Treebogs: A Sanitation System for IDP Camps?

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  • Jay3
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Re: Treebogs: A Sanitation System for IDP Camps ?

Hello to all of SuSanA members who had questions about The Treebog.  I have attached my responses to these questions as a pdf document, as well as attaching some photographs of Treebogs so that you are able to familiarise yourselves with the concept - in practice.I have now managed to sign onto the SuSanA network and hope that the conversation will continue. We are monitoring the first Treebog in Kenya, in the Kakuma Refugee Camp, which was built during a Treebog Workshop 6 months ago. 

It is surrounded with Papaya, Citrus and Moringa trees, and we have established a tree nursery to provide the trees for future Treebogs in the camp.

We have also started to propagate a large local bamboo, which we hope to use to build more Treebogs there. 

The Treebog is proving very popular with the 35 - 40 people who use it every day, and is a very welcome alternative to the communal toilets where women and children feel very vulnerable. We shall be hosting another Treebog Building Workshop in Kakuma later on this month and we aim to have a Treebog in all of the five main areas of the camp by the end of the year as an example to show the concept works here.

I attach some photos of a multiple cubicle Treebog with a ramp for disabled access (in Somerset in the UK) as well as a twin cubicle Treebog built in Senegal 2 years ago, where the surrounding wire enclosure is filled with peanut shells which are a locally available form of particulate organic carbon.

The Senegalese Treebog has a lightweight metal frame because the termites will eat any wooden structures!

All the very best,

Jay.

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  • Jay3
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Re: Treebogs: A Sanitation System for IDP Camps ?

Having just contacted Rebecca in the SuSanA office and been told about the nuances of uploading to the forum

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I hope that the information I wish to share with those of you interested in the Treebog will appear here:
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  • Jay3
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Re: Treebogs: A Sanitation System for IDP Camps ?

 Hello Aaron, AKSantaCruz, Dean, Richard, Ross and ToreThank you so much for taking the time to respond to Aaron’s post about the use of the Treebog in humanitarian scenarios, like refugee and IDP camps.

I hope this response will help to answer the questions and concerns you have about the Treebog.

The concerns raised by each of you about the Treebog have been raised before, and will no doubt continue to be raised as the Treebog becomes more widely known as a compost toilet which can be self-built and self-managed, and which can safely convert toilet wastes into biomass and biological resources.

As Sanitation Engineers and Humanitarian Organisations require data on Treebogs, I hope that this document will be useful in providing areas of focus for those of you who’d like to develop further research to discover both the applicability and the limitations of the Treebog.

From your comments, these concerns can be placed under the following headings:
1 Co-composting of faeces and urine, with possible overloading leading to sewage sludge leaking out of the Treebog base structure.
2 Need for Twin Cubicle Treebogs - for a rest or fallow period
3 Pathogen removal by the Treebog (viruses, bacteria etc.)
4 Ventilation - use of chimney, to enhance air flow around compost pile
5 Flies - control
6 Flooding of the toilet, by overland flows during high rainfall events
7 Access to toilet platform by disabled people
8 Capacity of the soil to absorb the liquids - especially if usage is high
9 The Scaleability of The Treebog
10 Composting Process is not Thermophilic - could pathogens be a problem in the long term?

Richard has visited a Treebog in Wales, built by the owner of a camping area.  The Treebog was located on a very steep slope in a woodland setting.  Richard, I’m looking forward to hearing your insights into the Treebog gained from using this particular, quite rustic, Treebog in Wales.

I was wondering if anybody else on this thread has any experience in building, using or monitoring a Treebog? 

If not, I shall attempt to bring you up to speed.

Treebog Concept
Please bear in mind in mind that the Treebog is a conceptual approach to decentralised sanitation.

What I offer is not a Blueprint, nor can it be effectively constructed without reference to the local culture, conditions, materials available and resources at hand.

Treebog: Definition
Treebog can be simply defined as a raised, platform-mounted, toilet cubicle, closely surrounded by densely planted and heavily mulched trees and shrubs. In terms of its structure, there are many possibilities when people self-build, using local resources.

The term ‘Treebog’ is spelt in this way, capitalised, so as to stress the importance of Trees in the creation and successful functioning of the Treebog. Note that ‘bog’ is an informal word for toilet in the UK.

A Treebog is not a pit latrine
As the Treebog is not a pit latrine, there is no need to dig a hole underneath it. 
This not only saves a lot of labour, but can be important in helping to protect groundwater, especially if there is a high water table.

Treebog: Soil surface compost chamber - not a below ground pit
Having no pit prevents the mixing of liquids and solids in the Treebog and so helps to prevent odour nuisance.  To make this as clear as possible we describe the enclosure underneath the platform, surrounded by the chicken wire, as the compost chamber. 

Platform mounted, directly above a compost pile
The Treebog cubicle has either a toilet seat or a squatting platform and directly below this, in the compost chamber, is the compost pile, onto which the daily offerings are deposited. This simple use of gravity, to create the compost pile underneath the cubicle, results in users only ever having to move the pile when it has fully decomposed into compost, they never have to move either sewage sludge or any non-composted material.

Faecal sludge/Compost 
Faecal sludge is a specific term in the water industry.  It is defined as faeces mixed with water, a slurry, and is the product of a water-based sewage system.   

Separation of liquids and solids
The faeces deposited in a Treebog form the compost pile, and the liquids drain off this pile, soaking into the surrounding earth, into the root zone of the planted trees. 

We could therefore be said to be employing ‘gravity-powered phase-separation’ enabling the compost pile to remain mainly aerobic.

The solids and the liquids do not get the opportunity to mix and become an anaerobic slurry as they would if collected in a pit. 

Aerobic decomposition creates fewer, if any, odorous off-gases, and occurs more quickly than anaerobic decomposition.

Water-based slurries will not compost at all well, and unless effectively mechanically aerated and mixed, they will rapidly become anoxic/anaerobic and as such, and will tend to smell. 

A Treebog is not a water-based system so produces no sludge or slurry.

Because a Treebog has no pit underneath it (the compost sits on the top of the soil surface) it is a dry-composting process - the liquids ‘drain’ off the pile into the root zone of the soil.This composted material is not the same as faecal sludge. 

Once full the Treebog can be allowed a fallow or rest period, it is not used for a while to allow full composting of the contents to occur. When fully decomposed the compost in the Treebog can be dug out and used in the garden or orchard.  It is then relatively dry, smells as sweet as good fertile topsoil and, because it isn’t in a pit, can be easily shovelled into a wheelbarrow and used as a, fertile, soil conditioner or top dressing.

The Arborloo 
The Arborloo is another type of compost toilet, a methodology already accepted in the field.  The Arborloo is only similar to The Treebog in that it involves a tree being planted.   In the Arborloo the tree is planted into a pit which has already been filled with toilet wastes. 

So, an Arborloo is a full up pit latrine, with a tree growing it. 

When an Arborloo pit is full, it is covered with a layer of soil and a single tree is planted on top.  However, it is still necessary to dig a pit, which is labour intensive, may bring septic wastes closer to groundwater and can be very difficult, or impossible, in rocky conditions.

The Arborloo - Short-lived tree is planted
Guidance on the Arborloo indicates that a short-lived species, like the banana, be used and once the tree dies off, then the pit is dug out and used again. 

The Treebog - Long-lived trees are planted
In contrast, the trees around the Treebog can grow and produce resources for many years, they can be managed as standards or coppice, and produce fruits, nuts and many other useful tree ‘services’ including shade from the sun and shelter from the wind.

The Treebog’s Water Retentive Root Zone
The platform-mounted toilet is surrounded with closely planted trees and shrubs.  These send their roots into the moist, nutrient-rich soil underneath and around the Treebog, opening up channels in the soil for water.  In doing this, the tree roots create a water-retentive space within the soil underneath the Treebog, enabling more water to be more readily absorbed in the soil; to be absorbed by the roots and transpired by the leaves of the trees and shrubs.

Visual Screen &
Particulate Organic Carbon Source for odour control
The use of a chicken wire mesh stuffed with straw (or other carbon rich material) to create a ‘sandwich’ as a visual screen, is not something people are used to seeing as a part of a toilet set-up. Apart from screening the compost pile from sight until the trees have grown up around it, the carbon-rich material used also helps to absorb the Nitrogen in the urea and washing water.  This screening material needs to be topped up periodically as it rots down to become soil.

It is the nitrogen containing substances which might cause odour problems if not effectively dealt with, urea must be fully broken down and an aerobic environment and a carbon source are very important to enable this to occur. 

A Treebog directly integrates sanitation with resource production
Different species of trees provide various yields:  fruit and nuts, fodder crops, firewood, polewood for building, mulch, and the material for charcoal production.  Thus the Treebog is a sanitation methodology which creates both soil and biomass resources, enabling people to take control of, and to benefit from having their sanitation needs met naturally, often with a self-built Treebog structure.

Flooding by overland flows during heavy rain
Flooding is problematic with many methods of sanitation.  If it is necessary to build a Treebog in an area which periodically floods, then it is possible to either construct a low earth berm around the Treebog base structure, or indeed build a Treebog on top of a raised mound surrounded by Trees.  

This could then act as a ‘flood refuge’ place in times of heavy rain, which would be handy, as it would have a functioning toilet and trees for shelter.

Disabled Access to The Treebog
This is a perennial challenge and can be addressed in two ways:
1 A gently sloping ramp can be built to aid access.
2 The Treebog can be built onto a slope, with the entrance on upper slope ‘ground level’ and so no stairs are required. 

Pathogen Removal within the Treebog
A wide range of soil creatures and microbes can be found within a Treebog composting pile, from dung beetles and earthworms, to ants and termites.  A Treebog can be also have earthworms added, and so use the power of earthworms to aid the composting process, as they would do in a wormery.The funga (the total population of fungal species) along with the Archea and Bacteria are the primary decomposers and transformers of the waste material into compost.  

Pathogen removal mechanism
 
Also within the Treebog and the soil are many Protista, a varied kingdom of eukaryotic single-celled organisms, many of which are known to predate (graze) upon both bacteria and viruses.  These include well known organisms such as the amoeba,paramecium, slime and water moulds, and nematodes.  These organisms are constantly looking for their next meal and gut bacteria or virus particle is easy prey to these free-living life forms.

Location and correct sizing of the Treebog
Both sizing and location are of great importance.  It is best to locate the Treebog close to the users so that they can manage it, tending it during its establishment, and then to collect the harvest from it.

A Treebog should not be located in an area known to flood, but can be placed on a raised earth mound, or have an earth berm constructed around it to deflect overland flow during excessive rainfall events.

A Treebog provides shade in hot climates
An adequately-sized, double cubicle, Treebog can serve around 35 - 40 people well, and can be surrounded by up to 25 trees and shrubs, so that the Treebog is a cool, shaded, area in hot climates, where several people have reported feeling very relaxed and comfortable using them - even in summer temperatures of 40-50o C.

Ventilation
Ventilation is of crucial importance within a Treebog, in order to maintain the aerobic nature of the compost pile underneath the Treebog Platform.

Airflow for Aerobic Decomposition
Only with good ventilation can aerobic composting occur.  This air flow enhances the breakdown of the solids in a microbial degradation process.  Having non-airtight sides of the chamber underneath the Treebog platform, helps to keep the process aerobic.  Some people use chicken wire, others have used hazel/willow hurdles or overlapping wooden slats which allow good airflow. 

Many Treebogs have straw stuffed between the chicken wire, others have woodchip, and in Senegal peanut shells have been used effectively (in the role of carbon source) filling the space between a double chicken wire screen.

Treebogs have also been fitted with a black plastic pipe/chimney which connects the platform chamber with the air, the black plastic pipe warming in the sun causes an increased, thermodynamically induced, air flow through the composting chamber. 

Odours
Odours can be minimised by adding small amounts of Particulate Organic Carbon, for example sawdust or leaf litter, crushed peanut shells etc.  It is worth noting that the smaller the particle size of this material, the more effective it is at reducing the likelihood of the pile creating a odour nuisance.

So, if possible, this material should chopped up prior to adding to the pile, order to minimise the amount of carbon rich materials being used within the Treebog, or if available small quantities of fine sawdust can be added every week, as this prevents the Treebog filling up with sawdust. 

The Earth Closet
Like the traditional European Earth Closet, the addition of small quantity of finely powdered dried soil each week, inoculates the pile with the necessary microbes and ensures a good supply of carbonaceous materials for the microbiota to use as an energy source.

Flies
Whatever is used to act as a visual screen around the chamber underneath the Treebog, it is important to keep the chamber as dark as possible, flies are not attracted to it as the lack of light discourages flies from entering.  It is also a very good idea to have a lid on the seat or squat to prevent direct access to the flies, as well as sunlight from entering the chamber.

Rodents  
Rodents can be excluded by using the chicken wire sandwich stuffed with straw and the chicken wire can be dug into the ground by about 6 - 8 inches to prevent burrowing animals accessing the compost pile.
The presence of the many users of the Treebog and Compound dogs are also a good deterrent. 

Moisture Retentive Woodchip Mulch - Particulate Organic Carbon Source
Use of a thick woodchip or straw mulch around the base of the trees, enhances the formation of soil and keeps the soil around the Treebog from drying out, shading and protecting the tree root systems from the intense heat of direct sunlight.

Management of the Treebog to maximise the absorptive capacity of the soil 
The area underneath a double Treebog structure is roughly 2 metres x 4 metres, so, in the order of 8 m2.  To this we add a surface mulch (a particulate organic carbon source) both to the ground underneath and around the Treebog where the trees are planted.  

Where possible, we add small quantities of topsoil from undisturbed, living soil.  Areas such as a woodland or the soil around solitary tree - which will contain many of the soil microbes, fungi and other microbiota we require to act upon the compost pile.

Mycorrhiza and mucopolysacheride gel production
With the tree roots and the mulch, along with the moisture added to the Treebog each day, the fungal associates of the trees’ roots - the arbuscular mycorrhiza - start to produce mucopolysacherides which create a water retentive ‘gel’ around the root zone, underneath the Treebog.  This enhances the Treebog’s ability to hold on to water and make it available to the myriad life forms which ‘colonise’ the soil underneath the Treebog. 

Local Materials and Tree Species
People can build a Treebog with whatever materials they have to hand or can obtain locally.  Treebogs growing certain species of tree such as Gliricidia sepium or Glory Cedar, a nitrogen fixer, which can produce polewood if coppiced, or bamboo a fast growing grass, may also provide materials necessary to build new Treebogs and to repair old ones. 

Useful trees such as Moringa and Neem can be grown around the Treebog.

Treebog Structure
Our aim is to use as few as possible non-natural, non-biodegradable materials. This not only gives low-embodied energy, but also means that the compost pile and the surrounding trees can be left as a resource and the superstructure moved to another place - perhaps adjacent to the original one.

Metal-framed Treebog Structure 
However, in areas where termites can destroy wooden structures, the Treebog is best made from metal, and the cladding can be made from light-weight woven grasses mats or cloth.

Movable Base Structure
If a light-weight metal frame is used there is the added possibility that it can be constructed to be either easily disassembled and rebuilt, or to be movable.If this were done then, once full, the Treebog could simply be taken apart and reassembled, or moved as a unit, and the Treebog process started again - leaving the original trees in place, with their store of compost and so not digging it up at all.

Scaffold Poles and Planks
In the UK several Treebogs have been constructed using scaffold poles and planks; the metal clamps used which hold the structure together, also enable the structure to be broken down and rebuilt.  One of these multi-seater Treebogs, made using scaffold poles, was also fitted with a ramp and a double sized cubicle for disabled access.

Urine in the Treebog
We have not found ‘neat’ urine to be a problem. As long as there is a source of particulate organic carbon (woodchip, leaf litter or straw) in place, the urea is readily broken down by microbial Nitrification and Denitrification processes.

Rate of mesophilic composting process
The rate of decomposition (composting) relates not so much to the area of soil surface underneath the Treebog in direct contact with the pile, but to the temperature, windchill effect, and moisture content, as well as the presence of Funga, Archea and Bacteria, and all the Protista.The ’wastes’ compost in-situ: the toilet wastes are transformed and then absorbed, with the plant nutrients being used in the production of biological resources and soil creation - feeding the trees.

Composting Process
Composting is the result of a multi-species interaction within the soil both below and around The Treebog.  The organic matter is decomposed and absorbed by the Flora, Fauna and Funga of the soil.  Transformed the Bacteria, Archea and Protista, the earthworms/dung beetles (in temperate zones) or the termites/ants (in tropical/sub-tropical zones).

The composting process is also greatly aided by the powerful extracellular enzymes released by the saprophytic funga of the soil.  Whilst the water retentive capacity of the soil is especially enhanced by the fungal associates (the mycorhyza) of the trees in the root zone underneath The Treebog, as they secrete mucopolysacherides which form a water-retentive gel around the plant roots.  

Earthworms, Beetles, Ants and Termites
Earthworms, dung beetles, termites and ants all carry saprophytic fungi in their guts which they ‘inoculate’ onto the organic matter and this greatly enhances decomposition.  

Vermiculture
In Temperate climates the Treebogs function is assisted by the introduction of earthworms to the compost chamber.  Vermiculture and composting are two processes which complement each other. 

The Treebog is assisted in processing the materials deposited into it by the earthworm - so a Treebog can be described as a compost system which embraces vermiculture.In dry/hot climates where earthworms do not thrive or cannot survive at all termites and ants carry out a similar function, taking organic matter under the earth, there to grow saprophytic fungi which are then harvested to feed the insects’ colony.

Emptying of the Treebog of compost (Humanure)
This period of time will depend on a range of factors including:

1 Population
served by the Treebog, at 350g/person/day (faeces) and 1 litre/day (urine).
2 Ambient temperature - which affects the rate of the composting process.
3 Size of Composting Chamber: the size/volume/height of the Treebog structure define the volume of the chamber below the seating/squatting platform, the larger this, is the longer it will be before emptying of the compost is necessary.

Based upon these factors the Treebog will sooner or later require emptying of compost, however, Treebog Emptying is not desludging! 

The Treebog does not need to have ‘Faecal Sludge’ removed, because there is no ‘sewage sludge’ created within a Treebog

Rate of solids breakdown
The build-up - to fullness - within the Treebog is dependent upon how many people are using the Treebog every day, how large the area under the platform is and how high off the ground the Treebog platform is constructed as well as the ambient temperature. The higher the platform and the larger the ‘floor area” the greater the volumetric capacity, and so the longer it will take to become full.  The composting process, hence the breakdown of the faeces to compost, will also be dependent upon the ambient temperature - for every 10o C increase in temperature the metabolic rate of the microbes doubles - so the breakdown in tropical areas can be between 2 and 4 times the rate in temperate climates.

The Farming & Health Education (FHE) Treebog - Dimensions/Filling Rate
The Farming & Health Education Treebog is a single-cubicle Treebog with dimensions of: 1.75m long x 1.5m wide, and with the platform being 1.5 m above ground level.  For a single cubicle Treebog these dimensions are on the large side. This Treebog has been in use for 6 months, and is used each day by between 30 - 35 people (around 80 people can visit the compound each day but not all of them use the Treebog).

This Treebog now has a ‘pyramid’ shaped compost pile of about 300mm high at the top. 

At this accretion rate the Treebog should not require emptying for at least 3 - 4 years.  By which time a large proportion of the pile will be fully composted into soil. So, users never have to handle septic wastes, only compost every few years.

Single or Double cubicle
My recommendation is that people build a double-cubicle Treebog as then, when one side is full up the other side can then be used - allowing full composting to occur on the first side, which having sat for 3 - 12 months, can be emptied when fully composted.   

Compost made from human toilet wastes is sometimes called called Humanure. 

The Treebog converts toilet wastes into Humanure.  

Please see The Humanure Handbook by Joseph C Jenkins:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Humanure-Handbook-Guide-Composting-Manure/dp/0964425831

Treebog Roof and Rainwater Harvesting
The Treebog is built with an oversize roof which sheds the rainwater away from the Treebog structure and the compost pile.  The roof area can also be used to harvest rainwater for handwashing.

Overloading - setting upper limits to population served by each Treebog
In the comments it was mentioned that “Simple systems only work until there is more waste than the system can cope with”.

This is certainly true of the Treebog,  but also of any other system we choose to use. 

Bearing this in mind, each double-cubicle Treebog should only serve between thirty to forty people. Then the quantities of both urine and faeces is not an issue with regard to ‘containment’.

Scaleability
The Treebog is very scaleable, we can create more Treebogs for compounds of 20 -40 people, so there is no overloading and the solution scales on ‘Treebog by Treebog’ basis, not by having ever larger Treebogs

In Summary
i There is no pit underneath a Treebog, it is a soil surface composting process, which allows for gravity separation of liquids from solids ii No Pit - solids do not mix with liquids
iii Aerobic composting - not an anaerobic/anoxic slurry or sludge
iv No Faecal Sludge is produced so no Desludging is required
v) No flushing water - only washing water
vi) No pumps, replacement or spare parts are required
vii No mechanical parts to wear out, or indeed any moving parts - apart from the trees blowing in the breeze
viii Creation of soil so no ‘disposal of excreta’ periodically requiring a suction tanker.  Instead the creation of and use of compost, which can be then be the basis of a productive ‘home-garden’.
ix) Treebogs can accept urine and washwater.  So urine separation is not necessary
x) It is hygienic with no handling of septic wastes required
xi) It is ideal for Community or Self-build
xii) Pathogens are contained, faecal coliform (bacteria from the gut) are rapidly eliminated by the naturally occurring ecological processes of a living soil
xiii) It is a low-tech, biological process
xiv) It produces resources - it is not simply a waste treatment process
xv) It can include the use of earthworms or termites to help inoculate the compost pile and to bring organic matter into the soil in and around the Treebog structure.

I would like to thank Richard Luff for his comment that the Treebog has: “Wonderful elegance, with no handling of faeces and urine necessary and, with minimal requirements to move compost, which reduces health risks”
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  • Elisabeth
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  • I'm passionate about SuSanA's role in the WASH sector since about 2005. I'm a freelance consultant since 2012 (former roles: program manager, lecturer, process engineer for wastewater treatment plants)
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Re: Treebogs: A Sanitation System for IDP Camps ?

Hi Jay and all,

I am just wondering what you would say the difference is between a tree bog and an Arborloo? Looks pretty similar to me. If you can explain the difference then we can also add that information to the two Wikipedia articles: Regards,
Elisabeth

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Ulm, Germany
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  • reidharvey7734
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  • I am a ceramic industrial designer focused on environmental health and development. Ceramics is ideally suited to addressing the urgent needs of low-income communities and countries. Those embracing ceramic developments will industrialize, gaining resilience and self-sufficiency.
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Re: Treebogs: A Sanitation System for IDP Camps?

Thanks for the question. It seems as if it would be a lot easier to dig a hole and make a platform over it, as in the Arborloo. The Tree Bog would involve building a structure above ground with a platform. Wouldn't it be better for the excrement to be below ground?
All the best, Reid
Anthony Reid Harvey, ceramic industrial designer
Africa Prosperity Inc.
Niagara Falls, NY USA
Here is a video presentation that gives an overview of ceramic WASH and development interventions:
Harvey, Anthony Reid (2021): Sanitary stoneware toilets: production closer to the need. Loughborough University. Conference contribution. hdl.handle.net/2134/16941193.v1
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  • Jay3
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Re: Treebogs: A Sanitation System for IDP Camps ?

Hello Elisabeth,

The difference between a Treebog and an Arborloo is that an Arborloo is a pit latrine and a Treebog is not.

If you look at an earlier part of this thread, I have already sent a fairly detailed document which addresses the questions asked by about half a dozen other members of SuSanA

Treebog: Definition
Treebog can be simply defined as a raised, platform-mounted, toilet cubicle, closely surrounded by densely planted and heavily mulched trees and shrubs. In terms of its structure, there are many possibilities when people self-build, using local resources.
The term ‘Treebog’ is spelt in this way, capitalised, so as to stress the importance of Trees in the creation and successful functioning of the Treebog.

Note that ‘bog’ is an informal word for toilet in the UK.

A Treebog is not a pit latrine
As the Treebog is not a pit latrine, there is no need to dig a hole underneath it. 
This not only saves a lot of labour, but can be important in helping to protect groundwater, especially if there is a high water table.

Treebog: Soil surface compost chamber - not a below ground pit
Having no pit prevents the mixing of liquids and solids in the Treebog and so helps to prevent odour nuisance.  To make this as clear as possible we describe the enclosure underneath the platform, surrounded by the chicken wire, as the compost chamber. 

Platform mounted, directly above a compost pile.
The Treebog cubicle has either a toilet seat or a squatting platform and directly below this, in the compost chamber, is the compost pile, onto which the daily offerings are deposited. This simple use of gravity, to create the compost pile underneath the cubicle, results in users only ever having to move the pile when it has fully decomposed into compost, they never have to move either sewage sludge or any non-composted material.

The Arborloo 
The Arborloo is another type of compost toilet, a methodology already accepted in the field.  The Arborloo is only similar to The Treebog in that it involves a tree being planted.   In the Arborloo the tree is planted into a pit which has already been filled with toilet wastes.  So, an Arborloo is a full up pit latrine, with a tree growing it. When an Arborloo pit is full, it is covered with a layer of soil and a single tree is planted on top.  However, it is still necessary to dig a pit, which is labour intensive, may bring septic wastes closer to groundwater and can be very difficult, or impossible, in rocky conditions.

The Arborloo - Short-lived tree is planted
Guidance on the Arborloo indicates that a short-lived species, like the banana, be used and once the tree dies off, then the pit is dug out and used again. 

The Treebog - Long-lived trees are planted
In contrast, the trees around the Treebog can grow and produce resources for many years, they can be managed as standards or coppice, and produce fruits, nuts and many other useful tree ‘services’ including shade from the sun and shelter from the wind.

The Treebog’s Water Retentive Root Zone
The platform-mounted toilet is surrounded with closely planted trees and shrubs.  These send their roots into the moist, nutrient-rich soil underneath and around the Treebog, opening up channels in the soil for water.  In doing this, the tree roots create a water-retentive space within the soil underneath the Treebog, enabling more water to be more readily absorbed in the soil; to be absorbed by the roots and transpired by the leaves of the trees and shrubs.

Please do get in touch if you need any further information.

With best regards,

Jay

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  • Jay3
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Re: Treebogs: A Sanitation System for IDP Camps?

Hello Anthony,

Thanks for your interest in the Treebog.

I will respond below to your comments and questions concerning the Arborloo as compared to the Treebog:

Comment
It seems as if it would be a lot easier to dig a hole and make a platform over it, as in the Arborloo. 

Response
How is digging a hole easier? 
It is much easier not to dig a hole!  
Especially in rocky ground or in shallow soils.

Also, with a Treebog, when the contents are fully composted, it is not necessary to dig the compost out of a hole in the ground, but to simply move the compost pile into a wheelbarrow or basket - at ground level.

Comment
The Treebog would involve building a structure above ground with a platform. 

Response
The materials required to build the Treebog and the Arborloo structures are the virtually the same.  
Although the Treebog does not require a concrete plinth as does the Arborloo, it does need to be raised up by at least one metre off the ground to make space for the composting chamber underneath the platform.

Question
Wouldn't it be better for the excrement to be below ground?

Answer
Why would it be better to have the compost below ground?

With a pit latrine the liquids and the solids are in the pit together.  

Aerobic composting occurs in a Treebog, whereas in a pit latrine of any kind, being underground, the waste materials are far more likely to become anoxic or anaerobic, and so create an odour nuisance.

In anoxic or anaerobic conditions the composting process is slower, this is because the lack of oxygen means that fungi, which are obligate aerobes, cannot function to help in the process.
Also, with a pit latrine, groundwater is more likely to be polluted, as the excrement is brought closer to it by digging the pit.

I hope this answers your questions and you are now more clear about the benefits that a Treebog can bring.

If you have any further questions please get back to me by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

With best regards,

Jay
Biologic Design Ltd.

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  • reidharvey7734
  • reidharvey7734's Avatar
  • I am a ceramic industrial designer focused on environmental health and development. Ceramics is ideally suited to addressing the urgent needs of low-income communities and countries. Those embracing ceramic developments will industrialize, gaining resilience and self-sufficiency.
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Re: Treebogs: A Sanitation System for IDP Camps?

I stand corrected. But you must admit that in a many contexts the arborloo is preferable. It seem that appropriateness is on a case by case basis. BTW, in lots of cases people have ways of digging holes. It's not as is someone has give them a shovel.
All the best, Reid
Anthony Reid Harvey, ceramic industrial designer
Africa Prosperity Inc.
Niagara Falls, NY USA
Here is a video presentation that gives an overview of ceramic WASH and development interventions:
Harvey, Anthony Reid (2021): Sanitary stoneware toilets: production closer to the need. Loughborough University. Conference contribution. hdl.handle.net/2134/16941193.v1
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  • reidharvey7734
  • reidharvey7734's Avatar
  • I am a ceramic industrial designer focused on environmental health and development. Ceramics is ideally suited to addressing the urgent needs of low-income communities and countries. Those embracing ceramic developments will industrialize, gaining resilience and self-sufficiency.
  • Posts: 32
  • Likes received: 8

Re: Treebogs: A Sanitation System for IDP Camps?

BTW, people using arborloo latrines or tree bogs probably don't even need a structure. They simply throw a cloth over themselves. My first experience seeing this was fifty years ago in West Africa (but now I'm boasting).
All the best, Reid
Anthony Reid Harvey, ceramic industrial designer
Africa Prosperity Inc.
Niagara Falls, NY USA
Here is a video presentation that gives an overview of ceramic WASH and development interventions:
Harvey, Anthony Reid (2021): Sanitary stoneware toilets: production closer to the need. Loughborough University. Conference contribution. hdl.handle.net/2134/16941193.v1
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  • Tore
  • Tore's Avatar
  • worked in sanitation for most of my life. taught plumbing. have plumbing and builders license, certified inspector in all facets of construction, PhD in public administration & have taught construction management in university, traveled numerous countries, Interest UDDT and sanitation & clean water
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Re: Treebogs: A Sanitation System for IDP Camps ?

The treebog has benefits if it is needed in a crisis where a sanitation system is needed NOW.  I am still concerned about pathogens.  I realize that a treebog is built above ground but as you mention the liquid is absorbed by the soil and have the potential of reaching the ground water.  In many cases water is gotten from a hole that is only 3 to 4 feet deep.  Many of the pathogens have lives of up to several years in low temperatures so there is time for the pathogens to travel to the ground water.  In addition I am concerned that the above ground treebog will attract flies.  As you state it is an aerobic system meaning that air is introduced which would allow flies and other insects access to the feces.  A study analyzing what happens to the excrement and the pathogens is needed before I could recommend it.
Sanitation & water consultant in developing countries
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  • Jay3
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Re: Treebogs: A Sanitation System for IDP Camps?

Dear Anthony,

Yes, it’s almost like digging holes is a part of being human!

Digging holes for pools/ponds, for ditches, holes to store things in or to dispose of wastes, mounds and trenches for defence, ridge and furrow to manage water in the landscape, Motte and Bailey, and of course the Chinampa wetlands of Mexico…the list goes on and on.

Through Biologic Design, I am lucky to be able to dig holes for a living for the ‘construction’ of the wetland systems we create using permaculture design principles.  These Wetland Ecosystem Treatment or WET Systems are densely and diversely planted, soil-based wetland ecosystems which integrate water purification, resource production and increased biodiversity through habitat  creation.  

They hold water in the landscape as a part of water retentive landscape design - on any scale.

They are as Bill Mollison put it they are an example of the  'recombinant ecologies' we need to create to repair the damage wrought on the Earth.  These ecosystems comprise all of the six great kingdoms of life - The Archea, Bacteria, Protista, Funga, the Plants and Animals - which are given a place to flourish, within a designed, specifically constructed and densely planted 'Land:Water Harmonic'.  

A wave form of water and earth - which can change depending upon local conditions and what yields are required from the 'system'.

See attached drawing of examples of the most productive Land:Water Harmonic there have ever been - The Chinampa - from Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual, by Bill Mollison, which outlines all of the Permaculture Design Principles and Design Directives necessary to create regenerative human habitation, and has been the basis of my design practice since 1992.

All the best,

Jay - Biologic Design

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  • Tore
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  • worked in sanitation for most of my life. taught plumbing. have plumbing and builders license, certified inspector in all facets of construction, PhD in public administration & have taught construction management in university, traveled numerous countries, Interest UDDT and sanitation & clean water
  • Posts: 61
  • Karma: 2
  • Likes received: 19

Re: Treebogs: A Sanitation System for IDP Camps?

Using a wetland design to clean sewage is outstanding.  It allows plants to gradually clean while water is slowly flowing through the wetland and at the end it is clean and can flow into the natural salt or fresh water.  I don't know why more developing countries don't use it.  Once the grading and berms are built there is very little maintenance required.
Sanitation & water consultant in developing countries
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