Composting toilets can solve Greenlandic environmental problem
In co-operation with Environmental Engineer Børge Lund, DGE has found a possible solution to an environmental problem in Greenland, where the inhabitants in many small settlements use toilets with plastic bags, which are emptied directly into the sea.
In Denmark we take water flushing toilets for granted, but in Greenland the rocky ground makes it problematic to have sewage systems. Furthermore, biological decomposition in sewage works is not possible, when the temperature is below 10 degrees. Therefore, the inhabitants in the Greenlandic settlements use toilets with plastic bags, where the contents are thrown directly into the sea. This constitutes a pollution problem with i.a. medicine residues for the vulnerable, arctic environment and in addition a health risk, as disposal takes place near the occupants.
According to the rules, you are not allowed to dispose of the bags in nature together with the toilet waste, but bags and contents often end up in the sea.
DGE and Environmental Engineer Børge Lund have found a solution to these problems with an electrically powered biological composting toilet that evaporates the liquid and reduce the solids to vegetable mould in the toilet. The toilets have recently been tested in Qeqqata Municipality.
More stringent requirements
At present, the rules require that the waste from the toilets is disposed of at least 90 meters from the settlements, but according to new requirements from the health inspector this will be changed to 500 meters. In addition, facilities must be set up where it is possible for the person handling the bags to wash his hands.
This will entail a large financial burden for the municipalities, as a road must be built to where the bags are emptied as well as a toilet building with running water. The cost of construction can be estimated at five million DKK. In addition, annual operating costs of 250,000 DKK for a settlement with 40 households, where the toilets are emptied twice a week.
The biological composting toilets only have to be emptied six times a year, after which the waste without any health risk can be used as ordinary compost in the garden.
A sustainable solution
- Basically, it’s about creating a solution that is more hygienic than the one we have today, says Hans Holt Poulsen, Chief Planner in Qeqqata Municipality.
- As to business economics, it will be sustainable to replace the toilets with biological toilets. An electrically powered composting toilet uses electricity for 5,000 DKK a year, and the operating cost for a toilet with bags is 5,400 DKK, when the expenses for the municipality and private persons are added up, Hans Holt Poulsen amplifies.
The trial has run for the past year, and results and experience are now being evaluated. According to Hans Holt Poulsen, the perspective is that the biological composting toilets can be installed all over Greenland.