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February 11, 2009

Community takes a green approach to ‘call of nature’

A Stirlingshire community trust has devised an eco-solution to a problem created by thousands of hill walkers who come each year to a remote area (with no public loo) in the Trossachs and who find themselves needing to answer the ‘call of nature.’ Working with Caledonian University researchers, the community have come up with a design that may point to the way ahead for other remote spots around the country

Jeremy Watson

Deep in the heart of a Stirlingshire glen, the latest in an illustrious line of Scottish inventions is about to be unveiled.

An eco-loo, housed in a recycled shipping container, has been designed to help countryside visitors answer the call of nature without having to use the surrounding woodlands. Human waste will be composted using sawdust, rendering it odourless, while the container will be lit by solar power. Handwashing gels will be provided to replace running water.

The £25,000 prototype is to be positioned in a remote car park in Inverlochlarig at the head of Balquhidder Glen, which is used by thousands of walkers and climbers every year to gain access to five nearby Munros.

As there is no conventional public toilet at the remote site, the nearby woods have become an open-air loo for those caught short coming off the hills. Now the local community trust and researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University have come up with a cheap and environmentally friendly solution. If the prototype proves successful, eco-loos could become a common site in remote rural locations.

The loo is expected to be in place in June. Alan Clarke, director of the Balquhidder, Lochearnhead and Strathtyre Community Trust, said: “Over 6,000 walkers and climbers a year visit the Balquhidder Glen. Until now they’ve had to make do with natural, open-air toilet facilities, but we want to improve this for everyone.

“We know there is a need for this facility as the landowner has said so. The car park is well used by around 6,000 people a year and waste left nearby has become a problem.

“If you build a normal public toilet then there would have to be connections to mains electricity, water and sewerage, which is expensive so far up the glen, eight miles from the main road.”

The metal shipping container to be used is around 10ft tall and 8ft wide and will be clad in Scottish wood to help it blend in with the environment. A solar panel will be used to supply 24-hour light and power small fans to disperse smells. Hand gel and toilet paper will be replenished weekly.

The leader of the design team, Derek Gallaher, head of the Kit-Out The Park project at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “There have been compost thunderboxes before, but we believe this to be a totally unique combination of technologies.

“If it is successful we know there are other areas in which they could be used.”

The loo is to be sited within the boundaries of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Iona McDonald, the sustainable development officer with the National Park Authority said:

“This will be the first of its kind to be installed and will be a welcome sight for many hillwalkers.

“It’s a low impact, sustainable solution that will meet the needs of people enjoying the great outdoors. The results of this pilot project will be really important both to the park authority, partner organisations and land managers with similar challenges.”