Waterless Toilets For Barbados – A Good Idea That Government Ignores

UPDATED: April 14, 2010

This BFP article on waterless toilets from almost four years ago (!) makes interesting reading because nothing appears to have changed since then. The old mains are still leaking half of what we produce into the ground, government is talking about getting water from Dominica and everybody points out that if we would only fix the mains, conserve usage and gather water during the rains we’d have more than enough water on this little island.

Meanwhile as Prime Minister David Thompson so accurately and recently pointed out, the last government blew a billion dollars on cricket parties and failed environmental projects led by then-government Minister Liz Thompson.

How much would it take to replace, fix or harden the majority of our large water mains? Whatever the price, it would be worth it.

And then there is the “but” factor… but…

Sometimes I despair because I know that this is a country where we don’t change the engine oil. We’d rather replace an entire fleet of garbage trucks prematurely than to set a schedule for engine and transmission oil changes and adhere to it.

Oil is cheap: transmissions and engines are expensive. Barbados opted to “save money” on the oil changes!

Replacing water mains is cheap. Expanding our water making capacity to fill those leaking mains is expensive, but so far that’s been the choice of every government for the last 20 years.

Yes, folks… sometimes I do despair!

Here’s our original article: Waterless Toilets for Barbados – a Good Idea that Government ignores…

composting-toilet-barbados.jpg

Other Countries Benefit From Waterless Toilets – What About Barbados?

We have a water shortage in Barbados. Barbados Free Press calls it a crisis, but even if some dismiss the word “crisis” as hyperbole, none of us has any doubt that if things continue as they are going for another ten years there will be no disagreement over the word “crisis”.

This weekend, Barbados Free Press will publish the second article in our feature series: Water Crisis In Barbados. (You can link to our first article “A Bird’s Eye View” here.) As I was preparing the new article for posting, I started thinking about waterless toilets, so I Googled the term to see where the technology is now and ended up reading for half an hour about toilets of all kinds.

As usual, Wikipedia was a good place to start. There, I learned that governments in British Columbia, Sweden, Washington State, Hawaii, Montana, Fiji, Japan and other countries have modified their building codes to allow the use of various types of waterless toilets. I also learned that the NSF – the National Sanitation Foundation – has established “Standard 41” for waterless toilets and that many available models meet this internationally recognized standard.

When I Googled for “Barbados + Composting Toilet” or “Barbados + Waterless Toilet“, I really couldn’t find anything worthwhile about waterless toilets in Barbados – with the exception of a post about the life of that great Bajan environmentalist and futurist, Dr. Colin Hudson. (Tributes To Colin Hudson, 1938-2004)

Zero Information About Waterless Toilets In Barbados

In other words, nothing about the use of waterless toilets in Barbados, nothing about any government study or initiative. Zero. Nada.

Why hasn’t the Government of Barbados at least studied the technology and published the results? Why haven’t we started any pilot projects – perhaps in schools or government office buildings as other jurisdictions have successfully done?

The technology is at least one hundred and thirty-seven years old and, judging by what I see on the internet, waterless toilets are ready for prime time – especially in a country like Barbados that has both a water shortage and problems with the disposal of human waste.

thompson_elizabeth_barbados_environment.jpg

Zero Leadership From Barbados Environment Ministry

Talk Talk Talk – that’s all we seem to get from the Liz Thompson and the Barbados Ministry of The Environment. But when it comes to action, well, we’d better think and act for ourselves.

The only leadership I see is Ministry staffers fighting to see who’ll be first to the buffet table on Wednesdays at the Savannah Hotel. (As we pointed out in a previous article Can Barbados Pee It’s Way To More Water?, Environment Minister Thompson likes white wine with lunch at the Savannah, while her deputy takes rum ‘n coke.)

waterless-toilet-barbados-2.jpg waterless-toilet-barbados.jpg

More Info – Waterless Toilets For Barbados

The following are some waterless toilet resources we found on the internet. This listing by Barbados Free Press is, to our knowledge, the most comprehensive list of waterless toilet information published in Barbados.

Waterless Toilet Info At Barbados Ministry Of The Environment Website

barbados-environment-web.jpg

Oh… we forgot. The Barbados Ministry of the Environment doesn’t have a website. That way, they don’t have to bother posting any advice, research, current environmental legislation or any other information to assist Barbados citizens.

Go back to your white wine and rum ‘n coke, girls – ‘an Liz… doan you worry ’bout a thing. We wouldn’t want to disturb your lunch, so we’ll post some resources for Barbados…

Waterless Toilet Info On The Web

General Information

City Farmer – Composting Toilets

Composting Toilets – Green Builder Source Book

Composting Toilet World

Ecowaters (books on managing human waste)

Humanure Handbook (really… an excellent read online)

Wikipedia – Composting Toilets (excellent overview of composting toilets)

Manufacturers

Biolet

Biolytix (Australian manufacturer of home waste-water treatment equipment)

Clivus Multrum – Composting Toilets

Envirolet – Composting & Low Water Toilets

Envirolet – Video Explaining Composting Toilets

Nature Loo – Elegant Composting Toilets

Phoenix Composting Toilet System

Sun-Mar – Composting Toilets

Government & Organizations, Studies, Academic Papers

Australian Government – Waterless Toilets Information

National Sanitation Foundation – Standards for waterless toilets

United States Environmental Protection Agency – Composting Toilets Fact Sheet


25 Comments

Filed under Bajan Blogs & Chats, Barbados, Environment, Politics & Corruption

25 responses to “Waterless Toilets For Barbados – A Good Idea That Government Ignores

  1. Anonymous-

    These things need to be understood in the correct social context, and I wonder if this is your usual hypocrisy showing here.

    Would you install a waterless toilet in your home? If you would, you would probably be a very rare Barbadian. Take a spot survey of the nation – waterless toilets are nothing new in Barbados. They are called ‘pit toilets’, and they are out of line with the expectations of even rank and file Barbadians.

    Are you aware that non-flush toilets are even seen officially by our Ministry of Social Transformation (and other such agencies in other countries) as an indicator of poverty in a household? A rose by any other name is just a rose, so if you can convince the people of Barbados to put modern-day pit toilets in their homes, then feel free to put some of your research in a document for the Minister to review.

    While researching, consider the following;

    – Has any other island in the Caribbean gone the route of ‘waterless toilets’? Even the rich and powerful Trinidad?

    – If Barbadians don’t subscribe to pit toilets… if in fact the concept of a waterless toilet is socially incomprehensible for the majority of Barbadians, why should the Government waste more money in research and implementation?

    – Where would these waterless toilets be installed? In new buildings, or would there be legislation to retrofit all buildings in Barbados with the ‘new’ waterless toilet? If in the case of the former, installing waterless toilets in the new buildings that go up in Barbados will have a very, very negligible effect on water conservation, even over a number of years. If in the case of the latter, who would bear the cost of this retrofitting? Considering,

    – Less buildings can be built in Barbados than those which exist currently. As such there will always be many more flush toilets than waterless toilets in Barbados for decades to come. At some point large scale retrofitting would need to be done to see our salvation from your self-described ‘crisis’, and I see this being quite expensive for the average home owner.

    – What alterations to existing building codes would these waterless toilets bring? And at what expense to the consumer? One would imagine that these toilets do not deal with waste in the traditional way that flush toilets do, streaming waste to a collection well somewhere outside. How would this change the way buildings are built, and what are all the implications that come with such a change?

    Your belief that this Government can do all that no one in the Caribbean can, and can implement everything you find on ‘Wikipedia’ speaks to your belief that the Arthur administration is all-powerful, but I must concede that it is not. We are a developing country with limited resources and can not reasonably be expected to implement all these wonderful things that you (a blogger, with no economic or governmental experience) sit down and pontificate about. Your prescriptions on this website, and the things you expect Barbadians to get up in arms about are often non-issues and are often not backed by thorough investigation.

    It is perfectly acceptable not to post anything if you have nothing worthwhile to talk about, but if you feel you absolutely must post – look outside of the toilet for your ideas next time.

  2. missinghome

    Your ignorance and old-way set is showing anonymous.

    A “pit toilet” (a hole in the ground) is not a “waterless” or “composting” toilet. We are using composting toilets right here at the mine site and it is obvious from the links that BFP posted that many countries are using composting toilets in schools, office buildings, homes, public buildings of all kinds.

    Self contained composting toilets are installed in homes throughout northern Canada, Sweden, Finland and for good reason. They work and they don’t smell.

    All you can think of is a hole in the ground and you are so wrong and old ways set.

    You don’t even know what a rotating composing toilet is.

    Same with waterless urinals. All it would take would be the government to make it law that new hotels would have to use waterless urinals and Barbados would save thousands of gallons a day.

    Your long diatribe is not a refutation of what BFP has posted, it is an ideal illustration of what is wrong with your old thinking.

  3. missinghome

    Anonymous gives the official Barbados government position on everything…

    Can’t Work

    Won’t Work

    Why Bother?

  4. missinghome

    Anonymous says…

    “Are you aware that non-flush toilets are even seen officially by our Ministry of Social Transformation (and other such agencies in other countries) as an indicator of poverty in a household?”

    That tells me that the Ministry of Social Transformation is about 30 years behind the times.

    Makes perfect sense.

  5. RRRicky

    U r right Missinghome. Anonymous doesn’t know the difference between a composting toilet and a pit toilet. He would better see green seepage from pit toilets going into the water table instead of “dried composting toilet soil shrinking to 2% of the original volume.”

  6. Anonymous-

    It is sad that after three attempts to compose your thoughts, I still don’t care about anything you’ve said.

    The analogy between the waterless and pit toilet was an invitation to all and sundry to ask the average Barbadian what they perceive a ‘waterless’ toilet to be. If I used to bet with jonnies, I would bet you that they do not tell you composting toilets. Whether you believe that my English did not make it clear that waterless toilets may be seen as pit toilets by the masses does not negate the significance of the questions posed.

    I can’t maintain interest long enough to give you a further reply.

  7. RRRicky

    BFP asks: “Why hasn’t the Government of Barbados at least studied the technology and published the results? Why haven’t we started any pilot projects – perhaps in schools or government office buildings as other jurisdictions have successfully done?”

    BECAUSE THIS IS BARBADOS! 🙂

  8. John

    Colin’s composting Toilet was in a “glass” room up at at Edgehill (Counterpart Caribbean) last time I was up there.

    It was displayed if my memory serves me right, at the Village of Hope back in 1994(?) some 12 years ago.

    He made it a part of the Future Centre Trust exhibits after the Village of Hope.

    One reason other islands may not be going this route is that they may not be faced with the water issues with which we are faced.

    Anonymous, did you know that in the late 1990’s Barbados was looking at purchasing water from Dominica which has a super abundance of water?

    Don’t know about Antigua and its plans but suspect Antigua has or will have problems with water similar to ours.

  9. John

    Anonymouse

    What exactly do you mean by the masses?

  10. Does BFP use a waterless toilet in their home/s? Do they plan on odering one anytime soon?

  11. Great post. Very informative and learned a lot from checking out your links. In Jamaica we do have the “flush toilet more advanced than pit toilet” syndrome, but the government responded to “realities” (lots of debt and lots of foreign foundation money available for environment) and set up the debt-swap funded Environmental Foundation of Jamaica which gives money for waste management, watershed management etc…..

    http://www.efj.org.jm/index.htm

    Big carrot for government types is all the lovely conferences you get to go to in Kenya, China, Australia etc. Maybe you should let your Minister know what she’s missing

  12. Imma start a blog on wordpress just to get one of those lil pictures ( -_- )

  13. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » Barbados: Waterless toilets

  14. itsjustme

    The truth is, I can identify with some of what Annoymous is saying in that there will most likely be a stigma towards waterless toilets however I think this could easily be alleviated with public awareness programs to sensitize people as to the benefits of them.
    I am sure that a system can be devised to integrate these toilets into existing structures so i dont really see that as a huge problem.

    Annoymous says that we are a developing country with limited resources and that is exactly why we need something like this to be implemented.I think at the end of the day the point BFP is trying to make is that the goverment need to mobilize and start exploring viable alternatives

  15. Pat

    It agree to some extent with Anonymous and itjustme. First and foremost, the government should start with importation of only the 6 litre toilet. This will save lots of water. If everyone converted.

    I dont think it feasible to have the composting toilets in hotels. However, the government should offer incentives to those who want to try the dry chemical burn toilets. I would say, free water for a year, or free chemical toilet. The exhaust stack has to be very high because some burn smelly. I know, one of the bayhouses in front of us had one in the 80’s and after we complained, they took it out. The house is on the flat and we are on the hill above. This family is very nice, prominent and has close ties to the BLP.

  16. Yes, compost toilets are often misunderstood, no matter if we’re talking Barbados, Australia, Canada, South America, the US or Europe. This can be overcome with a good public education/public awareness campaign.

    I seriously doubt, though, that you’d ever get the hotels to switch to compost toilets, no matter how “green” they claim to be.

    However, what about Green Globe certification for the hotels? Among other things, the certification requires the hotels to document true water conservation/efficiency measures.

    In homes, compost toilets can help, but there’s so much more that can be done to conserve water, and here again, an active campaign by the government and water services authority could help immensely. Then there’s rainwater collection systems, grey water systems, more efficient clothes and dish washers, aeration nozzles for showers and sinks…

  17. North Point

    This all sounds wonderful but the fact is with an exploding world population you are whistling in the wind. Face reality!

  18. american

    I haven’t read all the comments, and only browsed the article above in my search for waterless toilets for my home in the American Pacific Northwest. I printed out the links provided for reference.

    I grew up in Alaska and am familiar with outhouses. They seldom fail (aside from being full occasionally!), never need flushing, don’t have to worry about pipes, and water is never an issue.

    We purchased 50 acres of dry land that supposedly had a working well (not) and NEVER had septic of any kind – an outhouse has been in place for 30 years. We bought the place sight-unseen and have no regrets, but we are definitely not going to continue the outhouse routine in light of several feet of snow making the trek hazardous in wintertime. I’ve gone from toilet seat on a bucket to double-hole privies (although who EVER shares the outhouse?) and am ready to step up to an indoor composting toilet.

    Regardless of my water situation, choosing to utilize waterless toilets is a responsible decision. We have enough money to install a septic system, but why do that when nature can take care of itself?

    I disagree with the social stigmas noted above, and encourage those interested to investigate and find a way to experiment with or try these systems and see how decent they are.

  19. BMc

    american,

    Check out the Enviro Loo, http://www.swsloo.com. Same results as your pit toilet, i.e. no water, no electricity, no chemicals with the main difference being that it is totally contained. . .nothing goes into the ground to seep into the groundwater. Just a thought. . . . .

  20. What about utilizing composting toilets? First of all, they have greatly improved in the last decade. They are sleek and modern and look perfectly fine in an upscale bathroom. Second of all, they are ODORLESS. And last but not least, incredibly inexpensive as compared to installing a septic system. Composting toilets can be either waterless or low-flush, so it isn’t even like you have to deal with the idea of a waterless toilet, if that’s something that is unappealing to you. Everyone should, at the very least, have a look at what composting toilet systems have to offer these days… and I’ll bet most people would be pleasantly surprised.

  21. IN THE END

    Wow, people are so in the dark about change. As the by product of Americanism or Western ism hits your little islands you are already behind the times and you are just getting used to those creature comforts. Not one of the island in the Caribbeans can support that way of life for long. Get out of the dark age before its to late and discover the new world of alternative. Also please please please realize that your Government like so many could care less about you and any of your future children and Grand children. Take charge of your future and do it yourself and while your at it Destroy that old SHITSTIM that was put in place by the people who brought you there in the first place. Why because I CAN and so can U. 1 people 1 planet Last chance.

  22. 168

    Recycling animal and human dung is the key to sustainable farming

    Flushing the water closet is handy, but it wreaks ecological havoc, deprives agricultural soils of essential nutrients and makes food production dependent on fossil fuels.

    For 4,000 years, human excrements and urine were considered extremely valuable trade products in China, Korea and Japan. Human dung was transported over specially designed canal networks by boats.

    snip

    Fresh water production, the construction and maintenance of sewers, the treatment of sewage (and sewage sludge), and the production of inorganic fertilizers are all energy-intensive processes. Nitrogen (which makes up more than half of total fertilizer consumption) is abundantly available in air, but to convert it to a useful form the gas has to be heated and pressurized. The energy for this (polluting) process is delivered by natural gas or (in China) by coal plants.

    Potassium and phosphate have to be mined (up to depths of several thousands of feet) and transported. It takes more than 150 million tonnes of phosphate rock to produce our current yearly supply of 37 million tonnes of phosphate fertilizer, and 45 million tonnes of potash ore to produce 25 million tonnes of potassium fertilizer. Both operations are energy intensive and pollute the environment.

    Moreover, while potassium is widely distributed and abundantly available (we have enough economically obtainable reserves to last 700 years at our current consumption rate), phosphorus is not. Ninety percent of global phosphate reserves are only found in a handful of countries, and economically recoverable reserves large enough to meet agricultural demand are estimated to last for only 30 to 100 years. Reserves are much larger if mining phosphates from the seabed is included, but this would be extremely energy-intensive, further deterioriating the sustainability of the food and sanitation system.

    snip

    The Chinese were as numerous as the Americans and Europeans at the time, and they had large, densely populated cities, too. The difference was that they maintained an agricultural system that was based on human “waste” as a fertilizer. Stools and urine were collected with care and discipline, and transported over sometimes considerable distances. They were mixed with other organic waste, composted and then spread across the fields (illustration on the right).

    That’s killing two birds with one stone: no pollution of drinking water, and an agricultural system that could have lasted forever. In fact, it did last 4,000 years, which is considerably longer than even our most abundant resource – potassium, with 700 years of reserves – will allow.

    snip

    A process of composting should always come first, and this can happen in two ways. The first – slow composting – is a do-it-yourself technique that is explained in the “Humanure Handbook”, an online practical guide by Joseph Jenkins (who coined the term ‘humanure’). Slow composting happens at low temperatures and takes about one year in a moderate climate. To be secure, most say the resulting (odourless) compost should only be used for growing crops where there is no direct contact between food and fertilizer (like fruit trees) and for inedible plants (flowers, houseplants).

    The second method is composting at high temperatures, which goes much faster and results in a fertilizer that can be applied to any kind of food crop. It is an industrial process, which is being applied successfully in several countries for a number of years. Interestingly, the first step of this process also generates electricity, further improving the sustainability of the whole system. Since 2005, a factory of the Dutch company Orgaworld composts diapers (from babies and elderly) together with many other kinds of organic waste. It is a high-tech process that takes about 6 weeks and results in a high-quality compost, free from pathogens, medicines and hormones. The company has also built two factories in Canada and is building plants in the UK.

    http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2010/09/recycling-animal-and-human-dung-is-the-key-to-sustainable-farming.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+typepad/krisdedecker/lowtechmagazineenglish+%28Low-tech+Magazine%29&utm_content=Google+Feedf

  23. Green Monkey

    New threat to global food security as phosphate supplies become increasingly scarce

    A new report from the Soil Association reveals that supplies of phosphate rock are running out faster than previously thought and that declining supplies and higher prices of phosphate are a new threat to global food security. ‘A rock and a hard place: Peak phosphorus and the threat to our food security’ [pdf 1.1mb] highlights the urgent need for farming to become less reliant on phosphate rock-based fertiliser. [1]

    Intensive agriculture is totally dependent on phosphate for the fertility needed to grow crops and grass. Worldwide 158 million tonnes of phosphate rock is mined every year, but the supply is finite. Recent analysis suggests that we may hit ‘peak’ phosphate as early as 2033, after which supplies will become increasingly scarce and more expensive. [2]

    This critical issue is missing from the global policy agenda – we are completely unprepared to deal with the shortages in phosphorus inputs, the drop in production and the hike in food prices that will follow. Without fertilisation from phosphorus it has been estimated that wheat yields could more then halve in coming decades, falling from nine tonnes a hectare to four tonnes a hectare. The current price of phosphate rock is approximately twice that of 2006. When demand for phosphate fertiliser outstripped supply in 2007/08, the price of rock phosphate rose 800%.

    In Europe we are dependent on imports of rock phosphate, having no deposits of our own, but the geographical concentration of reserves adds further uncertainty to the future security of our sources. In 2009, 158 million metric tonnes of phosphate rock was mined worldwide. 67% of this resource was mined in just three countries – China (35%), the USA (17%) and Morocco and Western Sahara (15%). China has now restricted, and the USA has stopped, exports of phosphate. [3]

    Author of the report, Dr. Isobel Tomlinson, said: “A radical rethink of how we farm, what we eat and how we deal with human excreta, so that adequate phosphorus levels can be maintained without reliance on mined phosphate, is crucial for ensuring our future food supplies.”

    SNIP

    Changing how we deal with human exreta
    The report recommends a radical change in the way we treat human exreta and the need to abandon our current ‘flush-and-forget’ toilet systems in favour of Ecological Sanitation. The report also calls for a change to EU organic regulations to allow the use of human sewage – rich in ‘natural’ phosphate – on agricultural land to ensure phosphate levels are maintained. Globally only 10% of human waste is returned to agricultural soils. Urine alone contains more than 50% of the phosphorus excreted by humans.

    http://www.soilassociation.org/News/NewsItem/tabid/91/smid/463/ArticleID/1435/reftab/57/t/New-threat-to-global-food-security-as-phosphate-supplies-become-increasingly-scarce/Default.aspx

  24. Nowadays, waterless toilets are in trend. Switching to waterless toilets can not only save the precious water but it will also give a lot of benefits in our everyday life.