This machine turns human poop into fertile soil

Each flush of a bathroom makes use of 1 to 6 gallons of water. This wastewater flows by way of pipes to be handled and purified—3% of U.S. vitality use goes to only this. And but 80% of all wastewater nonetheless makes its method again into the setting as a pollutant anyway. If you combine water with feces, you truly simply enhance its polluting powers.

However what in case your rest room weren’t a bathroom in any respect? What if you happen to might merely feed your waste to mushrooms that might purify it into soil, naturally?

That’s the imaginative and prescient of Rebecca Schedler. As a graduate scholar at Design Academy Eindhoven within the Netherlands, Schedler constructed the Symbiopunk, a bioreactor that transforms feces into humus—the fertile, black substance in soil (not the chickpea dip). The work was achieved in collaboration with the composting rest room firm Kildwick.

The Symbiopunk is solely mechanical, requiring no electrical energy to function. You feed strong waste into the Symbiopunk’s giant copper drum. (It flips the wrong way up, and spins left to proper, to make this job straightforward.) The waste sits on this copper for 2 to 3 days, as a result of over this time feces will truly enhance in temperature as a result of its energetic microbes. The copper affords a literal cooling-off interval, and copper itself is antimicrobial, which helps sterilize the waste.


[Photo: Rebecca Schedler]

After just a few days, the waste makes its method by way of the black tube you see on the backside of the contraption. This is a screw feeder. By twisting the white deal with, the feeder lifts the waste into the large black tank whereas additionally incorporating mycelium (the bottom organism of a mushroom) into the combo.

Then, after a few weeks, mushrooms sprout, purifying and breaking down the waste into humus. Human waste turns into natural fertilizer, which you’ll then incorporate into a backyard or farm.

[Photo: Rebecca Schedler]

As a consequence of COVID-19, Schedler isn’t permitted to check human feces within the machine. As a substitute, she has examined the Symbiopunk with horse manure to show its efficacy. She insists that the method stinks lower than you’d count on. “I used to be stunned,” she says. “Most smells are created by introducing [waste] to water. The large benefit from this method is that it doesn’t use water.”

[Image: courtesy Rebecca Schedler]

In line with Schedler, with out water, you’ve got much less stench, and fewer cultivation of pathogens that create extra of that stench. (Customers of dry composting bogs in RVs tend to agree.) You additionally don’t must eliminate soiled water, which is a logistical problem. Whereas, sure, feces does have an odor, Schedler says that the mushrooms do fairly a bit to mitigate that.

Schedler isn’t the primary particular person to suggest utilizing mycelium to deal with waste. In 2018, a scholar undertaking referred to as the MYCOmmunity Bathroom proposed a useful, mycelium-filled rest room that you simply’d bury when full. Over the course of the month, mycelium would digest the waste, working it again into the earth as fertilizer.

The MYCOmmunity Bathroom means that waste is an issue we are able to bury. Symbiopunk insists the precise reverse. Symbiopunk is giant and crowd pleasing by design. You might be supposed to have a look at it and take into account the difficulty of human waste. Its steel knobs and finishes are additionally deliberately overt, evoking the admittedly passé steampunk aesthetic—once more, to make a degree.

“Steampunk had this benefit to reimagine the previous to indicate a special future,” Schedler says. With Symbiopunk, she needs to query the developments of our industrial age. Her different future is that this low-fi, steel sequence of tubes and hoppers, which require no electrical energy or fossil fuels to function. As a substitute, Symbiopunk asks solely in your feces and your muscle energy. You put money into the method of cleansing up after your self, and strengthen our surroundings alongside the way in which.


“You actually need to cope with your individual shit,” Schedler says. “It’s not disappearing, you want to handle it, what comes out of you. It is advisable to handle a special residing organism, and doing that, you additionally handle your self. It’s a loop . . . it’s not as straightforward as pushing a button after which it disappears.”