Composting Toilets in Ireland

Nancy B. Alston

Flushing toilets is the single highest use of household hold drinking water in Ireland. The average Irish person flushes the toilet 5 times a day using 30 litres of water. In a rural setting all this waste must be treated and disposed of on site. But, technology exists that is capable of dealing with human waste without using water. Therefore no septic tank is required. So with septic tank inspections and charges on the horizon it pays to use a composting toilet.

In 2005 the European court of justice ruled that Ireland had infringed the Waste Framework Directive by “generally and persistently failing to fulfill it’s obligation to fulfill various articles under that Directive”. Septic Tank charges and inspections are due to commence in early 2013. According to the Irish onsite wastewater association (IOWA) there are approximately 400,000 onsite waste water treatment systems in Ireland and anecdotal evidence suggests that approximately 70% of them are not functioning correctly. This means that many septic tanks will need to be upgraded.

This change in legislation provides us with an opportunity to change the way we deal with human waste in Ireland. Composting toilets or incinerating toilets use no water, so no septic tank is required. The technology has been tried, tested and certified for residential use. There are no odors and the compost, or ash, is safe to place in the garden.

Composting toilets break down waste in the presence of air, moisture and microbes to produce safe finished compost. Both solid and liquid waste are collected in the composting toilet. Urine is absorbed by the compost and excess liquids are evaporated off using a gentle heating element. Odors are controlled by the fan that expels air out of the building and there is no liquid outlet required on electric units. By rotating the Bio-Drum the mix remains aerated so that fouls smells do not occur. It is due to this rotating Bio-Drum that the national sanitation foundation ( have certified the Sun-Mar composting toilet for residential use. There are units for various capacities and units that do not need an electrical power supply.

Incinerating toilets incinerate all toilet waste into sterile ash. Using an incinerating toilet is easy. Place a disposable paper bowl liner in before each use. Both solid and liquid waste are collected in the incineration chamber. After use simply press the start button and the contents, including the toilet paper, are incinerated. Vapor is removed by a fan. Ash is removed from the ash pan once a week. Incinerating toilets are the most similar to a flush toilet in the way each user starts with a clean slate every time.

Waterless Urinals work by using a biodegradable oil based liquid trap to prevent odors coming from the drain. The urine flows through this oil layer while the oil always remains on to. There are no moving parts or rubber seals in the trap that may fail over time. The other difference between this and a conventional urinal is that the urinal must be sprayed every day to ensure that urine rolls off the urinal and does not adhere to it.

All the solutions mentioned in this article are available locally in Ireland so before you upgrade you septic tank it might pay to check out the alternatives.

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