ASAHIKAWA, HOKKAIDO – The inventor of a new kind of toilet that uses sawdust calls it a hygienic solution for whenever there is no water or drainage, such as after natural disasters.
The Bio-Lux toilet uses a screw mixing mechanism to turn over the sawdust and keep the odor down. About 2,500 of the units are now in use in Japan and overseas.
Its inventor, 68-year-old Toshihiro Kitsui, president of Seiwa Denko Co., says the device can become an almost permanent fixture, with little smell or upkeep.
“The sawdust will remain dry even after use and the mixture can be used as fertilizer,” said Kitsui, who is based in Asahikawa, Hokkaido. “Our toilet is as capable as a flush toilet.”
The biotoilet can be easily set up almost anywhere, even following emergencies.
Although a small company employing only 10 people, Seiwa Denko has already won international acclaim for the Bio-Lux.
It has been deployed in various projects overseas, in particular contributing to cleanup efforts in Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site battling severe water pollution amid an increase in tourists.
Seiwa Denko was founded as a wholesaler of lighting equipment in 1974 but switched its focus to the toilet business after Kitsui was diagnosed with stomach cancer at 45.
Kitsui had most of his stomach removed as part of the treatment and this drove him to become interested how to decompose leftovers and human waste.
Since most existing dry toilets fail to deal with the odor problem, Kitsui went through trial designs of various types of screws — a key mechanism in the decomposition and odor reduction process — before rolling out his first biotoilet in 1995.
Sales struggled for the first five years, putting Seiwa Denko in a difficult financial state.
“I guess most people were skeptical about our product,” Kitsui said.
Nevertheless, he continued to believe in it: “I was confident that the day would come when our toilet will be needed around the world.”
As Kitsui predicted, the Bio-Lux system gradually started receiving recognition from the industry and acclaim from users.
He has also developed portable bio-toilets that can be used for up to two weeks, based on what he learned from people’s needs at evacuation centers in northeastern Japan following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
In April, his two-decade efforts received a measure of state acknowledgement when he won the Medal with Yellow Ribbon, an award given by the Japanese government in recognition of dedication to one’s profession.
“Here in Asahikawa, I want to revolutionize the world’s toilet industry, just like when the flush toilet was invented,” Kitsui said.
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