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NoMix toilets make a splash in European study

By

March 14, 2010

A NoMix toilet, which separates liquid and solid waste (Photo: Judit Lienert)

A NoMix toilet, which separates liquid and solid waste (Photo: Judit Lienert)

Image Gallery (2 images)

If you’ve ever considered the humble urinal, you might have noticed that it uses much less water than a toilet. It only makes sense - since they don’t receive any feces, urinals don’t need all the water necessary to carry such solid waste through to the sewer line. When you use a toilet and just urinate, however, you’re still flushing away just as much water as if you, uh, went “Number 2.” If you were using a NoMix toilet, however, the Number 1 and Number 2 would go separate places, with the flushes being needed for solid waste only. It’s a good enough idea that in a recent pilot project, users in seven European countries gave the device a thumbs - or should that be bottoms? - up.

The device

The NoMix has what is essentially a urinal in the front half of the bowl, near the top. The urine runs from there to a storage tank. The back half of the bowl is like a conventional toilet, where the solid waste lands and gets flushed away.

The study

The pilot project was conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. It included feedback from 2,700 NoMix test-pilots in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. The results showed that around 80 percent of users liked the idea, while 75 - 85 percent were satisfied with the design, hygiene, smell, and seating comfort.

The pluses

The obvious advantage of such a system, as already mentioned, is the conservation of the water that would have been used in urine-only flushes. Its good points don't stop there, however.

By keeping urine out of the sewage system, wastewater treatment plants would reportedly have 80 percent less nitrogen and 50 percent less phosphorous to process... or more accurately, to try to process. The pharmaceutical residues present in urine would also be largely kept out of the waterways, where they presently pose a threat to fish and other wildlife.

Instead of being flushed, it is proposed, the urine could be used as an agricultural fertilizer. What, you think that sounds kind of gross? Apparently, 85 percent of the NoMix users don’t think so. Farmers, however, aren’t so keen on the concept - only 50 percent of them liked the idea, while only 34 percent said they would use or purchase such a fertilizer.

A NoMix toilet, which separates liquid and solid waste (Photo: Judit Lienert)

The bugs in the system

Indeed, there were some noted drawbacks to the NoMix. For the waste separation to work most effectively, men needed to sit down to pee - God forbid! And when women were finished with a urine-only sitting, they needed to do something with their used toilet paper other than flush it. Overall, 60 percent of the users encountered problems of some sort, most notably phosphate precipitate blockages in the urine drainage system.

Hopefully, this kind of feedback will lead to a more user-friendly NoMix, which will in turn lead to less pollution and water wastage. The full report on the project can be read at the website of the scientific journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
8 Comments

I think Bachelor Frog could provide us with a better solution.

"Don't flush... get used to smell."

Facebook User
15th March, 2010 @ 01:50 am PDT

Yeah, so now public bathrooms in Europe can now charge *2 EUROS* to take a wizz!

Ed
15th March, 2010 @ 09:04 am PDT

From the pictures, it looks like all the urine just spills out on the floor... why didn't I think of that! ;)

matthew.rings
15th March, 2010 @ 03:49 pm PDT

Bioengineer a pee hungry plant next to the toilet.

Blokes can just pee on that.

Chicks can.... I don't pretend to know how chicks work so they can sort themselves out.

Craig Jennings
20th March, 2010 @ 05:55 pm PDT

Wait until some trucker drops a steaming log onto the urine area... This thing is a steaming pile of sh@t... And did you just recommend men sit down to pee? The French will love this.

V-4-Vendetta
25th March, 2010 @ 09:05 am PDT

I don't understand how I am supposed to sit on this and my scrotum and penus don't end up just lying on that grate.

Paul Anthony
13th January, 2011 @ 09:25 am PST

You tell em, long dong! I have a problem with current toilet tech when it comes to water level! Boy, are we being frank here or what (pun intended) [8-P

Will, the tink
30th January, 2011 @ 07:13 pm PST

In some parts of Australia where you have to rely upon water tanks - in dry times, many people simply piss and not flush, and only flush when they crap.

Solves the issue of HABITUAL wastefulness, and that is all that it is - is a thoughtless act, rather than a premeditated act of efficient resource use.

Mr Stiffy
9th November, 2011 @ 04:37 pm PST
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