A biodigester toilet system utilises the anaerobic digestive process to break down and clean toilet waste – the result is less solid waste, relatively clean water output and the release of harmless gas into the environment.
The process of treating human waste with anaerobic digestion is not new – it has been practised at a large scale with the resulting water and gas products being used in further applications such as irrigation or as fertiliser. On a large scale, the process can also be used to produce a clean, renewable energy source.
However, it is only recently more people have started to release the benefits of bio digestion in domestic or smaller settings.
In a domestic or business setting toilets can be directly connected to a biogas reactor, which is also known as an anaerobic digester. Waste that goes down the toilet is directed straight into a chamber where the digestion process begins.
A biodigester usually has three anaerobic chambers that treat human waste effectively without the need for any cleaning or emptying of the tank.
After the toilet is flushed waste is directly deposited in the first chamber where solid material settles to the bottom of the tank where anaerobic bacteria cultures set to work breaking the waste down. Once the chamber is full, liquids flow into the second chamber and the process is the same, except the waste contains less solid matter. By the time the waste reaches the third chamber and is ready to exit any harmful pathogens have been removed from the water. The process also creates gasses that are released from the tank without causing environmental damage.
The water created by the anaerobic digestion process is not suitable to use as drinking water (unless further processed) but it can be used for irrigation, in the garden or cycled back into the system to flush toilets.
Since biodigester systems require an anaerobic tank to operate (anaerobic = no oxygen) the entire process is completely free from any nasty smells too.
Using anaerobic digestion as a solution for getting rid of human waste is useful in a couple of settings bringing many benefits for property owners, and the environment.
Biodigester toilet systems can be used in places where traditionally there has been a need for mains sewer alternatives. This is usually in rural areas where access to public sewers is either difficult or impossible.
In the past twenty years, there has been a rising trend for ‘living off the grid’ which seems very appealing until people realise off-grid usually means there isn’t an easy way to get rid of toilet waste. There are a couple of solutions for off-grid situations including cesspools which simply collect all waste and need to be emptied frequently by professional services, and the most seen septic tank which also has a degree of maintenance involved and can be very expensive to fix when things are not working as they should.
For the more eco-conscious off-grid person or business, a compost toilet is an option, but these also involve a high degree of maintenance as they must be resituated each year. Because none of these options is particularly maintenance-free, biodigester toilets are becoming a more attractive option as people learn about them.
Families or businesses particularly concerned with environmental matters are starting to find biodigesters a good option for getting rid of waste in the most eco-friendly way possible.
There has even been a rise in public businesses or attractions using this type of waste system, particularly those situated in rural locations or areas of conservation.
The modular construction industry is increasingly using biodigester toilet systems for a couple of reasons. Biodigester solutions are less expensive to install, have a smaller footprint than more traditional solutions such as septic tanks, and are ideal for use in rural locations or on environmentally conscious projects.
The environmentally conscious aspect is of particular importance as one of the key benefits of modular construction is the lower impact this type of building has on the environment.
Since modular construction is now often used to create toilet facilities in public places it is quite natural that biodigester toilet systems be explored as an alternative to main sewer connections. The portable nature of modular toilet buildings also means they are used in rural locations quite frequently – again, another reason why biodigester solutions should be used.
As biodigester systems are becoming more common in the UK and are more frequently used in modular construction projects, the solution is one we are keen to explore further!
We think they could be of particular use in our Changing Places toilets as many of our facilities are installed in locations where mains sewerage can be difficult to get access to.
Watch this space!
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