Composting Toilet Finally Approved

It required nearly half a decade of production time and legal negotiations, but the Austin (Texas) Water Utility has finally given its approval to a green toilet that could revolutionize how we deal with human waste.

The toilet in question is a composting toilet and it works by using bacteria to transform waste into a soil that's packed with nutrients. Instead of flushing with water (a huge waste of clean drinking water, say environmentalists), users of the toilet "flush" with sawdust (there's a bucket of the stuff nearby). In fact, there's no water hook-up at all.

The toilets (there are actually two of them) are situated in an outhouse (it doesn't smell good enough to be welcome in most homes) on a tract of land that used to be a landfill. It's owned the Rhizome Collective, a group of individuals dedicated to sustainable living. Only one toilet is used each year. It's then sealed and the waste inside is given a year to transform into soil. The outhouse cost around $3,000 to construct.

Although composting toilets sound like they could drastically change the way we deal with waste, don't expect any major changes in the immediate future. Currently, the Austin city code doesn't permit any property within 100 feet of a sewer line to have a composting toilet (and there are similar laws in many jurisdictions). The technology will have to improve significantly before we see composting toilets in the average home.

Interestingly, it's thought that there are currently several secret composting toilets in operating within the Austin area

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