News - April 28, 2010

Eco-toilets: Practise what you preach


There were reports on the front page of the NRC Handelsblad and de Volkskrant of Saturday 24 April and in Resource of 15 April on Wageningen research on the toilet of the future, in which filtering 'in the pot' gives many of the nutrients a new lease of life.

Fine that Wageningen UR draws publicity with this, as I have found that it appeals to a broad public. The Netherlands Institute for Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) sought contact with Environmental Technology from the start of its building plans in order to install vacuum toilets and produce biogas from the black water. Besides saving water, a possibly more important aim was to close the nutrient cycle and retrieve valuable phosphorus, in line with the cradle to cradle principle. If it can be done in a housing estate in Sneek, it must be possible for the Netherlands Institute for Ecology. The application of new and promising eco-technologies is something we very much want to stimulate. So we included vacuum toilets in our plans from the start. We also want to go a stage further than they are doing in Sneek and purify the water using algae so that we can empty it over our own ground and not bother with the sewers. Like this we will not only facilitate exciting research but also take up the challenge of scaling up and marketing new techniques. I hope that Wageningen UR will follow our example with its building projects, under the motto of 'practise what you preach'. Roelof Kleis ended his Resource article with the words: 'At neighbourhood level it is perfectly possible. So it must be possible for a whole campus too?' Kleis also comments: 'good for the environment and for the purse'. The latter argument will surely appeal to the Executive board?
Louise Vet, director Netherlands Institute for Ecology