by Lloyd Alter: Got some clean electricity? Then you can cremate your crap…
Years ago when we first got a cabin in the woods, we had an Incinolet incinerating toilet. It was all stainless steel and built like a tank, but sounded like a jet plane in your living room and if the wind wasn’t blowing, the whole place smelled a bit like burned something. A friend’s child using it was so put off by the flames and smell that it put him off toilet training for a year. We switched to a composting toilet.
But there is something so North American about incineration, compared to composting. It’s tidy and sanitary, just a bit of ash (a cup per person per week) instead of a big glob of poop and peat moss. It is truly living better electrically. If it works.
That is why I was so excited about the Cinderella incinerating toilets that I saw at Toronto’s Cottage Life Show. It is a dainty glass slipper compared to the steel-toed construction boot that was the Incinolet. It is all tidy and modern and computerized as it turns your poop into cinders, Ella. They have sold tens of thousands of them in Norway where they have been made for almost 20 years.
Like the Incinolet, you first insert a sort of wax paper coffee filter to line the stainless steel bowl, because there is no water to keep things clean. When you have done your duty you close the lid and press the start button, and that’s it; no pedals, no timers, it does the rest.
And what it does is open its stainless steel bowl so that the bundle of poop drops down into the combustion chamber, the electric elements fire up and turn the poop and urine into ash and water vapour, the fans suck everything through a catalytic filter that takes out any smells and then pushes it up through the chimney.
Cinderella claims it is all environmentally friendly, and compared to a big septic system with pumps and serious water consumption, it probably is. But it uses a lot of electricity; between .8 and 2.0 kWh depending on the prodigiousness of the poop. That is a lot of energy.
On the other hand, my Envirolet composting toilet has a fan drawing 40 watts all the time, or .94 kWh per day, and when cranks up to 540 watts when there is urine to evaporate, so it is not exactly electricity free. (There are many other models that use solar power to run the fan and do not evaporate the liquids, so it is not a simple comparison. I am just making the point that composting toilets often use electricity too.) At least with the Cinderella, you only use electricity when you use the toilet. It also is great for cold climates, being totally freeze-proof. Perhaps one could stick an HRV on the exhaust and heat your home with it.
They also make a version that runs on propane gas to do the poop cooking and a little 12 volt DC to run the fans, but depending on where you live, that can have a much higher carbon footprint.
The Cinderella is not cheap, but nothing made in Norway is. It starts at US$ 4,695 for the Classic unit that takes its air from the room, two and a half times as expensive as the good old American Incinolet. But that is a bargain compared to a septic system, and comparable with the fanciest composting systems. It uses a lot of electricity and there are composting toilets that don’t.
But it is exciting to see innovation in the slow moving world of waste. If it works as well as they say, it is the new hot seat for cottage and cabin country.