UCL Grand Challenges


Non-Sewer Off-Grid Solutions for Urban Living

Feasibility analysis of a circular model for composting toilets on Canal boats in London

Canal Boats

1 September 2021


Grant: Grand Challenges Small Grants
Year awarded: 2021-22
Amount awarded: £5,000


  • Luiza Campos, CEGE, Faculty of Engineering
  • Priti Parikh, Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction, Bartlett

Non-sewer off-grid solutions for urban living: feasibility analysis of a circular model for composting toilets on Canal boats in London deals with the safe disposal, treatment and re-use of human waste. The project team will work with local communities to address the pressing challenge of safe disposal of human waste through a circular and green system. The project will consider decentralised treatment options such as composting and anaerobic digestion for energy and nutrient recovery and will co-develop solutions for the canal boat community.

The project also assessed the viability of closing the loop and deriving value from the resources embedded in human waste, thereby enabling a circular economy approach for sanitation services for the London boaters and off-grid community more broadly. Three key aspects that enable this approach were explored: the regulatory landscape, technical solutions for decentralised treatment systems, and relevant partnerships. 

The project facilitated the dialogue between Circular Revolution and the Environmental Agency about the Regulatory Positioning Statement (RPS) or exemption allowing enterprises to collect, store, and treat source-segregated Human Faecal Sludge from composting toilets at a small-scale. 

Impacts and Outputs

  • Online workshop with multiple partners
  • Preparation of recommendations for improved safety measures, processes for legal compliance in collaboration with the Environment Agency 
  • Anticipated journal article and report
  • Plans to apply for further research grant with business partner