Composting Toilets to be Constructed in NYC Public Park

Author: Travis Leipzig

A while back I wrote about the benefits – including water protection and potential energy savings - of recycling human waste for use as composting material. By the end of next year, New York City will begin the construction of the city’s first ever public park composting toilet facility, which will showcase an array of sustainable technologies and help educate the public about the benefits of composting toilets.

The new facility should significantly reduce water use and greenhouse gas emissions compared to a conventional public restroom. As the New York Times Green Blog article states:

The plan for the bathroom, which would compost sewage to fertilize park greenery and use solar panels to power the complex, also calls for additional sustainable design elements, like recycled building materials, roofs planted with native species, and blast furnace slag to circumvent the carbon-heavy manufacturing process of cement.

This serves as a great example of integrated resource recovery, as the facility will be “finding a resource from waste” by reusing the human compost as fertilizer for the park. In addition, by not connecting to the city’s sewage system, these composting toilets will save loads of water which would have been used for flushing. As we all know, moving and treating water requires a lot of energy, so water kept out of the sewer system translates into energy savings. Furthermore, reusing human waste as a fertilizer can reduce the use of chemical fertilizers, which are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution

Green roofs on the complex will also serve as a great example of low impact development, which reduces rainwater runoff and also saves energy. Further, installing solar panels to power the facility will be another great addition to the project. The use of solar panels lightens the demand on centrally connected grid electricity, which in turn not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions, but also decreases the amount of water required to cool power plants, such as New York’s water-hogging Indian Point Power plant.

“We’re in a public park, what’s better than to try to build the greenest building possible as an example to everyone?”

And a fine example this will be.

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