(File photo) Photo: Jennifer Bruce

Durban -

Disgust at world leaders' inability to deal with climate change has upset the stomach of many an activist.

But their subsequent run for the humble toilet has only added to the planet's woes, if the World Toilet Summit being held in Durban this week is anything to go by.

The average person in suburbia flushes away an average of 25 litres of drinking water every day, according to Pieter Lemmer, managing director of sanitation product supplier Calcamite.

The company is just one of the many exhibitors at the summit promoting an environmentally sustainable way of dealing with human waste.

While 25 litres may not seem like much, over a year that amounts to 9125 litres of drinking water. This does not include bath water or water used for hand-washing.

Several exhibitors were promoting waterless and odourless toilets. Calcamite's system was a closed-water one that would use 2000 litres of water to begin with. This water would then be repeatedly filtered and re-used for flushing the toilet.

The exhibitors at the summit were mostly from South Africa, but there were some from as far afield as India and Germany.

Names like Enviroloo, Conloo, Amalooloo, Resoloo, Envirosan and African Sanitation had stalls promoting environmentally friendly, easy to install toilets.

Exhibitors included non-government organisations, government and municipal departments, and a German university.

Many of the toilets were being promoted as waterless, odourless and chemical free. Some of the products advertised claimed to extend the life of latrine pits, while others produced compost.

African Sanitation used solar power to help the natural decomposition of waste. Several systems on display used the heat of the sun to create airflow that would see fresh air pulled into the toilet bowl while odours exited from a pipe into the open air.

And to keep the waterless toilet bowl clean? Envirosan's Tim Krause said the company had developed a bowl with a special plastic that would result in “skidmarks” drying and flaking off quickly into the pit. - Sapa