San Francisco has a poop problem – in the city’s Tenderloin district alone, there were almost 10,000 recorded “incidents of human waste” last year, according to the Bay Citizen. So this fall, the Oakland-based design firm Hyphae Design Laboratory offered a solution: install portable composting toilets that are both easy on the environment and cheap, because they don’t need electrical or plumbing inputs. Hyphae is currently working on a prototype which is set to debut in the Tenderloin next year.

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The idea was first floated in September, and it appears to be gaining some momentum. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission recently published a report that looked at the viability of using composting toilets for public restrooms, and it found that the toilets don’t smell. However, the commission didn’t give the idea its full endorsement. “I don’t want to say it’s not possible, but we also have to think about these other challenges,” commission spokesman Tyrone Jue told the SF Examiner, noting that health and safety issues still need to be addressed.

Because they aren’t connected to the sewer system, composting toilets can be located anywhere, and when used properly, solid waste is turned into nutrient-rich compost. When Hyphae Design Laboratory unveiled its concept in September, the preliminary design included ultraviolet lights to destroy germs, and the walls of the unit would be translucent to discourage illegal activity. Some of the logistics still need to be ironed out, but the Tenderloin could get its first composting toilet next summer.

+ Hyphae Design Laboratory

Lead photo © Sustainable Sanitation