A public toilet with a message on the seat that reads, “Do not drink this water.”
Sage advice. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/James Shuttleworth/Flickr)

The last thing any major metropolitan city’s tourism department wants to hear are 600 to 800 reports of human waste or urine on public sidewalks per month. That’s exactly what San Francisco faces, says the city’s Department of Public Works. Thankfully, Oakland-based ecological engineering firm Hyphae Design Laboratory has come to the flush the trouble away, reports the San Francisco Huffington Post. Hyphae has proposed eco-friendly, enclosed compost toilets called “pooplets” to address the problem of too few public toilets for San Francisco’s homeless population.

Privacy in pooplets questioned

Pooplets will provide public toilets to help keep city streets clean. Pooplets will automatically separate solid and liquid waste, which reduces odor and makes the composting process more efficient. For the convenience of law enforcement, the walls of pooplets will be translucent, which will enable police to discern whether illegal activity is occurring inside. The translucent nature of the walls has caused critics to question whether the homeless or other pooplet users will be afforded due privacy.

According to the Bay Citizen, pooplets will cost the city $40,000 to $50,000 each. They will be free to use, and the first full wave of pooplets is expected to be available by the 2013 America’s Cup yacht races. The first model is expected by spring 2012. Whether the typical yachting fan will use small public toilets with translucent walls remains to be seen.

No purchase, no potty

A SF Public Press investigation found that a major barrier to providing San Francisco’s homeless with sufficient public restroom facilities – thus preventing them from defecating on the street – is a common one: most businesses are closed at night and in the early morning. And businesses that do open early do not commonly allow restroom use without a purchase.

“The only way to find a restroom before 7 a.m. is to buy yourself a cup of coffee at Starbucks,” unemployed contractor Jim Rokas told the Public Press.

Hyphae is reinventing your bathroom


The Bay Citizen: http://www.baycitizen.org/columns/scott-james/plan-eco-public-toilets-parking-spaces/

Huffington Post: http://huff.to/pftOsl

Hyphae Design Laboratory: http://hyphae.net/journal/

San Francisco Chronicle: http://bit.ly/nNXEfG

SF Clean City: http://www.sfcleancity.com/

SF Public Press: http://bit.ly/gmVGsh

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