The dry composting toilet (DCT) is a system for the treatment of human excrement capable of destroying the microbes that
make us sick without wasting or contaminating water. The DCT is an efficient, simple and worthy technology, despite the
fact that most people underestimate it or aren't familiar with it.
Perhaps this is the first time you've ever heard about this system, and so you've never considered it as an option.
Or maybe you are one of those people who views the traditional flush toilet as the most effective technology, and
although you know that other options exist, you think that you already have "the bathroom issue" resolved and the
alternatives are only for poor people who lack a sewage system or septic tank. If so, then this article it is intended
especially for you.
The DCT is a system for EVERYONE. It is not just a bare-bones option for rural areas, nor is it a second-class alternative
for those without a sewage system or septic tank. Although a great many people are affected, the relatively few users of
flush toilets maintain an obsolete and dangerous model of public "health" system. It is also clear that the continued
survival of this antiquated and absurd system is not due to the lack of other methods to replace it. Other techniques
existed well before the flush toilet was invented, and development of new systems for more efficient treatment of fecal
matter continues. Why then do we still view flush toilets as the best (and sometimes only) option? Although I would like
simply to explain the many advantages of the DCT over the conventional system and expect that this information would be
enough to convince you, I think that first I should begin with some questions that I hope will alert you to the problems
of the flush-toilet approach, and then you can decide for yourself with all the cards on the table.
So let's begin...
||What do we look for in a sanitation system?
We all agree that an exposed pile of excrement is foul-smelling and unpleasant to look at, but above all it represents a
focal point for infection of soil, water, food, and animals. If humans live nearby, they will not be able to avoid microbes
that would make them sick. For this reason, all of humanity relies on some sort of sanitation system to protect their health.
But avoiding illnesses is not the only thing we consider when choosing a sanitation system; we also look for convenience,
comfort, efficiency, quality, and status. Sanitation systems are also a reflection of our culture and values. It's important
to emphasize that the conventional flush toilet has also become a powerful status symbol, and those who don't have one are looked down on
as "miserable wretches" or "dirt poor". If humanity were to choose its sanitation systems solely
based on their efficiency, the conventional flush toilet would have disappeared long ago.
||What's wrong with flush toilets?
The mid 19th century, when water-based sewage systems first appeared, was the beginning of a history of enormous waste
and pollution. These systems were designed under the premise that human excrement is nothing but "waste" and that the
environment is perfectly capable of assimilating it. We now know from 150 years of experience that this system has not
and will never be able to solve the sanitation needs of the world. It is an attractive system because it moves its
unhealthy effects far away from those who are doing the excreting, but at a cost of polluting large quantities of water.
It's also clear that focal points of disease are not avoided, they are simply displaced, generating a very serious
problem for those at the other end of the pipes.
Less than half of humanity is connected to a drainage system, and in developing countries more than 95% of
sewage is discharged without any treatment whatsoever into rivers, streams, and oceans. As they pollute these bodies of
water and the nearby soil, they also transmit infectious diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, amoebic dysentery,
gastroenteritis, hepatitis, typhoid, etc., causing the deaths of some three million people every year.
By combining excrement with water, we create a mixture that is difficult to treat and therefore dangerous. Purifying these
waste waters requires expensive treatment, which is only performed on a fraction of the total. And even this treated water
is not safe for your health. Heavy metals, pharmaceutical residues, hormones, and toxic chemicals may still be in the water
that you drink.
The conventional sewage system, rather than being a sanitation system, reflects a culture of waste generation,
contributing instead to many of the serious problems that confront society today: water pollution and waste, soil loss and destruction,
food insecurity, and inequity in the administration of health services. Although interconnected, the threats posed by the conventional
sewage system can be observed in the following levels:
This refers to the denial of every human being's right to a stable and healthy physical
environment. This system represses people's age-old practices for maintaining a healthy relationship with the earth and
water. The use of huge quantities of water for sewage systems drastically affects the capacity of the soil to absorb
groundwater, leading to an increase in surface evaporation, and an overall decrease in soil health.
We practice a peculiar one-way linear thinking that fails to connect the dots backwards from an effect
to its cause and removes it from its context. As a society, we are not ignorant of the implications of our acts; instead,
for the sake of convenience, we are in total denial of them. The expansion of sewage systems combined with the increasing
shortage of drinkable water is one of many examples in which the danger of this denial is palpable. The infant mortality
rate can be reduced by 50%, and more than half of the cases of diarrhea can be avoided by improving water quality and
sanitation. However, we continue to flush and forget, without noticing that we are connected to a network of pollution
that ends up harming others.
Exalting comfort while maintaining an obsolete system.
We fetishize comfort to the point of becoming individuals who
demand service at a cost of the well-being of others. Abundance pleases us, and austere solutions make us feel dissatisfied.
Perhaps for that reason we continue mixing our excrement with water. Even though this method has proven itself to be inadequate
to the present conditions, we continue to connect ourselves to drainage systems. And if we refuse to produce sewage, then
we are confronted by building codes, zoning laws, concerned neighbors, and a model of urban living that requires this type
Inequality and monopoly.
As with other institutionalized services, sewage systems polarize society by providing
privilege to a minority while the costs are born by the majority. 1.1 billion people in the world lack access to potable
water, while we continue polluting and wasting this vital liquid in order to deal with our excrement. When you translate
the necessity to defecate into a demand for a flush toilet - no matter what the circumstances might be - and you demand
that an institution provide you with the only solution that you can imagine, you are relinquishing your autonomy to the
whims of a control apparatus. It is important to recognize that systems like the flush toilet deny us the possibility
of controlling our own tools and transform us into a society more and more dependent on an authoritarian, abusive, and
controlling power structure. Access to clean water and the protection of our health is a fundamental human right, and
we should not allow anyone to appropriate it. You and your community are capable of meeting your own needs effectively
||Why do we still consider flush toilets
to be a healthy sanitation system?
Aside from the sense of status that goes along with it (which we have already mentioned) we trust our flush toilet because
seemingly it has worked for us at domestic level, it fulfills a need for comfort, and it's extremely easy for its users to
operate. Another important factor is that we let our noses instead of our conscience make the decision. Although we may have
heard of other types of toilets that don't use water and are totally safe for your health and the environment, we still reject
them because we are unable to tolerate the smell of our own excrement. It seems that we are not willing to consider another
option if we suspect that it implies unpleasant odors or would appear to be "counter-culture" - that is to say, outside of
what is identified as the "progress" and "development" for which we all strive. The sad truth of the matter is that our noses
are only able to pick up certain things, and they are generally unable to perceive the most dire effects generated by our
way of living.
A lot could be said about the existing power structures and the way that they maintain themselves at a great cost to the
majority of the population and the environment. The requirements and value system of the current model of "development"
continue to cause inequality, injustice, and waste, with an overall increase in social suffering and environmental degradation.
Rather than denying this context, we should see it as our starting point, and I propose that the DCT can be a form of
resistance to it. Along with other means of struggle, the manner in which you treat your excrement can be a political
activity - a habit that puts into practice our commitment to equality, justice, and the well-being of all people in a way
that is sustainable.
Let's share the benefits of this technology that many people are already using.
||What are the advantages of the DCT?
The Dry Composting Toilet system helps to resolve many of the relevant issues that we have already reviewed: infectious diseases,
environmental destruction, water scarcity, the need to recover nutrients for the soil, and the importance of relying on tools
that are chosen and controlled by their users.
The DCT is HEALTHY
because it eliminates the microbes that make us sick, transforming potentially harmful human excrement into a
stable substance that is no longer dangerous to our health or that of others. Diverse laboratory studies and many thousands of
experiences all over the world have demonstrated that the compost produced by the DCT poses no threat to our health or to the
We call it dry toilet because it SAVES WATER
. Not only does it reduce the sources of water pollution compared to sewage systems,
but by not using water it attacks this problem at the root, respecting the biological equilibrium of the environment. We don't
need to waste this precious liquid in order to treat the excrement of the world's 6 billion people. In fact, we never should
have started doing it, and we certainly shouldn't continue to do so.
It is COMFORTABLE and ODORLESS
. If you have not yet had the opportunity to try out a good DCT, perhaps you imagine
that since they don't use water they must be like pit latrines, which are generally regarded as smelly, dirty, and
technologically backwards. Thanks to the effective treatment process of this system and proper maintenance by its users,
your nose will be in for a surprise when it starts sniffing around suspiciously and can't find any unpleasant smells.