5.5  Ecological sanitation

Ecological sanitation, also known as ecosan, describes an approach to human waste management rather than a single method. In ecosan systems, human excreta is considered to be a resource, not waste. The principle is to make use of excreta by transforming it into an end product that can be used as a soil improver and fertiliser for agriculture. Ecosan systems require more space than conventional latrines, but they provide a more sustainable approach to waste management than other systems.

In the group of improved sanitation facilities in the sanitation ladder (see Figure 1.3 in Study Session 1), ecosan systems are represented by composting toilets. Composting toilets convert human waste into compost (soil-like material that can be safely used as fertiliser) by the action of aerobic bacteria. Aerobic means ‘with oxygen’ and is usually applied to microbial decomposition processes that take place where air is present. Composting toilets are just one of several latrine technologies that can be classified as ecosan systems.

5.4.1  Ventilated improved pit latrine

5.5.1 Arborloo