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Canada Earth Science

Why Worms In the Toilet Might Be a Good Idea 124

derekmead writes "Billions worldwide still don't have access to proper sanitation, and those that do still require a ton of water and electricity to keep waste flowing. A French company is offering one solution: Use turd-eating worms to compost waste right at the source. Ecosphere Technologies has developed an outhouse that, rather than relying on chemicals like a port-a-john, relies on about a pound of red wiggler worms. A new installation in Quebec uses imported worms, placed inside of a mixture of dung and straw underneath to toilet, to devour feces delivered to them by a conveyor belt system. (When someone uses the toilet, pee filters through sand to wash away, while a pedal allows the user to transport their poo to the worm space.) The whole system uses no water or electricity, and a series of passive vents allegedly keeps the toilet smelling great. The company claims it can be used 10,000 times without servicing, which is far better than what a port-a-potty can boast, although with a current price tag of $40k for the worm system, port-a-potties are still a lot cheaper."
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Why Worms In the Toilet Might Be a Good Idea

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  • first worm! (Score:4, Funny)

    by ehack ( 115197 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @06:49PM (#41564123) Journal

    first worm!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Early bird you are.

      • Bale of hay: $3.00
        Bag of potting soil: $2.00
        Pound of earthworms: $10.00

        Stupid hippie crapping in a wormy shitbox:


  • But the last thing the world needs is more toilet humor.

    It's a fascinating science idea, but there's no way I can see it marketed to take off. Starting with the fact that people have reasonable levels of phobias of living things where they poo; see prevalent folk tales of squirrels and snakes in toilets, etc.

    It's just simply more economical to dig a hole in the ground, and provide hand sanitizer.

  • I already have worms in my poop.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05, 2012 @06:57PM (#41564183)

    It doesn't just vanish, you know?

    • by dreadlord76 ( 562584 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @07:14PM (#41564339)
      Next week, they will sell you an Aquaponics system, with worm shit eating plant, and worm eating fish, for $60K. The first time you take out a fish and eat it, you complete the cycle. For $100K.
    • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @08:39PM (#41564961)

      Earthworm castings (earthworm shit) are worth about 1.50 a dry pound retail.

      I'd also just point out that earthworms eat the shit in outhouse pits when the uses don't dump a ton of lime into it. All the outhouses need is solar powered positive pit ventilation.

      Hell most of Africa just needs an adult in the village to enforce outhouse digging. Avoid having the outhouse being the commons.

      • I think that urine is bad for them as well. That is why this system has the fancy poo-conveyor. So that they can separate out the urine.
        • by vivian ( 156520 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @09:49PM (#41565433)

          It's bad enough when the waste pump on a boat toilet needs fixing - at least that thing's mostly a small sealed unit with just a couple of hoses clamped on. That's one conveyor belt that you'd want to make sure was damned reliable and never ever needed repairs rr maintenance on - it's going to be one hell of a nasty job if it gets so crusted up it can't move or the bearings go or something like that.

          • That was actually my first thought as well. Also, from what I understand it is just a composting toilet which are not all that complicated or expensive. The only innovative thing seems to be the poo-conveyor. Maybe that is why it is so expensive... $35k for the super fuckin' reliable conveyor, $5k for the rest.
        • ...fancy poo-conveyor.

          iPoo - crap differently

          Legal: iPoo employs patented "pinch" gesture innovations.

        • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @12:29PM (#41568879)

          This problem has been solved before - In Ye Olden Dayes a common technique was to have your outhouse in the center of a copse of coppiced trees (willow being one of the preferred species due to it's particularly "hungry" roots), which would then convert your waste into firewood while cleaning out the pit for you. Unfortunately then as now mixing liquid and solid wastes produces a fairly toxic mass that's harmful to most life. So what was the solution? Some contrived conveyor system? No - they just put a catchment basin just beneath the front of the seat to catch liquids and redirect them under the trees at the surface. Sure, women had to pay a bit more attention to their aim, but the system was nice and simple with no moving parts to go wrong, and the trees were perfectly capable of dealing with both kinds of waste as long as it wasn't mixed together.

  • by hardie ( 716254 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @06:59PM (#41564199)

    Do the kids get training wheels?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...and it's just a matter of time before mutant giant worms will devour unsuspecting toilet visitors!

  • by Lefo ( 2746339 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @07:03PM (#41564243)
    Surprised that wasn't said first. I signed up just for this bad pun. Well, not a lurker any more. :-)
  • by raydobbs ( 99133 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @07:04PM (#41564251) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps this is too expensive to replace the portable restrooms in developing countries, but perhaps this could be used in larger-scale applications to help deal with the solid waste in waste treatment facilities? Instead of using harsher chemicals, we could augment it with more biological processes such as this to increase the efficiency of the treatment. Just a thought anyway.

  • Bubba: Hey, where you goin'?
    Hank: I'm goin' fishin'.
    Bubba: Got worms?
    Hank: Yeah, but I'm goin' anyway.

    "...and the worms, ate, in, to, his brain."
  • were is the news? the news is that a small portion of the world flushes their waste away with drinking quality water and that there are billions of others that don't. There are many systems that don't require a 'flushing toilet', the post is about just one, so it's more like an advert than a story, oh, crap.

    • Before you come down from your high horse, maybe you could use the view to find a country with potable water that does not use it to flush their toilets? Water - even drinkable water - is very cheap in a lot of places.

      • []

        3.2 Sanitation

        In 2002 about 75 million people were connected to sewers and 35 million people had their waste water treated through small-scale waste water treatment devices called jÅkasÅs. They are common in areas not connected to sewers, but also exist in areas connected to sewers. There is even a specific jÅkasÅ law that regulates their construction, installation, inspection and desludging. JÅkasÅs use different

        • It seems that a Jokaso is a type of septic system with some additional technology []. While I'm sure that water from it can be reused, I'm not finding any indication that this is the typical usage. I'm also not finding any common usage of the sludge being used as a fertilizer (at least not by the homeowner). It looks like there are services that haul the sludge away; if you look at these pictures [], you'd clearly have to be very brave to retrieve it yourself!

          In other words, it is used the same way that we evil,

  • Just a matter of time before the worms feed on enough blood-infested stool from anal fissures and hemorrhoids to turn carnivorous. Queue real-life Ghoulies II re-enactment..

  • Foreign critters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Migraineman ( 632203 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @07:17PM (#41564357)
    The article referenced [] by TFA says the worms are "... Eisenia fetida or red wiggler worms native to Europe imported from France and raised locally by Helene Beaumont ..." I'm currently being invaded by stink bugs imported from China, so I'm not particularly fond of folks proposing solutions that require importing non-native critters. Can't they find an indigenous turd-eating worm?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      These worms have been trained in the tur-de-france. They are much better at re-cycling.

    • "Can't they find an indigenous turd-eating worm?"

      Yes, but he's [] already got a job...

    • Re:Foreign critters (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @01:22AM (#41566243)
      The worms aren't necessary, and neither is the $40k price tag. There are already composting toilets [] available commercially in the $500-$2000 range. And even that's overpriced because they're relatively new. I've heard of people making their own with a 5 gallon bucket (cheapest way to test for yourself how well they work). All you need is a handful of peat moss or coconut husk, and a spoonful of microbes to get the process started.

      And before you ask, no they don't stink. The stinky smell comes from anerobic bacteria breaking down fecal matter. When you immerse feces in water, it cuts off the oxygen supply which kills the aerobic bacteria, and the stinky anerobic bacteria flourish. Because a composting toilet channels liquids away from the solids reservoir (the 5 gallon bucket works better for men), the aerobic bacteria dominate and break down the feces without causing the stink. Think about how much biomass there is outdoors in wild animals. If all their feces stank that badly as a sewage treatment plant, we'd never want to go outside.

      They're starting to become popular aboard boats, where dumping laws require toilets flush into holding tanks which can to be pumped out back at the harbor. These holding tanks and their plumbing tend to leak and stink up the boat after some years.
      • Yes exactly, compost toilets have been a fairly common choice amongst boaters for a while now and not much more expensive than the usual boaty alternatives plus they require less holes in the hull which is always a bonus on a boat. Of course you still need somewhere to dump the compost as marinas are not generally very green and tend to frown upon compost heaps springing up around the pontoons. []

  • by Tarlus ( 1000874 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @07:17PM (#41564361)

    Worms that are there for the purpose of sanitation? Good idea.

    Worms that are there because of something you ate? See a doctor...

  • Oops. Wrong worm.
  • ... worm poop on YOU!

  • Composting toilet (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dhrakar ( 32366 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @07:33PM (#41564487)

    There are actually several models of these out already. Some of the folks up here have them instead of an outhouse. [] The funny part is that you have to turn a handle on the toilet to mix the, uh, contents around after you go. I think you can put other wastes in them (like kitchen scraps) and they will be composted as well...

  • by eudaemon ( 320983 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @07:33PM (#41564501)
    I wish this joke was original with me... Slashdot: News for turds, Stuff that splatters. Saw it when we were last fascinated with Japanese toilets.
  • by addie ( 470476 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @07:36PM (#41564517)

    Really? Poop and pee?

    Urine and feces. There, I said it. Or excrement if you like. Take your pick, but I don't see why we can't just try to use adult words.

    Imagine a summary talking about "nuts cancer".

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I prefer the term "furry seed-sacks".
  • The Romans loved something called "lickerfish", probably a catfish, that hung out at the Rome sewer outflows into the Tiber river. In other words, these fish got fat eating human shit, and the Romans considered them a delicacy.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      In other words, these fish got fat eating human shit, and the Romans considered them a delicacy.

      Do you know what manure is? Ever eat any vegetables?

    • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @08:52PM (#41565051)

      The Romans also put fermented fish guts (guram IIRC) on just about everything. Like American rednecks and Ketchup or Japanese and Soy sauce. Roman's diets were weird.

      Also many third world countries are raising Talapia in their sewer treatment systems. Lack of control on imported Talapia is a good reason to avoid this fish (also it's 'sustainable', screw that, get me some swordfish steaks, Ahi Tuna and an Abalone. And some good prime beef, none of that grass fed crap.)

      • You realize that the grass fed beef is actually tastier, right?

      • And some good prime beef, none of that grass fed crap.

        You've got to be kidding me, right? Grass fed beef produces a far tastier steak.

        • Both of you are simply wrong. All beef is grass/hay fed. Good beef is fattened up in it's last two months at the feed lot.

          If you prefer tough, gamey beef, it just leaves more of the good stuff for those of us who understand.

          Next your going to tell me that beef should be years old when slaughtered. We call that 'cow'. It's awful.

    • Eating something doesn't mean their made of it... or are you a grease ridden cheeseburger?

      • ...or are you a grease ridden cheeseburger?

        I assume most Slashdotters are. In our cubes and basements. In stained T-shirts emblazoned with some comic book logo. With three computers, one to continuously serve porn up, a dedicated WoW machine, and something for trolling Slashdot.

  • by dov_0 ( 1438253 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @08:10PM (#41564747)
    In Australia we already use composting toilets on country roads for rest stops etc. They don't smell and are cheap to produce and maintain and the ventilation fan runs off a solar cell on the roof. Why should someone pay 40k for old tech?
    • Yes, we do. Here in Florida, there is an organic farm where the owner built a standing compost toilet. You're not supposed to piss in it, and if you can manage not to, its idle state is unnoticeable and the output is nearly indistinguishable from normal soil -- no foul odors at all. I've always thought large condominiums could benefit from something similar. I am no engineer, but I can imagine such a system being used for gasification, or fertilizer for landscaping, etc. We already use a wretched product ca
    • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      What do you do for toilet paper?

  • Red wrigglers? They're the Cadillac of worms.
  • What do you know: the Cadillac of Worms [] really exist. Who'd have thunk it?
  • The alternative to these worms isn't port-a-pots, it's composting toilets, which you might find in remote cabins. They're expensive, but certainly not 40k.

    And people have worked-out much cheaper DIY options which do the same thing. You just need a seat, a bucket, a vent (preferably with a small electric exhaust fan) and a handful of microbes to throw in to get started. All of the above are very inexpensive in the 1st world. In the 3rd world, local potters could make all of it, except the microbes, and t

    • by Seumas ( 6865 )

      This is why hippies fucking smell so atrocious.

      • Actually, if you have sufficient ventilation to dry the sewage quickly, there's almost no smell.

      • If you really don't know what you are talking about, please don't post. Composting toilets usually smell of sawdust. So if you use pine or cedar, they smell quite good. Don't use elm, as it smells like piss by itself.
  • by Type44Q ( 1233630 )

    Why Worms In the Toilet Might Be a Good Idea

    Better out than in, eh?

  • Fuck just use laser beams, dammit!

  • Actually, a worm septic tank. It seems similar in usage to a normal septic tank, but with worms in it. It does require a pump in order to pump the treated water out, into our lawn (which we never need to water). Apparently the treated water is safe enough to drink but we haven't tried. All our grey and black water feeds into it, and we have a normal toilet. Cost about $12,000 installed. Just like other septic tanks, we have it checked twice a year, but maintenance is essentially nil apart from that. N

    • Yeah, that could be a problem. Whenever I tell my neighbours I'm going on vacation, they say that they couldn't give a shit.

      But seriously: $12K? Couldn't I just flush a few buckets of live bait down the toilet? And, I don't know about yours, but most septic systems get checked every 2-3 years, not twice a year.

  • Sorry, I stopped reading the submission at the word "turd-eating".

    If you're not going to take yourself (or your publication) seriously, neither am I. Talk like a grown up; not a four year old.

  • When I was a kid we used an outhouse, you could shine a flashlight down into the stench of the toilet (a very small structure with a wooden bench supported above a hole in the ground about 12 feet deep or so). What you saw, was a writhing mass of brown mass of feces being composted at breakneck speed. After looking at it for awhile (we were kids at the time ;) you realized all the writhing was being done by a massive number of maggots just a few feet beneath the toilet bench where you sat, and they were com
  • Invasive species (Score:5, Interesting)

    by caseih ( 160668 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @10:29PM (#41565609)

    Most people don't realize it, but the humble, ubiquitous earthworm is an invasive species in North America. Though you might think of it as useful and beneficial to the soil, in the forests of north America, the earthworm is causing a lot of damage. So I get a bit concerned when they start talking about throwing in "imported worms."

  • Who will feed the worms when on vacation? I suppose they starve, and as of that point, the toilet can be used exactly once more, before servicing ;)
    • Sir, I will!
      Yes. For the very low fee of $50 per dump I will feed those worms for you. If you purchase 3 dumps you get a house watching bundle with it free.
      Prepay with Bitcoin now while this offer is still valid.

      If you want try this yourself you can get the bacteria starter culture from boating supplies. It's a bit pricey at the moment. If you then want to use cleaning fluids there are special ones available from chandlers too.

      • by fisted ( 2295862 )
        50 bucks? Are you serious? I'm rather gonna ask RMS, have heard he gives away his crap for free.
  • Did you know that Minnesota has 15 non-native species of earthworms in its forest? []

    "All of the terrestrial earthworms in Minnesota are least seven species are invading our hardwood forests and causing the loss of tree seedlings, wildflowers, and ferns."

    I've seen before/after photos of forests where earthworms moved in and the undergrowth just disappeared. I don't think that increasing the use of non-native worms is a

  • ...a strong sense of humus.
  • $40K for a bucket? Wow. Great marketing!

  • The worms that go in are long and thin,
    The worms that come out are fat and stout.

    Not the best place to ask I imagine but... Does anyone know which Pouges song these lyrics were from? (it might have been more of an intro to the song rather than actual lyrics as they have never come up on a search)

  • by FatLittleMonkey ( 1341387 ) on Saturday October 06, 2012 @12:41AM (#41566109)

    Errr, the toilet isn't the "source".

    Although that would be an innovation worth posting on Slashdot: parasitic intestinal worms engineered to turn faeces into compost in vivo.

  • We're all grownups, many of us are nerds, technically literate and so are completely used to the idea of using reasonably long words for the precision they offer.

    Can we please ban "pee" and "poo"? Always and forever.

  • Use turd-eating worms to compost waste right at the source.

    So why stop at the toilet? Push those worms up our butts and be done with it.

  • "Billions worldwide still don't have access to proper sanitation"

    No toilets, but they are actively using Facebook?

  • Was the submission written by a 6 year-old?

    Why is it that in a nerdy site like Slashdot, expressly dedicated to smart people, an article is written with childish words like "pee," "turd," and "poo"?

    I'm in no way offended by the language, but by the lazy, crude, and idiotic way of using it. There are so many more intelligent ways to express oneself than using school-yard slang.


  • The worm looks up and shrugs "Eh, it's a living!"

  • I camp at a place that has pit/vault toilets, there's a several feet deep concrete circle that someone empties out occasionally (one of the worst jobs in the world if you ask me, the guy wears a full body plastic suit and a respirator).

    I was thinking "venting" at the bottom (to the outside) with a screen of some sort, then a couple of feet of sand. This is the urine path.

    Then a fine mesh layer on top of the sand and some arranged organic material with microbes to get things going.

    How much use is necessary

  • Haven't composting toilets been around for quite a long time now?

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault