Incinerating Toilets As An Alternative
To Flushing Toilets

By: Ezra Plank

How does an incinerating toilet work? Incinerating toilets don't use water to flush human waste. They burn the waste into ashes, so there is no need to worry about personal contamination. They are a waterless toilet, but they can't really be considered eco-friendly, since burning the solid waste has some unfortunate side-effects.

Incinerating toilets can be either electric or gas powered

Incinolet Incinerating Toilet
Electric incinerating toilet

In the electric incinerator, a bowl liner is put in place to catch the waste matter. A foot pedal releases the waste-containing liner, which falls into a sealed chamber. Then the waste is incinerated into a sterile ash. The ash must be disposed of in an appropriate location. The full process takes about an hour, but the toilet can be used even during incineration.

Gas incinerator toilets use no electricity, and can be run on either natural gas or propane. This version waits until the holding tank is full before it incinerates the waste. There is never a need to clean or sterilize the chamber, as the process is self-sterilizing.

The pros and cons of using incinerator toilets

Pros - Incinerating toilets do not use water, resulting in no waste of water. The ash left behind after incineration is sterile, and safe for disposal. They are portable, easy to install and use, and work no matter how cold the weather. And they are ideal for isolated locations, where there may be no water, sewage lines, or power.

Cons The incineration process demolishes any nutrients found in human waste - meaning it cannot be used for nourishing soil. It saves water, but uses more energy.

Electric versions leave a "carbon footprint", since in most cases the plant producing the electricity emits carbon dioxide exhaust. Gas versions definitely produce pollutants.

EcoJohn Incinerating Toilet
Gas incinerating toilet

Places where incinerating toilets are most useful

The most common applications for using these toilets include rural locations where there are no sewage systems, RVs, construction sites where toilets are not accessible, marine craft where releasing waste is not allowed, water poor areas, and locations where water contamination is a problem.

Manufacturers of incinerator toilets

  • Incinolet - a Texas-based company, offering several electric models priced at about $2000.

  • EcoJohn - a California company, offering both residential and commercial gas models.

The incinerating toilet has its place, but is certainly not a very energy efficient choice for areas where a regular water flushing toilet can be used.

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