Scientists in Singapore have developed a toilet that is an environmentalist’s dream come true. Led by Associate Professor Wang Jing-Yuan, Director of the Residues and Resource Reclamation Centre the researchers from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have engineered the “No-Mix Vacuum Toilet” that is part of an entire sewage system that separates liquid and solid waste products. The revolutionary toilet then directs the two waste streams to where they will do the most good. For example, the liquid by-products would be diverted to a processing facility where they can be broken down to extract such valuable minerals as potassium, phosphorous and nitrogen which are used as fertilizer. Meanwhile, the solid waste is transported to a bioreactor where it will ferment to produce methane gas. They hope to eventually use waste methane exclusively instead of non-renewable natural gas for home use and the generation of electrical power.
According to its research team leader, there are a number of desirable aspect of the vacuum-actuated system. For example, because the solid and liquid wastes are separated at the source and not transported to a central processing center for separation, the transportation costs are significantly reduced. As well, with a vacuum system, much like airplanes routinely employ, the water use per flush is a fraction of what even a low-flow toilet would use. This is of critical concern to countries who do not have constant, secure access to potable water, such as in Singapore.
The government of that country must have taken the thrust of this research seriously, despite the pricey up-front costs such a system would require. It provided the research team with a $10 million grant to develop the technology required to implement such a design.