UBC Undergraduate Research

Risks And Benefits of the Use of Urine-Diverting Vermicomposting Toilet Systems Williams, Brennan


This work explores the risks and benefits associated with the use of urine diverting vermicomposting toilets (UDVTs) in backcountry areas of British Columbia Parks. The benefits of these systems are well documented, and include: • reducing the amount of solid waste produced; • reducing operator and user exposure to pathogens and parasites; and, • lessening environmental impacts. The foremost risk of the use of UDVTs is the potential for the non-native red-wriggler worm (Eisenia fetida) to become invasive if introduced into these systems. In order to mitigate risk, this report identifies environmental conditions where Eisenia fetida may be used with a low potential of becoming invasive. Furthermore, it identifies measures to mitigate risk such as the use of native detritivores to facilitate decomposition and makes the following recommendations to BC Parks: • that BC Parks continue monitoring Eisenia fetida use where it has already commenced; • that moving forward, BC Parks conducts soil and temperature sampling at vermicomposting sites in order to determine whether or not the surrounding environment is conducive to the survival of Eisenia fetida; • that BC Parks allow for the use of Eisenia fetida for vermicomposting at sites where they are already present; and, • that native detritivores (including native earthworms) that are present at UDVT sites are used at sites where Eisenia Fetida has a high potential of becoming invasive. In order to determine benefits, risks, mitigation measures, and alternatives, this work relies on a literature review in the form of a meta-analysis as well as an expert interview with Dr. Geoffrey B. Hill. The report concludes by identifying that future research should focus on structural controls to limit the possibility of worms escaping from UDVTs in order to reduce invasion potential.

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