Terra Preta Sanitation

January 8, 2011

Terra preta means ‘black earth’ in Portuguese and refers to dark, rich, regenerative soils that were created by humans in the Amazon basin in pre-Columbian times. Areas of active Terra preta deposits 6 or 7 feet deep lie in the midst of highly infertile soils. Terra preta contains biochar, plant residues, animal feces, fish and animal bones, and nutrients such as N,P,& K.

Jeff’s prototype biochar reactor

In late 2011, the World Toilet Organization and the Hamburg University of Technology announced a TPS competition to design a $50 toilet that uses micro aerobic terra preta sanitation and vermiculture.  Building on the current work of PHLUSH Productive Sanitation Researcher Jeff Holiman, which is outlined in Evolution of Simple, Modified, DIY Terra Preta Sanitation for the Home, we are putting out a call for people skilled in engineering and design.  If you’re interested in joining Jeff’s team, please email us.

Key references

“Terra Preta Toilets”  In Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management (SSWM) Toolkit.  by Dorothee Spuhler and Robert Gensch

Terra Preta Sanitation: re-discovered from an ancient Amazonian civilisation – integrating sanitation, bio-waste management and agriculture. Water Science and Technology.  Key 2010 article by Factura, H., Bettendorf, T., Buzie, C., Pieplow, H., Reckin, J. and Otterpohl, R.

Dissertation: Development of a continuous single chamber vermicomposting toilet with urine diversion for on-site application.  Hamburger Berichte zur Siedlungswasserwirtschaft, Bd. 76. Hrsg. GFEU e.V. ISBN 978-3-942768-01-6

Terra Preta Sanitation.  Profusely illustrated slide presentation by R. Otterpohl.

Terra Preta Sanitation (TPS) Workshop, April 5-8, 2010, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines

Websites, videos, magazine articles

Institute of Wastewater Management and Water Protection, Hamburg University of Technology.  Leading research center for terra preta.

Ralf Otterpohl introduces terra preta in this 11-minute video.

Magazine article in German that shows simple toilet and household system.

Xavier University Sustainable Sanitation Center  Multidisciplinary center in the Philippines research terra preta among other sanitation technologies; member of Cewas.


Revolutionary designs from Paul Polak’s Out of Poverty

Global Social Business Incubator at Santa Clara University. Applications due Jan 16, 2012.
MoSan low-cost toilet from Bangladesh.
More articles

Development of a continuous single chamber vermicomposting toilet with urine diversion for on­site application.  Christopher A. Buzie, M.Sc. (Environmental Sanitation), Prof. Dr.­Ing. Ralf Otterpohl.  See also Development of a Continuous Single Chamber Vermicomposting Toilet with Urine Diversion for On-site Application.  Christopher Azaah Buzie-Fru. Doctor of Engineering Dissertation. Illustrated. 157 pp.

Combined Lactic Acid Fermentation and Vermi-humification Processes for Safe and More Efficient Recycling of Human Excreta in Terra Preta Sanitation Asrat Yemaneh (MSc), Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ralf Otterpohl Institute of Wastewater Management and Water Protection Hamburg University of Technology.

Low -Cost Plant Nutrients and Organic Matter Recovery from Human Urine in Terra Preta Sanitation. Mammo Beriso, Ralf Otterpohl. TUHH, Institute of Wastewater Management and Water Protection

Our Mission Through education and advocacy, PHLUSH helps local governments and citizen groups to provide equitable public restroom availability and to prepare for a pipe-breaking seismic event with appropriate ecological toilet systems.

Our Vision Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.

Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH) was founded in Portland, Oregon and today collaborates with groups across North America.

PHLUSH is a member of the World Toilet Organization and a partner in the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

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