'Portaloo two' suing for poo as eco-toilet makers in court over faecal handling

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By Johannes Pleschberger
'Portaloo two' suing for poo as eco-toilet makers in court over faecal handling

Two rival portaloo providers in Austria are currently battling each other in court amid a disagreement over the proper handling of faecal matter.

The accuser, Pipibox, is suspicious of the way the ecologically sustainable toilet of its competitor, Öklo, disposes of faeces left behind in its loos.

In Öklo's wooden toilets, faecal matter is covered with sawdust, instead being disposed of via a flush and being treated with chemicals.

Gottfried Stark, the CEO of Pipibox, told Austria's ORF news outlet, said it "bothered" him that he did not know what his rival did with the faeces.

He said: "Human faeces may also be pathogens, they may contain drugs and drug residue. Therefore, it is also important that the disposal of faeces is carried out properly and in compliance with the law."

Much of the argument comes down to an ordinance from the Austrian government that forbids human faeces being used for compost, which Pipibox says the eco-portaloo company ignores.

"We still see sales documents on the market that [Öklo] send and hand over to the customer, or even in the bathroom, claiming that they are composting," Stark said.

But Öklo maintains that it has only been composting the human faeces for testing purposes, and has in fact won environmental awards for its ecologically friendly idea.

Company founder Niko Bogianzidis said: "Mostly, we bring the faeces to the sewage treatment plant or biogas plants.

"We've already composted it, but we have never sold it or passed it on. That was just for testing and for our own testing. "

Initially, the court agreed with Öklo but Pipibox appealed the decision and had the case reopened.

The Vienna Higher Regional Court is set to renegotiate the case later this year.

According to industry estimates, there are currently 15 to 20 portaloo providers in Austria in part of a highly-competitive market.

But Öklo is holding out hope to change Austrian law in the future in order to eventually be able to process human excretions into fertiliser.