American Toilets Instead of writing a lot of words here, I am only going to link to an excellent wrap up on the pages of Treehugger. Read the Treehugger article As they note, the bad design is one that attempts to perpetuate the dumb design that is standard in the US but put a faux green gloss on it, which pretends to be an improvement. The article points out that squatting down, instead of sitting down is a healthier way to move your bowels, that is in accord with your body’s design. Admittedly there are people who can’t handle the leg strain and do better with a sit down toilet, so it has a reason to exist. I had occasion to use the squat toilet while living abroad and found it very comfortable – even preferable. Once again, America is found to have precious little to teach the world. As Treehugger mentions, the ultimate fate of poop, in a well-designed, rational world, is not to travel to a wastewater plant along with multiple gallons of water, but to be worked on by microbes and fungi until it becomes part of Nature’s fertilizer again, which is what it started as i.e. food. Composting is one good way to do this. Arguing on the other side, waste water treatment plants are worth billions of dollars in state and federal engineering contracts. So the Health Dept. rules naturally ring composting and fecal matter around with all manner of spurious and ill-informed regulations. This leads to the building of huge wastewater treatment plants around the country. Surely no one, and certainly not this writer, fails to admire the improvement in sanitation associated with the flush toilet which made modern cities possible starting in the nineteenth century. The sanitary plumbing which accompanies it is a miracle of modern engineering. However, science and environmental awareness have moved on and we now know there are better ways to handle human waste which would not in any way return us to the slops and filth of eighteenth century London. However, we cannot pretend that adding on a composting element to the end product of a waste water treatment plant is the answer. There may always be a need for bulk wastewater treatment in high rise cities – the jury is out on that – but other, cheaper, more naturally effective methods are also available. The basic fact is that cycles of resource usage must be closed on a finite planet. Food is the distilled product of a vast consumption of resources of every kind. Whenever possible, that food must somehow be returned to the soil. The reader should not miss the basic point being made: In this country, we do not solve problems in straightforward ways using rational redesign. We invariably add on some technofix at the end to make the problem more difficult to unravel later and to ensure a new source of profit to some corporation.
For an excellent source on the subject of humanure composting, see this article about composting toilets that are being built, installed and used in Haiti.