMix?

According to a pretty extensive review based on surveys from 7 European countries with NoMix pilot projects, "NoMix-technology is well accepted; around 80% of users liked the idea, 75−85% were satisfied with design, hygiene, smell, and seating comfort of NoMix-toilets, 85% regarded urine-fertilizers as good idea (50% of farmers), and 70% would purchase such food." Though as usual, not everybody is ready to pay more for the greener product: "Only 57% (±29%) are willing-to-pay more for a NoMix- than conventional toilet or purchase NoMix-toilets without subsidies."

Still, those are good numbers, especially considering that NoMix toilets can still improve in their design and that most people are only starting to get used to the idea. The more familiar it becomes (especially in public buildings), the more accepted the technology should be.

For more on NoMix toilets and the benefits of separating urine from the solid waste, see the posts by John and Lloyd.

Now that we know that NoMix toilets are being positively received in pilot programs, I think the next step is to expand those pilot programs in Europe and to start preparing the general public in North-America to the idea that there might be a better way to deal with human waste (and in this case, waste is a bit of a misnomer; it's actually a great resource if we capture the methane to make electricity and use the nitrogen and phosphorus). It might take a while to get people used to the idea, so better start now!

Via ACS Environment Science & Technology

Michael Graham Richard is editor of the Science & Technology and the Cars & Transportation categories for Treehugger and he's also the editor of Discovery Green.
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