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Byron Shire
May 16, 2021

Push for more compost toilets fails

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A bid to promote waterless composting toilets in urban and rural areas of Tweed shire by waiving fees or offering rebates has been sunk.

Tweed councillors debated a staff report on composting toilets in the urban environment and whether they should be included in the shire’s water management policies.

The biological toilets, now allowed in both sewered and unsewered urban and rural areas, are a big saver of potable water but require ongoing maintenance, therefore commitment by owners or users to the principles of composting.

Rather than using drinking water for flushing into a reticulated sewerage system, composting toilets are waterless and use micro-organisms to decompose human waste.

Staff say only a small number of the 4,900 on-site sewage management systems (OSSMS) currently registered in the shire are waterless composting systems.

Greens Cr Katie Milne and Gary Bagnall failed last Thursday to get support for waiving fees or giving rebates for composting toilets, or to have them included as part of council’s official water-demand management policy, similar to rainwater tanks.

This is despite Tweed Council recently spending over $400,000 on rebates for dual-flush toilets and shower heads as a means of reducing water consumption and future infrastructure costs.

Cr Bagnall said the north coast had the ideal weather for composting toilets, which did not operate as well in cold temperatures.

He said composting toilets should be encouraged as they were a better way of saving water than dual-flush toilets ‘which should have been introduced years ago’.

But Cr Phil Youngblutt said some composting toilets ‘have an odour’ and a concentrated number in an urban area could be a problem, especially with the maintenance required.

Cr Milne said such water-saving toilets should be encouraged with incentives provided to increase take up as they were ‘one of the most sustainable methods of water management’.

Council’s natural resources director David Oxenham agreed, saying composting toilets could save households up to 20 per cent in water.


Cr Milne said there was no big voluntary take up of the systems because ‘only people committed to composting’ installed them and a policy with incentives would go a long way to boost their number.

‘This would then send a message that we want to encourage them.

‘We want to see a progressive council that’s willing to take up new technology, and  needs to be proactive in dealing with the issues of water and climate change.’

She said it was ‘a pleasure’ to use the composting public toilets at Mt Warning National Park and at Urliup.

Cr Warren Polglase argued that composting toilets were already allowed on a voluntary basis in state legislation and a new council policy was not needed.

Mayor Barry Longland praised the staff report as ‘a good expose of the issues’ which ‘reminded the community that composting toilets are permissible in urban and rural areas’.

Planning director Vince Connell said in his report that all commercially available systems must be accredited by NSW Health, need council approval to operate and attract an annual fee.

Mr Connell said composting toilets were a viable option in unsewered areas, especially where reticulated water was unavailable or water supply restricted, or for small difficult sites.

‘In addition to the time needed to maintain these systems, there are associated costs for the upkeep of such systems including the recommended annual servicing of commercially available systems and therefore, unless site conditions require the installation of a waterless composting toilet, it is considered that encouraging the use of such system would be difficult to sustain and that personal choice should be the determining factor for the installation these types of installations.’

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  1. Odd that Cr Milne cited the pleasure of using the composter at Mount Warning. Surely she could have told of her experience with the one she has already voluntarily installed in her own home?

  2. Composting toilets couldn’t possibly be more costly or require more upkeep than the flush toilets we have in Tumbulgum, nor could they release more sewage than the system does in Tumbulgum. At least they keep the Tweed Shire maintenance staff fully employed.

  3. What a shame an opportunity is lost to encourage new homeowners to be waterwise. As Katie says, Council encouragement by way of subsidy would send an excellent msg. I realise there would need to be strategies needed to ensure maintenance was done appropriately – Council could have workshops and perhaps use technology to reduce the cost for homeowner and Council by accepting video footage via Internet to provide evidence of a properly maintained system each year. Hopefully this issue will be reassessed at same stage.


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