Happy World Toilet Day. If you have a toilet to flush, consider yourself lucky. Lots of people on Earth don’t have one, and that’s an environmental problem the United Nations has aimed to highlight every Nov. 19. The folks at HomeBioGas are using the day to launch a bio-toilet aimed to two of life’s necessities: Pooping and eating. “Do you create your own gas?” the startup asks. “Now you can.”
If that sounds gross, consider this: 2.3 billion people on Earth have no access to basic toilet facilities, and 892 million practice open defecation—a practice that’s increasing in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania due to population growth, according to the World Health Organization. This is linked to the transmission of diseases like cholera, diarrhea and death.
HomeBioGas is launching a system to attack those statistics, taking the waste people generate every day (depending on your schedule) and using a biodigester to convert the stuff into cooking fuel.
Don’t worry, we’re not talking about briquettes. The unit turns waste into methane. Each unit comes with a specially adapted biogas stove, so you can cook on renewable energy at home. The company says a typical home stovetop also can be converted to use the gas with a small nozzle adjustment. The World Wildlife Fund notes that using methane for cooking means less of the greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere.
While the video above shows the system in an outhouse, with the green and black biodigester nearby, it doesn’t need to be that close. It can be installed indoors, with the biodigester located up to seven meters (23 feet) away from the toilet. The toilet sends the waste to the biodigester, where it’s broken down naturally through anaerobic digestion and the biogas is formed. The biodigester stores the biogas until it’s ready to be used for cooking.
There’s no need to empty the unit, and leftovers from the process can be disposed of by connecting it to an existing septic tank or sewage system. Or it’s pretty easy to construct a small drain field next to the biodigester, the company says, and instructions are provided.
When Nature Calls
Oshik Efrati, HomeBiogas, CEO and co-founder, says there’s nothing awkward about his product:
As the world’s population is growing and fossil fuels are running out, society needs to find alternatives to energy fuels. People are starting to understand that organic waste is a resource that can and should be utilized to our advantage, instead of being thrown away to further pollute the earth. Upcycling waste is economical, sustainable and progressive.
HomeBioGas has been around since 2012 and is headquartered in Israel, but has customers in more than 100 countries and a network of 60-plus distributors. About 20 of the units are operating in the U.S. as of today’s official launch, with others in places including Israel, Aruba, Zambia, New Zealand, the Marshall Islands, France, Mexico and Australia.
The system’s price is still being finalized, Efrati says; the company website lists a biodigester for use with food scraps and leftovers at $65o (U.S.).
Investors in the company include ENGIE in France, which has a 13% minority stake in HomeBioGas via its corporate venture capital fund. The startup also received the Energy Globe Award for Israel in 2018.
Efrati adds that the company’s Bio-Toilet is compact and packed into a single box, which makes it easy to transport, even on the back of a moped to a remote village. It’s said to be as easy to assemble as a closet from Ikea.
But this isn’t just a Third World product. “The HomeBiogas Bio-Toilet and biodigester can benefit many different types of people: eco-conscious people who want to reduce their carbon and water footprint, people who are living off-the-grid and are not connect to the public sewage system, and people who are located in disaster areas,” according to the CEO.
With disasters from wildfires to hurricanes adding up this year in the U.S., this Bio-Toilet may come in handy in more ways than one.
Besides upcycling waste into cooking fuel, the HomeBioGas system uses only 0.3 gallons of water per flush, compared to more than gallon with regular toilets, Efrati notes.
As environmental protection starts to appear more in public discourse, more American families have adopted sustainable practices, so they can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. The HomeBiogas Bio-Toilet is a tool for environmentally conscious Americans to become more sustainable.