We’ve all been there, crossing our legs in the crowd as our favourite band tears up the stage, putting off the inevitable trip. Eventually, however, we all have to admit defeat and give in to the reveller’s worst nightmare: The Festival Portaloo.
Combining a minimalistic design with some innovative engineering, industrial design engineer Virginia Gardiner has found the answer to festivalgoer’s prayers. Loowatt is an environmentally friendly, waterless-flushing toilet, bringing high-tech hygiene to the campsite; the award-winning design captures waste and turns it into clean, green electricity.
With the purchase of each Loowatt festival wristband, music enthusiasts can access luxuriously clean toilet facilities kitted out with biodegradable soaps, lotions and hair products, not to mention all the toilet roll they can dream of.
Generating (very) clean energy
Loowatt’s ingenious patented technology features a biodegradable polymer film that lines the ‘bowl’ of the toilet. When ‘flushed’, the liner is pulled through the mechanism, sealing waste inside the film and locking in odour and bacteria. The biodegradable film is stored in the housing of the toilet, while the sealing and storage system runs without power, meaning toilets can be taken completely off-grid.
The storage cartridge is emptied either daily or weekly, depending on usage, and waste is fed into a ‘digester’ to be broken down and turned into electricity.
Turning poo into power is a surprisingly low-tech process, using anaerobic bacteria. Inside the digester, bacteria feed off the waste in an oxygen-free environment. As they break down organic matter, the bacteria release methane, carbon dioxide and other trace gasses. The composition of the ‘biogas’ produced is similar to that of natural gas, a fossil fuel that we mine from the Earth’s crust.
Biogas can then be used to feed generators or drive turbines used to produce electricity. The gas itself is ‘clean burning’, meaning it converts back to carbon dioxide and water vapour, rather than the toxic gases released by burning fossil fuels.
Sustainable sanitation for all
As well as feeling festival-fresh, Loowatt’s users are helping to improve access to sanitation where it is most needed.
Loowatt began to serve communities in Madagascar in 2012, rolling out a pilot public toilet and treatment scheme in Antananarivo. As Madagascar’s capital, the city experiences high population density and inadequate sanitation infrastructure. Waste water is frequently pumped directly into waterways, which in turn are used for gathering drinking water.
Loowatt’s ‘Roso’ toilet uses the same patented waterless technology as seen in the luxury loos and can be built into toilets of any shape and size. It can even be retrofitted to ‘off the shelf’ units, reducing cost and improving accessibility to the technology. With each festival wristband purchased in the UK, Loowatt is able to deliver high-standard sanitation without the need for electricity or plumbing.
In addition to providing a safe and secure environment, the toilets are also designed to be linked to anaerobic digestion technology. The resulting biogas can then be used for cooking, heating water for washing and charging mobiles phones. An additional by-product of the system is fertiliser for crops. Rather than ejecting waste into waterways or incurring high costs to dispose of it safely, Loowatt’s system reverses costs, allowing communities to profit from waste.
The ‘waste-to-value’ system is currently being trialled with 100 pilot households across Antananarivo, funded by grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s ‘Grand Challenges Explorations’ initiative. For cities that lack toilets and sanitation infrastructure, Loowatt’s technology can drastically improve health and boost local economies. It is currently available to residents of Antananarivo for home purchase.
Back in the UK, Loowatt has expanded its fleet, kitting out 7 trailers with the waterless system. The luxury loos have appeared at festivals across the country, taking the stage at Latitude, Wilderness, Port Eliot festival and the Lambeth country show. Continuing their festival tour in 2017, the company also cleaned up at the Festival Supplier Awards earlier this year, scooping the gong for ‘Green Festival Supplier’.