Toilets come in all shapes and sizes. We invite you to take a tour of some of the toilets that can keep you healthy, make you sick, create compost for your garden, and even allow you to "go" in space!

Download a high-res poster of all the toilets.


This modified pit latrine, once full, it offers a rich compost to plant a young tree. ArborLoos are useful in areas recovering from deforestation, and fruit trees provide food.

Benefits:

  • cheap (~US$60)
  • hygienic
  • doesn't need much water
  • helps the environment
  • food/income from fruit

Drawbacks:

  • requires education to use properly
  • must dig new pit every 6-9 months
  • the new tree needs heavy watering after being planted


A porcelain seat connected to a piped water source or septic tank, this toilet uses fresh water to flush away waste.

Benefits:

  • clean
  • sanitary
  • easy to use
  • low maintenance
  • can be mass produced
Drawbacks:
  • reliant on municipal water systems
  • uses large amounts of drinkable water
  • more expensive than other systems


Pit latrines are the simplest form of sanitation and appear worldwide. However, pit latrines built poorly or lacking certain features can promote disease.

Benefits:

  • inexpensive
  • simple
  • no reliance on formal utilities
Drawbacks:
  • bad smell
  • breeding grounds for insects
  • if poorly lined, can leach contents into groundwater supply & spread disease


A pit latrine with a vent pipe allows odors to be exhausted from the pit while controlling flies. The superstructure can be relocated to a new pit.

Benefits:

  • inexpensive
  • simple
  • no reliance on formal utilities
  • reduced odor
  • controls flies
  • hygienic
Drawbacks:
  • more expensive than the pit latrine
  • must dig new pit every 6-9 months


This is the only option for millions of people around the world. Open defecation means using open land or waterways. This is the least sanitary option, and its effects are dramatic in urban areas.

Benefits:

  • free
  • no construction or infrastructure needed
Drawbacks:
  • waste tracked by feet, flies and flooding
  • rapidly spreads disease
  • bad smell
  • undignified or taboo in most societies


This toilet funnels waste into an airtight pit while a second receptacle accepts animal dung slurry (dung + water) and the two mix together underground. The pit generates methane gas and as the pressure builds, gas is pushed through a pipe connected to a cook stove.

A urine diversion system collects urine and wash water separately from solid waste, channeling them into a rocky filter bed that waters a small garden.

Benefits:

  • high quality cooking fuel is produced for free (saving trees)
  • hygienic
  • no utilities required
Drawbacks:
  • requires large livestock population to sustain*
  • high up-front cost to install (~$500)
  • complex and difficult to use/maintain
*instead of needing livestock, some biogas facilities are built to accommodate a bank of toilet stalls for people. These facilities work well at schools.


Aboard the International Space Station, toilets use high speed air to vacuum human waste into sealed packages for the return to Earth. Water is filtered from urine and returned to the drinking water reservoir. Astronauts use straps and restraints to attach themselves to this toilet while using it in zero-gravity.

Benefits:

  • system works in zero gravity
  • hygienic
  • urine is filtered to create drinking water
Drawbacks:
  • extremely complex
  • difficult to use and maintain
  • one space toilet costs $19 million


Download a high-res poster of all the toilets.

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