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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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  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @07:09PM (#41564301) Journal

    4$ per flush. That's pretty steep!

    Have you ever priced out the cost of your civilized flush?
    If you start with the cost of pipes in the ground and end with water treatment plants, it adds up fairly quickly,
    though the infrastructure can be amortized across tens or hundreds of thousands of users and tens of years.

    Taxes are what we use to buy civilization.

  • by dreadlord76 ( 562584 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @07:12PM (#41564327)
    $40K can put in a pretty big septic system, with cistern and rain catchment to provide the liquid for flushing. You can probably get a grey water pond out of it as well if you plan it right. Still, a lot of money for a pound of worms.
  • by milkmage ( 795746 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @07:59PM (#41564673)

    more toilet humor ... you mean potty talk? /sorry

    "It's just simply more economical to dig a hole in the ground"
    until the next guy digs one up.. seriously. had the same problem in my yard with the dog. burying it worked for a while, but eventually ran out of new places to dig. buried shit stays around for a while. eventually had to get one of these: []

    "people have reasonable levels of phobias'
    it's not like they have signs advertising worms. looks like any other campsite throne. []

  • 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?
  • 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.

  • 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."

  • 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.

The optimum committee has no members. -- Norman Augustine