24 Feb 2020

DIY composting toilets in a time of drought

From Afternoons, 1:36 pm on 24 February 2020

People all over the country are being urged to find ways to conserve water.

New Zealand artist Thomas Lauterbach thinks a simple composting toilet design by his old friend and artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser could make a real difference in places like drought-stricken Northland. But making one, and using it, may be a bit of a daunting prospect. 

We all have in mind horrible experiences of long drop toilets, says Lauterbach, “A deep hole into Papatūānuku where down there there’s no air, no air to allow bacteria to break down our poo.”

But the reality is, the humus composting toilet doesn’t smell and doesn’t attract flies.

This is because it’s a model that allows air in to break down solids very rapidly.

A filled bucket of solids breaks down completely in New Zealand after about 3 months, he says. 

“Humus is organic matter in the soil, the dead parts of plants and animals, and this [is a] cheap and easy [toilet] for everyone to make.”

It would be easy to set one up in a garage or shed as an emergency toilet, he says. There’s no need to build a big shelter, Lauterbach even had one under a tree.

“I’ve used this toilet for 35 years.. and I’m totally convinced it’s a very healthy, clean aesthetic and efficient.”