Dry Flush ToiletsDry flush toilets is a term that likely conjures up images of unsanitary, foul-smelling contraptions. But, in reality, they are quite the opposite. Revolutionary and effective, they have even caught the eyes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a promising solution to the life-threatening sanitation-related diseases, such as cholera and diarrhea. These diseases are faced by the 2.4 billion people around the world who still lack access to clean running water.

How do Dry Flush Toilets Work?

Multiple companies have developed dry flush toilets. Perhaps the most notable development is Cranfield University’s Nano Membrane Toilet.

First developed in 2014, the toilet “flushes” by using a waterless rotating scraping mechanism that separates solid waste from liquid waste. Nanofibers, arranged in bunches inside the chamber, then help to condense the water vapor generated by the urine. They condense it into a tube that eventually flows to a tank externally connected to the toilet. By then the water will have been thoroughly filtered and, as a result, is then suitable for everyday use.

Solid waste, on the other hand, is transported into a combustor. This converts them into energy and ash, via a mechanical screw. The energy then powers the toilet’s future “flushes.” The energy can also charge electronics.

Award-Winning Functionality

Dry flush toilets are designed for daily usage. It can accommodate up to ten individuals daily. The toilets are manufactured at the cost of $2,500 per unit. They can last for up to ten years. The product is still undergoing product and product implementation testing. Researchers have reported promising results from their first phase testing in 2014. They conducted the phase in Ghana. According to their survey, “people seemed very open to most of the concepts around the toilet.”

Since the beginning of its development, the ingenious invention has received an accolade of prestigious awards including the Kiran and Pallavi Patel Grand Innovation Award as well as the Excellence in the Field of Environmental Technology Research from the CleanEquity Monaco.

Challenges

The most prominent challenge facing the implementation of dry flush toilets in developing countries is likely scalability. Communities that choose to implement the contraption would have to have a team of specially-trained technicians to safely maintain the toilets.

Another question is regarding how the toilets would be distributed. Currently, the best path is to rent them to households at either a monthly or weekly rate. This is an approach that companies with similar products employ, such as Loowatt’s waterless toilet. Renting these other products has reflected great success.

In addition, the team is working to make the toilet more affordable, with a goal of a final cost of five cents per person per day.

Another anticipated challenge to dry flush toilets is overcoming cultural barriers. While most Africans prefer Western-style seat toilets, squat toilets are far more common and desirable in Asia.

An Innovation to Aid Impoverished Communities

Conclusively, although still emerging from the prototype phase, dry flush toilets very much so have the potential to change millions of lives within a short period of time from implementation. By ensuring that every individual on this planet has reliable access to a flushing toilet, millions of bases of water-borne diseases can be avoided each year.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr