So, at this point, we can identify “micro” level flaws with both systems that can produce unpleasant encounters with human excrement. Next on the comparison list is likely to be cost. Here, it would seem that the flush toilet is the clear winner, as effective composting toilet systems appear to be many times more expensive. But before the flush toilet is declared the
It is possible and even likely for both flush toilets and composting toilets to malfunction at some point. One doesn’t work better than the other, but they have different means and reasons for malfunctioning.
Full-system costing must be used to create fair comparisons for budgeting. clear winner on this point, we have to look at the complete system costs for both. While a flush toilet unit is not very expensive, a full cost accounting would need to look at the costs for a septic system (in rural areas) and sewage connection fees and ongoing water/sewage charges in urban areas. The elimination or drastic reduction of those costs will likely put the composting toilet system in a similar cost bracket, especially if long-term costs are factored in.
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Now comes the important step for the sustainable builder. We must move our focus from micro concerns like functionality, form, and cost and look at the larger ecological implications of our choices. Often, these implications are not immediately obvious and rarely used as a point of comparison, but it is crucial to include them if our intent is to make choices that are better for ourselves, our children, and the planet.
The flush toilet, viewed through this lens, is an ecological disaster. For private septic systems, the numbers are discouraging. “According to the US EPA, failure rates for on-lot sewage systems across the country are reported at 10 percent annually.”2 This means that millions of systems are leaching noxious quantities of contaminated effluent into surface- and groundwater supplies. These numbers indicate that within ten years, almost all systems will experience failure, and failure results in the pollution of our collective water supply. The numbers aren’t any better for municipal sewage systems. The Sierra Legal Defense Fund’s 1999 Sewage Report Card states: “Over one trillion liters of primary or untreated sewage is collectively dumped into
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