Europeans rally behind the 'NoMix-tech' toilet

New, eco-friendly toilet could substantially reduce pollution and conserve water and nutrients--and it's getting rave reviews so far, scientists in Switzerland say.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore

The NoMix toilet, which rather appropriately collects urine in the front and feces in the back, has gained wide support by consumers throughout seven countries in Europe as a means of reducing pollution and conserving water, according to a new paper by scientists in Switzerland.

"NoMix" toilets, like the one shown here, collect urine and feces separately. Yvonne Lehnhard

The just-publicized article, which calls on authorities to push for early adoption of the high-tech toilet, appears in the semi-monthly journal Environmental Science & Technology by ACS Publications.

Of the 2,700 people surveyed in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark, 80 percent say they support the idea behind the technology, and between 75 and 85 percent report that the design, hygiene, smell, and seat comfort of the NoMix toilets equal that of conventional ones.

Moreover, roughly 85 percent say they are open to the idea of using stored urine as fertilizer.

Researchers Judit Lienert and Tove Larsen write that the toilet collects urine separately, with the main advantage being that urine contains 80 percent of the nitrogen and 50 percent of the phosphorus that arrives at wastewater treatment plants. Those two elements trigger such things as algae blooms that can enter waterways and threaten fish.

Apparently, a full decade into the 21st century, the rather simple NoMix model is a relatively novel technology whose acceptance (beyond the NoMix-loving Swiss) had not been scientifically measured until now.