Solar Composting Toilets Highlight Green Changes to NYC Park

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The proposed design includes green rooftops, solar-powered composting toilets and will be built from eco-friendly and sustainable materials. Photo: COOK + FOX

The proposed design at Riverside Park includes green rooftops and solar-powered composting toilets. Photo: COOK + FOX

Typically, the opening of a public restroom doesn’t merit a lot of hoopla. But then again, most public restrooms aren’t as green and carbon neutral as the facilities that are being planned for Riverside Park in New York City. The restrooms in the park overlooking the Hudson River will use solar power and compost sewage to fertilize park greenery. The new restroom complex is being designed so that it will not create any carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global warming. Plus, in addition to producing fertilizer (instead of sewage), the composting toilets will use little to no water. (By comparison, conventional toilets use about 3.5 gallons of water per flush.)

“These toilets are vital,” says Mark McIntyre, executive director of the Riverside Clay Tennis Association. He says that much of the Hudson River Greenway, where the park is located, is built on a landfill along areas that are not connected to New York City’s sewer system. Even if they were able to connect to the existing sewer system, that system is already aging and stressed.

“Tens of thousands of people are now using this riverfront pathway, and there are not enough [bathrooms] to accommodate the need,” McIntyre says. The opening of the Hudson Riverwalk has increased bike and pedestrian traffic by the thousands, and presently portable toilets are the only option for park visitors.

“If we are to build the necessary amenities, we want to do it in an environmentally responsible way and one that is economically feasible,” he says.

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