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San Francisco is looking at the idea of bringing a fleet of composting toilets to the city’s streets in the next year. This is an effort to deal with the city’s rapidly deteriorating sewage system and its “public defecation” problem, according to the city’s Public Utilities Commission in the San Francisco Examiner. In addition to addressing the lack of public toilets in the many neighbourhoods away from the touristy downtown, composting toilets are cheaper to install and service. They also have the potential to save thousands of gallons of water by not actually flushing (how? a scoop of woodchips usually does the trick). Art Torres, VP of the Public Utilities Commission, asked his staff to compile a report on the feasibility of installing composting toilets across the city, insisting his staff address “Odor Issues” in a section of the same name. Torres wanted the report to refute the common misconception that composting toilets are essentially smelly holes in the ground, if in fact they are more than smelly holes in the ground. You know, as opposed to the high standard of cleanliness most of us associate with public lavatories. Composting toilets have come a long way. With proper ventilation and a working suction system, composting toilets are virtually odourless. Not only that, but if consumers can get past another potential ick-factor, the waste itself makes an excellent fertilizer, and would likely be transported to farms outside the city limits for use there. San Franciscans shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for the toilets to show up in their downtown just yet. The process still needs approval from several city agencies who will likely address key issues of transportation, health and safety in handling, well, human waste, and what farms, if any, would welcome the humanure. But Clean City, a San Francisco not-for-profit working towards greening a city that has already been named North America’s greenest city, believes that composting toilets are a great way for the city to address the lack of public toilets in some neighbourhoods while saving money on plumbing and electricity-installation found with traditional flush-toilets. If all goes according to plan, the first composting toilets could be up and running in the Terderloin district by summer 2012.

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