Composting Across Countries: A visit to Kompotoi in Switzerland

As SOIL continues to grow and expand our services in Haiti, we recognize the need to keep improving our operations efficiency, deepening our research, and exploring what others in the sector are doing. We love visiting our container-based sanitation and composting friends around the world, because it gives us a chance to see firsthand what else is going on in the sanitation sector. While back in her home country of France, SOIL’s Compost Program Advisor and Waste Management Engineer Julie Jeliazovski took a trip over the border to Switzerland to visit Kompotoi, a mobile dry composting toilet service for the eco-conscious, run by JoJo Linder.

Kompotoi’s toilet service provides an interesting window into the operational components of other container-based toilets, and also highlights the desire among the world’s wealthiest countries – on the opposite end of developmental spectrum from Haiti – to seek a more ecologically sustainable solution to sanitation. Linder, who previously worked with SOIL this past year on a Human Centered Design project, provided Julie a full tour of the toilet workshop and independent composting site to help SOIL better understand Kompotoi’s business model and how they operate.

According to Linder, Kompotoi’s customer base is quite broad, and  the service is used by everyone from private customers to larger corporate clients needing to service public places and events. The Kompotoi team gave Julie a tour of the workshop where the toilet units are built, cleaned, and stored. Kompotoi’s toilets are built higher off the ground to allow for the use of larger containers, requiring less frequent collection. Each Kompotoi toilet is also equipped with a men’s urinal. Similar to SOIL’s bonzodè, the cover material used as the “flush” in our water-free household toilets, Kompotoi uses a straw pellet cover material that is easily available in Switzerland.

The independent composting facility (Kunz Baumschulen AG) is primarily used to treat green waste (grass cuttings, branches, leaves, etc.) along with a small component of human waste collected from the composing toilets.  Mechanization, using a large compost turner, is a critical component to the composting operation, allowing for minimal labor required and a much faster treatment and curing process. The compost team noted that the microbes in the compost pile require a lot of oxygen, so with the enhanced mechanization, they are able to easily turn the piles every day to make sure they never run out of oxygen and keep working at maximum efficiency to decompose the waste in a matter of only weeks. Thanks to this process, the compost is ready to sell after 6 weeks of almost daily turning.

It’s incredible to see the innovations around the globe all contributing to a shared goal: sustainable sanitation solutions using ecological processes. While the same type of mechanization might not be a feasible solution in Haiti, SOIL is working to identify similar low-tech and low-cost alternatives that could help us turn compost faster. Supporting job opportunities and promoting job efficiency is critical to our business model and as a social business, we love to learn from others in the sector to understand methods for increasing efficiency, while also finding solutions that are applicable in Haiti.

We’re so thankful for our global thought partnerships and want to say a big thanks to Jojo, Lukas, and Oliver at Kompotoi and Kunz Baumschulen AG for their work and for welcoming Julie and sharing their knowledge on composting processes.

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