”One of Separett’s major scopes of production is urine-diverting dry toilets. The primary target audience in Sweden is owners of holiday cottages, where water and sanitation for some reason is not available. In countries like Peru and Alaska, our toilets provide improved sanitation in areas without clean water and proper sanitary systems”, says Mikael Billsund, CEO at Separett AB. ”2,5 billion people in the world today are using a hole dug in the ground or a bucket put in a closet instead of a toilet. It is an important health problem and an environmental issue”.
Solid and liquid waste is separated
”A human produces between 75 – 250 ml of solid waste and 1 – 2 liters of urine every day. The waste contains the fertilizers phosphorus and nitrogen, and especially the urine is rich in nitrogen. The name Separett refers to our technology which separates dry waste from urine in the toilet”, Mikael says.
”The urine is diverted to a separate piping system, and collected. Thanks to the separation the handling is easy and safe. Depending on choice and available options, the urine can either be led to a greywater drain, or infiltrated into the soil. In order to use the nutrients as garden fertilizer, the urine can be stored in a connected Separett Ejektortank, where it is automatically mixed with water. Feces and paper is collected in a separate vault. The contents can be composted and used as soil conditioner. The vault is replaceable, and a family of four might need to change it every 3 – 6 weeks”.
”A toilet should be hygienic and comfortable to use. But it is not a given that it is odorless, especially if it is a dry toilet. If there is no separation of dry and wet waste, fermentation will set in and generate an unpleasant odor of ammonia and hydrogen sulphide. With our ecosan toilets, there is no such decomposition of the fecal matter. The system draws out moisture and odor using an electricity-saving fan, possibly solar-powered, venting outside. When a solid waste storage container is replaced, it is simply lifted out and put in the garden, where it is left for at least six months to disable pathogens. The matter can then safely be composted or buried”, Mikael says.
”We have put great care in making hygiene, design and environmental concerns come together. All the parts of the system are eco-labeled, and it is easy to empty and clean the toilet. Some parts which require extra attention in cleaning are distinctly yellow, and the regulators are blue. The shape is boat-like; we wanted a strong plastic construction with double walls”.
Improving health in Alaska and Peru
The Arctic Alaska village of Kivalina has no running water and no sewer system. Residents must carry and store their water in containers. The common toilet solution is to affix a toilet seat to a 5-gallon bucket and line it with a plastic bag. When the bucket gets full, the plastic bag is dumped outside. During winter, bags get buried in snow and freeze. In spring, thawing bags can break and the smell attracts animals, spreading the waste around.
These makeshift toilets are often put in unventilated closets without windows. The odor can be very unpleasant. Because of the lack of water, the same wash basins are used repeatedly by multiple family members. The sanitary issues and health hazards are obvious. Since 2010, Kivalina is involved in a project aimed at improving sanitation in the community. Ensuring a clean water supply, good hand-washing habits and the proper handling of human waste were decided to be the key areas.
As a part of this project, 10 Separett units were installed in different Kivalina homes. The separating toilets are equipped with large holding tanks underneath the houses. The filtered urine flows into an underground leech field. Solid waste in the holding tank is dried by a fan, which also removes odor. By the time the bucket is full, most of the waste is dried and ready to be used as soil conditioner or burned.
”Lima in Peru has an extremely arid climate, making installation of water closets impossible. There might be one and a half million people using holes in the ground instead of toilets. Taking care of the waste from all these “toilets” is space-demanding, which is causing problems. Separett is participating in a program where 650 families have received urine-diverting toilets. The storage containers are collected weekly by an organization, and the composted waste is sold to parks and growers as fertilizer. The risk of stomach disease is reduced, and there are less infestations of flies and insects and less issues with foul odor”, Mikael explains.
”There is a growing interest in separating toilets in many countries. It feels good to be able to contribute, with a technology actually improving people’s lives. In the Nordic countries, our incinerating toilets are attracting the most interest. These systems have a very simple way of handling, and the only residue is a small amount of ash”, Mikael Billsund says.
The article was published in December 2015