AfrikaBurn 2023: 24 to 30 April

A New Loo With A View

Our toilets have always been one of the standout experiences in Tankwa Town. Over the years, many people have come to enjoy the loo with a view – and there are now also initiatives to pimp the loos, and take ownership of them so that the experience is as  interesting and as unique as the town we all create together each year.
Historically our approach to toilets has been to dig pit toilets and supplement these in some high-use areas with portaloos. As our numbers have grown, so this option has become less viable, for two reasons. The first being that, as our town has grown so has its outer edges and over time, this has meant we have had to locate toilets closer and closer to water courses – but it would be irresponsible for us to continue to simply place our loos in this area in growing numbers ever closer to water courses that are subject to sporadic and seasonal flash floods, for obvious reasons. The second reason would be that the capacity of pit toilets in an arid area is limited: we’re now at the stage that whatever toilet design we use, it has to have the ability to handle larger volumes of people than before, and in an environmentally considerate manner.
With that in mind, we’re happy to announce that in conjunction with a sanitation engineer who has 20 years experience in designing portable toilets, we have a new toilet design that can be moved, and handle much larger volumes of people. Behold – The Throne With A View!

So, what are we looking at here?
These are units designed to be erected in high-use locations, like events* and dense urban areas. In other words, ideal for use in Tankwa Town. Each 1000-litre unit can take 600 people’s complete daily output of solids & fluids for 24 hours (or could be used by 6 people for 100 days). The structure is made out of 98% recycled and repurposed materials that would otherwise be discarded by various construction and manufacturing processes. All plastics used are composed of 100% recycled HDPE and LDPE. The 2% that isn’t recycled or repurposed consists of the screws, metal straps, hinges and shadecloth surround. Everything else you see is enjoying a second life in a new form – and once treated and preserved to handle the Tankwa’s extremes of climate, will be able to be re-used for a minimum of 10 years, quite possibly more.
As a means of capture, a 1000-litre tank is positioned beneath the throne itself – and it’s here that the magic of these toilets takes place. Instead of sawdust (which is ideal for a composting toilet), these units makes use of an activator fluid that consists of fruit oils and active micro-organisms. This enables the output to start being remediated right away in the tank, with an anaerobic process starting as soon as the toilets begin being used. Once the level of effluent reaches the 75% full mark, it’s pumped out and then deposited into a remediation tank which, with the help of a biodigestor, converts the effluent into water and manure.
In 2018, the manure will be dried and donated to a neighbouring Tankwa farmer, who will apply it to his fields, helping to improve soil quality. In the years to come, this process will be developed and accelerated to the extent that during our annual event water will be produced via the biodigestor process that will come out safe enough to be used to dampen dust on roads and also be put back into empty tanks as the medium for the activator fluid. For this reason, our standard rule of “If it doesn’t come out of your body, it doesn’t go in the potty” still applies. Of course, much more water will be produced by a urinal unit – and as it happens, the same thinking that’s gone into the Throne units has produced a fine urinal that can handle a whole lot of liquid, which makes them ideal for positioning at high-traffic areas of our event.
The use of fluid in the tank also has other important benefits: because the activator fluid is oil-based, it sits on top of the effluent, reducing smells and preventing flies from getting to the effluent, and becoming a vector for potential GI pathogens and bacteria. Cleaner, less smell – and yet still with the great view that you’ve come to enjoy? Damn right.

As you can see, these new units are raised off the ground, which enables our WASH (Water and Sanitation & Health) crew to position them anywhere, without impacting the ground in any way. Their base allows them to be lifted and moved by a forklift and replaced or repositioned if necessary, and of course picked up and stored safely until our next event.
After a trial period where the units have been positioned at Streetopia, in our workyard and also at the Origin Festival and were subjected to heavy use over a period of days, our Toilet team is now confident that the units’ basic design is good to go, with a few tweaks and tricks to make them pleasant to use, and durable enough to handle everything the Tankwa throws at them.
*many thanks to Regan & Monique and all at the Origin Festival 2018 for supporting our initiative by allowing our DPW to erect & trial these units at their event.

Want an update on where our new toilets are at? Check this out.

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