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The Howard-Higgins EcoSan and Waste Management System

In January 2010 Richard Higgins, founder and CEO of Well End Permaculture International, arrived at the epicentre of the Haiti earthquake in Port au Prince.

We sat the visiting NGOs down to lunch just to the left of this picture
(see next picture, below). Each double pallet contained 1,200 fresh
human wastes and nobody had any idea they were there

After arrival in Haiti I presented my researched technology at various WASH cluster meetings at the UN information site, near the airport. After the third presentation — made before the meetings had started, I was spotted by the regional director for Water and Sanitation for Latin America of the NGO giant CRS (Catholic Relief Services).

One week later I began work in a contracted position to set up a pilot project at the Sainte Marie Community Convent for the remediation of the toilet waste and other refugee camp generated wastes, into fertilizer, for 200 people.

I hadn’t taken any equipment with me, like the special Hot Boxes that can render human effluent into a pathogen free material in 30 days, but I proceeded to set up an open pallet system where two pallets together would accommodate 5,000 human ‘deposits’.

We constructed five latrine housings to collect the two fractions of human waste separately with the aid of the standard OXFAM footplates that were supplied to us for this purpose. These facilities were found to be relatively clean in this emergency setting and smell free in comparison with the chemical toilets that were being supplied to this camp at Sainte Marie.

On the fourth week of work, I opened the site for public viewing and invited, through the DINEPA WASH cluster, various NGOs including OXFAM, SOIL, ACF, IRC, WEDC (Professor Reed) etc., and the leading technical advisor from CRS who had flown in from Baltimore to sit down to a presentation lunch, before being shown around the site that they had been sitting a stone’s throw from, in the same garden.

The day was documented on film and no unsightliness or smell was detected at any time. Prof. Reed of WEDC stated that this system, by its controlled fungi and bacteria and temperature gradient, was where the safest material would be dug out of, anywhere in the Port au Prince region.

I have now employed the use of potato starch bio-liners that mean there is no smell, no flies or any inconvenience in placing the bio-liners into the Hot Box system. A single pair of these can make the household and human effluent of 36 houses, per week, in a 2 cubic metre Hot Box, completely disappear. This thus makes the system the fastest, safest and most space efficient sanitation system on earth.

I have recently carried out trials to establish these capacities at a University farm site in Kampala, Uganda, where they also added 80 Pee Poo bags and 300 MHM (Menstrual Hygiene Management towels) in one day. At the 14 day period, with my highly specialized thermophilic composting system, the bio-liners, the Pee Poo bags and the MHM had all indeed completely disappeared!

This technology was developed in India in 1997 and has now reached the world market for distribution. The Hot Boxes are to be made out of Polyols, that are sustainable plastics made from ‘Bio Diesel’ plants. The system turns out a completely pathogen free material after 30 days and is useable as a fertilizer in 60 days. It can be bagged up and sold at 90 days.

If you have questions about this system, please comment below so all can benefit from the discussion.

Contact Richard on: rhiggins (at)

Download PDF document (29mb PDF).

Recent work in Uganda where we established the
maximum volume per 2 cubic metre Hot Box


  1. Fantastic work.

    I’ve read snippets of Richards wise words from time to time, I do hope he finds the time to write a book one day, put me down for a preprint order right now :)

  2. Hi Richard I am in the process of designing a hotbox composting system for disposal of our bucket type loos from our campsite in our village development in NZ ( Your system sounds like just what we need, and I expect you have some references to support it. Would love to be able to find out more, for our use, and for distribution of the idea within a booklet for the Koanga Institute (PRI NZ)
    Also I am in the process of submitting a building permit application for multiple composting biofilters for primary treatment of greywater. Once this is done I will send in an article describing my designs as they are simple and low cost and will have application worldwide.

    Look forward to hearing from you, Regards Bob Corker PRI NZ

  3. This is quite impressive. What is the lifespan of one of these boxes and how does one go about building the compost. Are wood chips necessary? Or can other materials be used? (I’m assuming that this requires more than human excrement to work, correct me if I’m wrong)

  4. Looks like wonder but no information at all. PDF is just commercially pamphlet. What happens with sharing?

  5. We look forward to finding out IF AND WHERE in the northern hemisphere’s western quarter you have succeeded. High winter groundwater with temperatures below freezing for months makes us skeptical of your efficiency claims. We also use the bag-in–bucket method and have difficulty finding large enough biodegradable bags that would last through a typical winter in storage…. much to share…… ttyl

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