SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR PROVIDING A PORTABLE TOILET SYSTEM

Systems and methods for providing a portable toilet system. The system may include a portable toilet used in combination with a container and a privacy screen. Various components of the system may further be made of biodegradable materials to facilitate disposal of the system following use. The container of the system may be combined with a bioactive agent to disinfect microorganisms present within the system. The systems and methods of the present invention further provide a byproduct that may be used to enrich soil.

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Description

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/194,727 filed Aug. 20, 2008, entitled SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR PROVIDING A PORTABLE TOILET SYSTEM, which claims priority to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/062,475 filed Apr. 3, 2008, entitled SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR PROVIDING CONTROL AND DISPOSAL OF HUMAN WASTE MATERIALS, which claims priority to (1) U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/922,068 filed Apr. 4, 2007, entitled SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR PROVIDING CONTROL AND DISPOSAL OF HUMAN WASTE MATERIALS, and (2) U.S. Provisional Patent application Ser. No. 61/081,347 filed Jul. 16, 2008, entitled SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR PROVIDING A PORTABLE TOILET. All of the applications are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present disclosure relates to waste management and waste disinfection. More particularly, the present disclosure pertains to systems and methods for disinfecting excrement, including systems and methods for recycling excrement into a usable product. The present invention further relates to providing a portable toilet system for use in waste management and waste disinfection.

2. Background and Related Art

As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, toilets have evolved considerably since their introduction. Although various different designs are currently being used, most toilets share several features and functions. For example, conventional toilets generally include a permanently mounted bowl that is filled with water. The bowl is supported by a frame with a seat and an integral reservoir. The reservoir contains the necessary amount of water to “flush” the toilet after use. The frame is generally positioned over a drain through which the flushed wastewater with entrained contents are conducted. The drain connects to an appropriate sewer connection or septic to channel the wastewater away from the structure and to an appropriate receptacle. Further, most toilets are typically housed in an enclosure to give the user privacy.

One of the problems associated with remote locations and undeveloped countries are the lack of plumbing and sophisticated sewage systems required to utilize a conventional toilet. The result is that human waste is improperly controlled leading to illness, disease and death. Additionally, improperly controlled human waste can adversely affect environmental conditions, including polluting drinking water and disturbing natural habitats.

Current technologies are available to deodorize human excrement. Such technologies are used in the camper, aircraft, bus, and portable toilet industries. While such technologies currently exist to deodorize human excrement, there is a need to control the spread of harmful pathogens contained in both human and non-human excrement.

Thus, while conventional deodorizing and toilet techniques currently exist, challenges still exist. Accordingly, it would be an improvement in the art to augment or even replace current techniques with other techniques.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention addresses the above-referenced needs in the art. Specifically, the present invention relates to a portable toilet system for managing waste and providing waste disinfection. More particularly, at least some implementations of the present invention pertain to systems and methods for collecting and disinfecting excrement, including systems and methods for recycling excrement into a usable product.

In some implementations of the present invention a portable toilet system includes a portable toilet, a container and a privacy screen. In some implementations of the current invention, the portable toilet is lightweight and capable of being carried by a backpacker during transportation to campsites or other remote locales. In at least one implementation, the toilet is comprised of an environmentally safe, biodegradable, corrugated paperboard and glue that permits the entire device to be incinerated or burned if desirable. In such implementations, the paperboard material of the portable toilet is treated with a polymer or wax coating to provide a moisture barrier to the device. In another implementation, the toilet is comprised, either in whole or in part, of a polymer material having the desired properties and/or characteristics.

In one implementation, the toilet is formed from corrugated paperboard to be compact and light-weight. The resulting unitary structure may be easily and quickly assembled, resulting in an assembled structure that is strong and rigid but lightweight. The invention may then be easily deposited in an appropriate waste receptacle and/or incinerated in a campfire and/or buried beneath the surface for disposal after use. In another implementation, the toilet is comprised of a polymer material that is lightweight, rigid and reusable.

In particular, at least one implementation of the present invention includes an interlockable unitary structure of die-cut paperboard. The unitary structure includes a series of abutting sections that may be arranged to form four walls that define an internal bowl. The walls and bowl are covered by an upper section formed from additional abutting sections. Another implementation of the present invention includes an interlockable polymer structure having similar abutting sections as described.

The abutting wall sections include interlockable interior and exterior front panels, a rear panel and two angled side panels. The panels are aligned in abutting configuration in the following order: interior front panel, first side panel, rear panel, second side panel and exterior front panel. In some implementations, the exterior and interior front panels are selectively interlockable while in other implementations the two front panels are permanently affixed to one another during the manufacturing process.

The multiple component upper section includes a selectively interlockable interior seat panel, a selectively interlockable exterior seat panel, and a selectively displaceable covering seat panel. The interior seat panel abuts the top of the rear panel. The exterior seat panel abuts the top of the exterior front panel. The covering seat panel abuts a side of the exterior seat panel. In some implementations, the interlockable interior and/or exterior seat panels include one or more tab(s) which correspond with one or more slot(s) located elsewhere on the structure to facilitate interlocking the multiple component upper section. Alternatively, in another implementation, the selectively interlockable interior and exterior seat panels include corresponding selectively interlocking attachment mechanisms.

Some implementations of the present invention include appropriate perforations defined between adjacent panels to enable the abutting panels to be appropriately folded for both storage and assembly. Such perforations also bisect each side panel along its longitudinal axis to enable the sides to angle inwardly to form two spaced apart internal pillars beneath the seat panels. In a further implementation, appropriate “hinges” are provided both between adjacent panels and bisecting each side panel to facilitate storage and assembly of the device as described. Such “hinges” are coupled between the panels or integrally formed between the panels during the manufacturing process.

In some implementations, the interior seat panel includes v-shaped flaps or tabs formed during the manufacturing process. Such v-shaped flaps correspond to the v-shape formed by the two angled side panels acting as internal pillars beneath the seat panels. The v-shaped flaps engage the v-shape formed by the angled side panels when the toilet is fully assembled in the operative configuration to further enhance the integrity and rigidity of the structure.

In at least one implementation, one or more holes and corresponding locking tab(s) in the front exterior panel and front interior panel, respectively, permit the selective interlocking of these two panels. Such hole(s) and tab(s) are be shaped, sized and located in any suitable manner. Alternatively, in another implementation, the exterior and interior front panels include corresponding selectively interlocking attachment mechanisms. In yet another implementation, the front exterior and interior panels are permanently affixed to one another during the manufacturing process

In some implementations, additional corresponding selective interlocking elements are included to permit compatible engagement of the portable toilet with the container and/or other external or peripheral devices.

In one implementation, the invention may be easily and compactly folded for storage. In particular, the invention may be conveniently stored in this compacted configuration in conventional shrink wrap packaging. The folded configuration may also be further bound with one or more encircling retaining mechanism(s), to maintain its compactly folded storage shape. Such reusable retaining mechanism(s) can be used in connection with or in lieu of shrink wrap packaging. Further, such reusable retaining mechanism(s) can double to facilitate other features of the present invention.

During deployment, the structure is removed from the packaging and/or the retaining mechanism(s) is/are removed, permitting the folded configuration to expand in an accordion-like fashion into a preliminary operative configuration. The user may quickly finalize assembly of the operative configuration for the structure by interlocking the support members. In one implementation, the support members include the interior and exterior front panels and the interior seat panel. In another implementation, the support members include the interior and exterior front panels, the angled side panels and the interior seat panel. In yet another implementation, the support members include the interior and exterior front panels, the angled side panels, the interior seat panel and the exterior seat panel. In at least one implementation, the assembled structure will support at least three hundred and twenty-five (325) pounds (lbs.) of weight.

When assembled, the structure may be conveniently deployed as a stool in a conventional manner or advantageously used as a toilet. When used as a toilet, the internal bowl can employ a container or receptacle, such as a biopolymer material, to receive wastes. In another implementation, the portable toilet is placed directly on top of, or adjacent to the biopolymer material receptacle to collect the waste material. After use, the user may simply remove the receptacle and dispose of it appropriately. Another receptacle can then be inserted into the bowl or otherwise positioned in a suitable location to use the toilet again. In one implementation, the receptacle is formed of a biodegradable, leakproof biopolymer material. In another implementation, the receptacle is formed from plastic or another leakproof material. In yet another implementation, the portable toilet is used without an internal receptacle or analogous container.

Since the bottom of the structure's internal bowl is open, waste can be directly deposited on the ground or into an open pit beneath the structure. When used as an open pit toilet, the user preferably excavates a hole beneath the toilet for the retention of waste. After use, the toilet can be alternatively moved to a nearby location for continued use with the filled hole covered or the structure may be disposed in the pit or otherwise disposed of as well (i.e., incinerated or the like). In another implementation, the open pit is first lined with a biodegradable, leakproof biopolymer material and then used to collect the waste material. In yet another implementation, the deposited excrement is subsequently removed from the open pit and placed into a container, such as a biopolymer material.

In another implementation, appropriate paper or other sanitary products for hygienic purposes is/are included inside the shrink-wrap packaging for the invention. In yet another implementation, the shrink-wrap packaging may also be used as a receptacle for waste. Likewise, the reusable retaining mechanism(s) may also be used to secure a suitable container or receptacle to the toilet structure during use and then reemployed to retain the toilet's collapsed shape for storage. In this manner, the user wastes no material when using the invention.

At least some implementations of the present invention take place in association with human and/or animal excrement. More specifically, at least some implementations of the present invention take place in association with a system and method for disposing, decomposing, and disinfecting an excrement sample collected with the portable toilet system. In further implementations, the container generally includes a biopolymer material that is configured or arranged to receive an excrement sample. For example, in some implementations, the container is a bag or other similar receptacle device. Additionally, in some implementations, the container is flat sheet. In still further implementations, the portable toilet is used without a container or other receptacle device.

In some implementations, the container is directly attached to the portable toilet such that an excrement sample from the user is directly received by the container. Alternatively, in some implementations, the portable toilet is used without a container and an excrement sample is transferred to the container following disposal.

In some implementations, the container further contains a bioactive agent for decomposing the excrement sample. The bioactive agent generally includes a microorganism, or mixed culture of microorganisms capable of digesting and decomposing the various components of the excrement sample. In some implementations, the bioactive agent further includes a non-microorganistic entity, such as an enzyme. In some implementations the bioactive agent is provided in a powdered form, while in other implementations the bioactive agent is provided in a liquid form. The bioactive agent may also be lyophilized and vacuum sealed to preserve the bioactivity of the agent. In some implementations, the bioactive agent is applied to the container prior to collecting the excrement sample. In other implementations, the bioactive agent is applied directly to the excrement sample following collection of the excrement in the container.

The container may further include a chemical oxidant component and/or chemical agents to generate oxidizing components. In some implementations, a chemical oxidant component is included in the system to provide oxygen to the aerobic bioactive agent. Additionally, in some implementations, a byproduct of the chemical oxidant is used to disinfect the bioactive agent and any other microorganism within the system.

The container may further include multiple compartments containing various components of the system. For example, in some implementations, a first compartment is provided to contain the excrement sample and the bioactive agent. In some implementations, a second compartment is provided to contain the chemical oxidant and/or oxidant generator. The compartments of the container may further include means for allowing the transfer of oxygen from one compartment to another compartment. In some implementations, a third compartment is provided to contain a second bioactive agent of the system.

The compartments of the container may further include biopolymer materials having various biodegradation properties. For example, in some implementations, a first material having a first biodegradation rate is positioned between the first compartment and the second compartment. Furthermore, a second material having a second biodegradation rate is provided to contain the first and second compartments, where the second biodegradation rate is slower that the first biodegradation rate. As such, upon biodegradation of the first material, the contents of the first compartment and the second compartment are combined and contained within the second material. In some implementations, a third material having a third biodegradation rate is positioned between a second bioactive agent and the other components of the system. Differential degradation rates may be obtained through alternate structures of biopolymers as well as by lamination or coextrusion of biopolymers.

In some implementations of the present method, a first step is to collect an excrement sample. In some implementations, other steps include treating the excrement with a bioactive agent, providing oxygen to the bioactive agent, disinfecting the bioactive agent and pathogens of the system with a disinfecting agent, and disposing the byproduct of the system. In some implementations, another step includes treating the unmetabolized excrement sample with a second bioactive agent.

In some implementations of the present method for manufacturing the container, a first step is to select a raw material or materials for the container. In some implementations, other steps of manufacture include extruding, coextruding and/or laminating the raw materials, providing a label to the extruded materials, forming the container from the extruded materials, loading the various compartments of the container, and sealing the container.

In some implementations of the present invention, the portable toilet and the container are further used in conjunction with a privacy screen. The privacy screen generally includes a plurality of linked panels that enclose the portable toilet and the user. In one implementation, the privacy screen is made of corrugated paperboard. In another implementation, the privacy screen is constructed of a translucent or opaque material that substantially encloses the toilet to provide privacy to the user.

While the methods and processes of the present invention have proven to be particularly useful in the area of waste management and treatment, those skilled in the art can appreciate that the methods and processes can be used in a variety of different applications for collecting, managing and disinfecting excrement.

These and other features and advantages of the present invention will be set forth or will become more apparent in the description that follows and in the appended claims. The features and advantages may be realized and obtained by means of the instruments and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims. Furthermore, the features and advantages of the invention may be learned by the practice of the invention or will be obvious from the description, as set forth hereinafter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In order that the manner in which the above recited and other features and advantages of the present invention are obtained, a more particular description of the invention will be rendered by reference to specific embodiments thereof, which are illustrated in the appended drawings. Understanding that the drawings depict only typical embodiments of the present invention and are not, therefore, to be considered as limiting the scope of the invention, the present invention will be described and explained with additional specificity and detail through the use of the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of an implementation of the portable toilet system;

FIG. 2 is a front perspective view of an implementation of the portable toilet in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a front perspective view of the present invention during conversion into an operative configuration with the top panels open and without a disposable container in the internal bowl;

FIG. 4 is a front perspective view of the present invention in a storage configuration before conversion into an operative configuration;

FIG. 5 is a front elevational view of an embodiment in accordance with the present invention in an initial configuration before folding into the storage configuration;

FIG. 5A is an alternative front elevational view of an embodiment in accordance with the present invention in an initial configuration before folding into the storage configuration;

FIG. 5B is a front elevational view of an embodiment of a tab used to facilitate assembly of the operative configuration of the present invention;

FIG. 5C is a front elevational view of an embodiment of a panel incorporating engagement features of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a front elevational view of FIG. 2;

FIG. 7 is a side elevational view generally from the left of FIG. 2;

FIG. 8 is a top elevational view thereof;

FIG. 9 is a side elevational view taken generally from the right of FIG. 2;

FIG. 10 is a bottom plan view thereof;

FIG. 11 is a rear elevational view thereof;

FIG. 12 illustrates a representative flow diagram attending to the collecting, decomposing, disinfecting, and disposing of an excrement sample;

FIG. 13A illustrates a plan view of a representative embodiment of a decomposition container;

FIG. 13B illustrates s a cross-sectional end view of a representative embodiment of a decomposition container;

FIG. 13C illustrates a cross-sectional end view of a representative embodiment of a decomposition container;

FIG. 14A illustrates a partially cross-sectioned perspective view of a representative embodiment of a decomposition container;

FIG. 14B illustrates a partially cross-sectioned perspective view of a representative embodiment of a decomposition container having separate packets; and

FIG. 15 illustrates a representative flow diagram detailing the steps for manufacturing the decomposition container.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The presently preferred embodiments of the present invention will be best understood by reference to the drawings, wherein like reference numbers indicate identical or functionally similar elements. It will be readily understood that the components of the present invention, as generally described and illustrated in the figures herein, could be arranged and designed in a wide variety of different configurations. Thus, the following more detailed description, as represented in the figures, is not intended to limit the scope of the invention as claimed, but is merely representative of presently preferred embodiments of the invention.

As provided herein, the present disclosure relates to waste management and waste disinfection. More particularly, the present disclosure pertains to systems and methods for disinfecting excrement, including systems and methods for collecting and recycling excrement into a usable product.

Referring now to FIG. 1, a representative portable toilet system 10 is shown. The portable toilet system 10 generally comprises a plurality of components, including a portable toilet 12, a container 40, and a privacy screen 60. In some embodiments, the portable toilet 12 is comprised of an environmentally safe, biodegradable, corrugated paperboard and glue that permit the entire device to be incinerated or buried if desirable. In alternative embodiments, the portable toilet 12 is comprised of a polymer material that is lightweight, rigid and reusable. However, in each embodiment, the portable toilet 12 is generally lightweight and capable of being easily carried or transported to campsites or other remote locales.

Referring now generally to FIGS. 2-10, some embodiments and implementations of the current invention comprise a unitary cut-out 32 (FIG. 5) that is easily and quickly folded to provide a stable, unitary structure 160 (shown clearly in FIG. 2). The resulting structure 160 is strong and rigid while remaining lightweight. Where the material of the portable toilet 12 is corrugated paperboard, or paperboard stiffened by alternative means, such as environmentally safe biodegradable topical treatments and the like, the device 160 may be easily deposited in an appropriate waste receptacle or incinerated in a campfire or buried beneath the surface for disposal following use. However, where the material of the portable toilet is a polymer material, such as polyethylene, polypropylene and/or other thermoplastic and/or thermosetting materials having suitable characteristics or properties, or where the material is paperboard treated with a non-biodegradable coating, the device 160 may be repeatedly used or may be recycled, as desired.

While in some embodiments structure 160 is manufactured as a single unitary cut-out 32, in other embodiments structure 160 can be manufactured by assembling discrete elements or parts. In such embodiments, the discrete elements or parts can be manufactured from the same uniform material throughout or individual discrete elements can be manufactured from different materials suitable to the intended use of each such element.

In some embodiments of the current invention comprised of a paperboard material, the paperboard is further treated with a topical coating to protect and seal the paperboard against moisture and other liquid containing materials. As such, the topical coating prevents deterioration and weakening of the portable toilet 12. For example, in one embodiment the entire exterior surface of the portable toilet 12 is treated with a polymer coating to provide a water barrier for the material of the toilet 12. In another embodiment, the entire exterior surface of the toilet 12 is treated with a plasma-polymer coating to substantially seal the material of the toilet 12. In another embodiment, portions of the toilet 12 that are susceptible to moisture penetration are treated with a polymer or plasma-polymer coating to seal and protect the susceptible portions. In another embodiment, the exterior surface of the toilet 12 is treated with a wax to provide a moisture barrier. In yet another embodiment, the exterior surface of the toilet 12 is treated with a spectra-coat coating material. Yet still in some embodiments, the material of the portable toilet 12 is impregnated with a polymer material, thereby infusing the polymer within the paperboard material of the toilet 12. For example, in one embodiment the paperboard material of the portable toilet 12 is soaked in a polymer material and allowed to dry.

In some embodiments of the present invention, the polymer, plasma polymer, and wax coating are biodegradable biopolymers. The biodegradable polymer may include any biodegradable polymer or resin known in the art. Examples of biodegradable polymer coatings include natural orientated biodegradable polymers, chemically synthesized biodegradable polymers and other types of biodegradable polymers.

Examples of natural oriented biodegradable polymers include chitin-chitosan, alginic acid, gluten, collagen, polyaminoacid, bacteria cellulose, pullulan, curdlan, polysaccharide by-product and the like. These may be used singly, or in combination of two or more. Examples of the chemically synthesized biodegradable polymers include aliphatic polyester, aliphatic aromatic polyester, polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), polyurethane (PU), a blended resin of synthesized biodegradable polymer and natural orientated biodegradable polymer, and the like.

Examples of aliphatic polyester are polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) (—OCH2CH2CH2CO-)n, polycaprolacton (PCL) [C6H10O2]n , polybutylene succinate (PBS) (—COCH2CH2COO(CH2)4O-)n, polybutylene succinate/adipate (PBSA) (—O(CH2)4OCO(CH2)aCO-)n (where, a=2, 4), polyethylene succinate (PES) (—O(CH2)4OCO(CH2)2CO-)n, polyglycolic acid (PGA), polylactic acid (PLA) [C3H4O2]n, derivatives thereof, copolymers of monomers thereof, and the like.

An example of the blended polymer of synthesized biodegradable polymer and natural orientated biodegradable polymer is a polymer having starch as a base material.

Examples of other types of biodegradable polymers include aliphatic polyester-carbonate copolymer, aliphatic polyester-polyamide copolymer, and the like.

In some embodiments of the current invention, chemically systemized polymers may be preferred. Of these, aliphatic polyester may be more preferable in terms of excellent molding workability, thermal resistance, impact resistance and the like thereof Furthermore, polyesters having hydroxycarboxylic acid as a monomer unit may be even more preferable, and polylactic acid is particularly preferably thereamong.

Examples of polyester having hydroxycarboxylic acid as a monomer unit are polymers of oxy acid such as lactic acid, malic acid, glycolic acid and the like, copolymers thereof, and the like.

The manufacturing method of the polyester having hydroxycarboxylic acid as a monomer unit is not particularly limited and can be selected depending on the intended purpose. Examples thereof include a lactide method in which ring-opening polymerization is carried out between lactide of cyclic diester and corresponding lactones, lactic acid direct dehydration condensation method, and the like. In addition, as a catalyst used during manufacturing procedure, tin, antimony, zinc, titanium, iron, an aluminum compound and the like may be included as examples. These may be used singly, or in combination of two or more. Of these, tin and an aluminum compound are preferable, and octyltin acid, aluminum acetyl acetate are particularly preferable.

In the case that two or more types of biodegradable polymers are contained in the present invention, a combination of polylactic acid and one of polycaprolacton, polyhydroxybutyrate and polybutylene succinate, may be preferable.

In yet another embodiment, the coating material is a composite material created from a plurality of components. For example, in one embodiment the coating material is a composite material comprising a biopolymer and an inorganic filler or fibrous reinforcement to improve the strength, water resistance, or fire resistance of the composite material. The composite may include a diverse range of components to achieve a desired physical property. For example, components may include aluminum hydroxide, aluminum, calcium carbonate, calcium silicate, kaolin, mica, molybdenum disulfide, talc, montmorillonite, graphite, carbon black, metal oxides such as magnesium oxide, titanium oxide, silica oxide, and the like.

In some embodiments of the current invention, a nanocomposite is dispersed within the coating material to provide a nano-modified composite coating material. In this embodiment, the nano-modified composite material demonstrates improved mechanical performance and functionality, for example to create better barrier properties against moisture, improve fire resistance, block heat, or dissipate electrical charge. In some embodiments, the nano-modified coating further protects the material of the toilet 12 against heat and light, such as by providing UV protection. In one embodiment the biopolymer material is combined with a metal hydroxide to provide flame resistance without the use of toxic halogen or phosphorus-type flame retardants. In another embodiment, at least one of a silicone compound, a metal salt, a metal salt hydroxide, and a phosphorus compound is combined with a biopolymer to provide flame resistance to the coating. In another embodiment, multiple components are combined with the biopolymer to provide flame resistance.

In some embodiments of the current invention, the toilet is formed from a polymer material, such as polyethylene, polypropylene and/or other thermoplastic and/or thermosetting materials having suitable characteristics or properties. In such embodiments, the polymer material can be solid or otherwise uniform or homogeneous. Alternatively, the polymer material can be corrugated to enhance the rigidity of the material. In all such polymer material embodiments, an additional coating is not necessary to protect the material from moisture.

Further examples of polymer materials that are suitable for manufacturing the portable toilet include, but are not limited to, the following thermoplastics: acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), acrylics, KYDEX®, polycarbonates (PC), polyamides (PA), polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyphenylene oxide (PPO), polysulphone (PSU), polyetherketone (PEK), polyetheretherketone (PEEK), polyimides (PI), polyphenylene sulfide (PPS), polystyrene (PS), polyurethane (PU), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) and other resins and/or plastics. Additional thermosetting materials can also be used. As discussed above with reference to various coatings, appropriate polymer materials can be selected to improve mechanical performance and functionality, for example to create better barrier properties against moisture, improve fire resistance, block heat, or dissipate electrical charge and so forth.

In some polymer based embodiments, the entire structure 160 can be constructed of a single uniform or otherwise homogeneous suitable polymer material. Alternatively, in other embodiments, the structure 160 can be constructed by assembling multiple discrete elements or parts which can each be made from different materials suitable to the intended use of each such element.

Various manufacturing processes can be used to produce certain embodiments of the present invention. In some embodiments the cut-out 32 is die-cut, stamped, laser cut or cut with some other suitable mechanical device. Alternatively, some polymer embodiments may be manufactured using vacuum forming, extrusion molding, compression molding, injection molding, rotational molding and other suitable molding or formation methods. Likewise, some polymer embodiments may be manufactured through the use of heating elements or hot wire devices. Further, all such cutting or forming devices may be employed using multi-axis automated devices, such as computed numerically controlled (CNC) machines or other hydraulically assisted tools.

In some embodiments of the present invention, the polymer materials are biodegradable biopolymers. The biodegradable polymer may include any biodegradable polymer or resin known in the art. Examples of biodegradable polymer materials include natural orientated biodegradable polymers, chemically synthesized biodegradable polymers and other types of biodegradable polymers as discussed in detail above.

With continued reference to FIGS. 2-10, a representative embodiment of the cut-out 32 includes a series of abutting sections 34, 36, 38, 140, 42, 44, 46 and 48, as shown in FIG. 5. The interlockable interior and exterior front panels 34, 36, a rear panel 38 and two angled side panels 140, 42 are preferably abutting linearly. Thus, the interior front panel 34 is against the first side panel 140 and the side panel 140 is against the rear panel 38 and the rear panel 38 is against the second side panel 42 and the side panel 42 is against the exterior front panel 36. The selectively interlockable interior seat panel 44, a selectively interlockable exterior seat panel 46 and a selectively displaceable covering seat panel 48 are also preferably aligned linearly, although not abutting. The interior seat panel 44 abuts the top of the rear panel 38. The exterior seat panel 46 abuts the top of the exterior front panel 36. The covering seat panel 48 abuts a side of the exterior seat panel 46.

In some embodiments, as shown in FIG. 5, appropriate perforations 33, 35, 37, 39, 45, 47 and 49 are defined between adjacent panels 34, 36, 38, 44, 46 and 48 to enable the abutting panels to be appropriately folded for both storage and assembly. Perforation 33 is defined between the front panel 34 and the side panel 140. Perforation 35 is defined between the side panel 140 and the rear panel 38. Perforation 37 is defined between the rear panel 38 and the side panel 42. Perforation 39 is defined between the front panel 36 and the side panel 42. Perforation 45 is defined between the rear panel 38 and the interior seat panel 44. Perforation 47 is defined between the front panel 36 and the exterior seat panel 46. Perforation 49 is defined between the exterior seat panel 46 and the covering seat panel 48.

Two more perforations 41 and 43 also bisect each side panel 140 and 42 along its longitudinal axis. The perforations 41 and 43 enable the sides 140 and 42 to angle inwardly to form two spaced apart internal pillars beneath the seat panels 44, 46 and 48.

Alternatively, with reference to FIG. 5A, in some embodiments, appropriate “hinges” 33a, 35a, 37a, 39a, 45a, 47a and 49a are either provided or defined between adjacent panels 34, 36, 38, 44, 46 and 48 to enable the abutting panels to be appropriately folded for both storage and assembly. Hinge 33a is provided or defined between the front panel 34 and the side panel 140. Hinge 35a is provided or defined between the side panel 140 and the rear panel 38. Hinge 37a is provided or defined between the rear panel 38 and the side panel 42. Hinge 39a is provided or defined between the front panel 36 and the side panel 42. Hinge 45a is provided or defined between the rear panel 38 and the interior seat panel 44. Hinge 47a is provided or defined between the front panel 36 and the exterior seat panel 46. Hinge 49a is provided defined between the exterior seat panel 46 and the covering seat panel 48.

Two more “hinges” 41a and 43a are also provided or defined bisecting each side panel 140 and 42 along its longitudinal axis. The hinges 41a and 43a enable the sides 140 and 42 to angle inwardly to form two spaced apart internal pillars beneath the seat panels 44, 46 and 48.

The “hinges” 33a, 35a, 37a, 39a, 41a, 43a, 45a, 47a and 49a constitute any joint that holds two parts together so that one can swing or rotate relative to the other. Such hinges can be barrel hinges, pivot hinges, inset or mortise hinges, continuous or piano hinges, concealed hinges, butterfly or dovetail hinges, strap hinges, and any other similar type of bearing that rotatably connects two objects such that the objects rotate relative to each other about a fixed axis of rotation. The angle of rotation may be limited where suitable.

In some embodiments, such hinges can be separate elements or parts that are coupled between the appropriate panels to facilitate the desired rotation. In such embodiments, the hinges are coupled to the panels by any suitable means such as screws, nut and bolt assemblies, adhesives, and so forth. Similarly, such hinges can be inset or recessed into the surrounding panel material, mounted on the proximal or distal surface of the base panel material as appropriate or impregnated in the surrounding panel material during the manufacturing process. In alternative embodiments, the “hinges” can be integrally formed between the panels during the manufacturing process. For example, in some polymer based embodiments the polymer material could be thinned, melted, shaved, trimmed, perforated or otherwise molded to form a rotatable joint between the necessary panels.

During the assembly of structure 160, several sections (the interlockable interior and exterior front panels 34, 36, a rear panel 38 and two angled side panels 140, 42) are arranged to form four walls 62, 64, 66 and 68 (i.e., front, two sides and a rear) that define an internal bowl 70. The walls 62, 64, 66, 68 and bowl 70 are covered by a seat section 80 formed from the other sections 44, 46, 48.

In some embodiments, the front panels 34 and 36 are interlocked after the walls have been aligned to maintain the assembled structure 160. In some embodiments, the exterior front panel 36 defines one or more spaced apart holes, slots, or notches 52 while the interior front panel 34 defines corresponding locking tabs or sleeves 54. The tabs 54 are realigned and inserted through holes 52 to couple the front panels 34 and 36.

While the holes 52 and tabs 54 are depicted as circular, such can be configured in any suitable shape and size. For example, the holes 52 and tabs 54 can be round or circular, square, rectangular, triangular, oblong, oval, or any trapezoidal shape desired. Further, as discussed in greater detail below with reference to FIGS. 5A and 5B and tabs 20a, the tabs 54 can have one rounded side or corner and one angular side to facilitate locking engagement with holes 52. Similarly, while two holes 52 and tabs 54 are shown, as few as a single hole 52 and a single corresponding tab 54 can be employed. Alternatively, multiple holes 52 and tabs 54 can be used. In still other embodiments, holes 52 and tabs 54 can be located in any suitable location on front panels 34 and 36 to accommodate secure assembly of structure 160.

In a further embodiment, holes 52 and tabs 54 can be replaced with corresponding interlocking or mating elements or mechanisms. For example, front panels 34 and 36 could be equipped with corresponding snaps, buttons, clips, clasps, buckles, hook-and-loop/eye materials, such as Velcro® tabs or strips, and other suitable selectively interlockable mating mechanisms.

In the foregoing embodiments, front panels 34 and 36 are or can be selectively interlockable such that the panels can be engaged and/or disengaged by the user. Alternatively, the front panels 34 and 36 can be permanently affixed to one another during the manufacturing process. In particular, once manufactured, cut-out 32 may be manipulated between the fully expanded operative configuration and the folded storage configuration without disengaging front panels 34 and 36. Accordingly, the panels can be permanently affixed to one another and yet permit practice of the invention. Panels 34 and 36 could be permanently affixed to one another by any of the following methods: adhesives or glues, epoxies, melting, ultrasonic welding, and any other suitable means of permanent affixation.

The interior seat panel 44 is selectively interlockable with the exterior front panel 36 to secure the seat 80 to the wall section. With reference to FIG. 5, protruding tabs 56 are inserted into appropriate slots 58 between exterior front panel 36 and exterior seat panel 46 to couple the seat thereto. With reference to FIG. 5A, protruding tabs 56a may be extended to further facilitate reliable engagement between interior seat panel 44 and front panel 36. When the toilet is in use, particularly by fidgety or portly users, extended tabs 56a improve the integrity of assembled structure 160 such that the user can shift or stir without tabs 56a disengaging front panel 36.

With reference to FIG. 5, additional protruding tabs 20, provided on exterior seat panel 46, are inserted into appropriate slots 22 between interior seat panel 44 and rear panel 38 to selectively couple the seat thereto. While protruding tabs 20 appear longer than protruding tabs 56, tabs 20 may be short, longer or the same length as tabs 56 to facilitate reliable engagement between interior seat panel 44 and rear panel 38. Further, while protruding tabs 20 appear to have rounded corners and protruding tabs 56 and 56a appear to have square corners, both tabs 20 and 56/a may have rounded, square, angled, sharp, beveled, chamfered, or other suitably shaped corners or combinations of such.

With continued reference to FIGS. 5A and 5B, a representative embodiment of tab(s) 20a is provided. As shown, tabs 20a may have one rounded corner and one angled side opposite the rounded corner. While two tabs 20, 20a, 56, and 56a are shown in FIGS. 5 and 5A, as few as a single tab 20, 20a, 56, or 56a can be provided. Alternatively, multiple tabs 20, 20a, 56, and 56a can be provided. In embodiments where two or more tabs 20a are provided, the tabs are preferably formed with the same rounded and angled orientation: i.e., the tabs are identical when overlaid from the same vantage point such that the rounded corners are on the same side and the angled sides are on the same side. In this manner, tabs 20a facilitate locking engagement with slots 22. As mentioned above, tabs 54 can also be constructed in this manner.

In use, tabs 20a are manipulated such that the angled side is inserted into slot 22 first followed by insertion of the rounded corner. Following insertion, the angled side protrudes under the lip of slot 22 such that tab 20a lockingly engages slot 22. In order to remove tab 20a from slot 22, the user must reverse the method of insertion discussed above; the user must manipulate tab 20a such that the rounded corner is removed first, the angled side of tab 20a can thereafter be disengaged from the lip of slot 22, and tab 20a is fully removed from slot 22.

With continued reference to FIG. 5A, tabs 20/a include either appropriate perforations or hinges as discussed and described above to permit tabs 20/a to rotate about a fixed axis to further facilitate insertion and removal of tabs 20/a into and from slots 22.

As discussed previously with reference to holes 52 and tabs 54, tabs 20, 20a, 56 and 56a as well as slots 22 and 58 can alternatively be replaced with corresponding selectively interlocking or mating elements or mechanisms. For example, seat panels 44 and 46 and front panel 36 and rear panel 38 could be equipped with corresponding snaps, buttons, clips, clasps, buckles, hook-and-loop/eye materials, such as Velcro® tabs or strips, and other suitable selectively interlockable mating mechanisms. Such mating mechanisms could be attached to the various corresponding panels by any suitable means known in the art, such as gluing, ultrasonic welding, and other means of affixation.

In some embodiments, additional corresponding selective interlocking elements are included to permit compatible engagement of the portable toilet with the container and/or other external or peripheral devices, such as appropriate paper or other sanitary products for hygienic purposes.

With continued reference to FIG. 5A and reference now to FIG. 5C, a representative embodiment of v-shaped tabs or flaps 44a is shown. As illustrated, v-shaped tabs 44a are formed on either side of a hole defined in interior seat panel 44. In embodiments employing v-shaped tabs 44a, the v-shaped tabs correspond to the v-shape formed by the two angled side panels 42 and 140 acting as internal pillars beneath the seat panels 44 and 46. The v-shaped flaps engage the v-shape formed by the angled side panels 42 and 140 when the toilet is fully assembled in the operative configuration to further enhance the integrity and rigidity of assembled structure 160. When structure 160 is folded into the storage configuration (FIG. 4), v-shaped tabs 44a simply recess along the dotted lines such that they are flush with interior seat panel 44. However, when structure 160 is assembled, v-shaped tabs 44a are constructed such that they are biased in an open position to thereby engage side panels 42 and 140 in the operative configuration. In this manner when the toilet is in use, particularly by fidgety or portly users, v-shaped tabs 44a permit the user to shift or stir while preserving the integrity of structure 160.

In one embodiment, the invention may be easily and compactly folded for storage, as seen best in FIG. 4. In particular, the invention may be conveniently stored in this compacted configuration in conventional shrink wrap packaging. The folded configuration may also be further bound with an encircling retaining mechanism (not shown), such as a cord, a rope, a cable, twine, webbing, a rubber band, a strap and buckle/snap/button type device or other suitable reusable retaining mechanisms to maintain this compactly folded shape. Such reusable retaining mechanism(s) can be used in connection with or in lieu of shrink wrap packaging. Further, such reusable retaining mechanism(s) can double to facilitate other features of the present invention. For example, a rubber band could be used to retain the storage configuration and then double as a means of securing a container or receptacle 40 to toilet 12 when in use. In another example, an adjustable strap/webbing and buckle/snap/button device could be used. In this example, the strap and buckle could be used to retain the storage configuration, double as a means of securing a container or receptacle 40 to toilet 12 when in use, and double again as an adjustable carrying strap for transporting toilet 12 in the folded configuration. One or more such retaining mechanism(s) can be employed.

During deployment, the folded cut-out 32 (i.e., structure 160), is removed from the packaging and/or the retaining mechanism is removed, permitting the folded configuration to expand in an accordion-like fashion, as indicated by arrow 105 in FIG. 3, into a preliminary operative configuration as shown by the phantom lines in FIG. 4. As can best be seen by referring to FIGS. 3 and 4, the user may quickly transform the portable toilet 12 from its compact, stored configuration as shown in FIG. 4, into the operative configurations shown in FIGS. 1-3.

The user may then finish the conversion from the initial deployment shown in FIG. 3 to the final configuration shown in FIG. 2 by quickly folding the top 80 into place. In some embodiments, the user first moves panel 44 as indicated by arrow 110 into a position on top of side panels 42 and 140 so that tabs 56/a can be inserted into slots 58. Next, in appropriate embodiments, the user locates v-shaped tabs 44a relative to the v-shape formed by angled side panels 42 and 140 such that the v-shaped tabs engage the proximal end of the side panels. Next, the user moves panel 46 upward as indicated by arrow 115 so that lid 48 can be opened as indicated by arrow 120. The exterior seat panel 46 is then folded on top of panel 44 as indicated by arrow 125 so that tabs 20/a can be inserted into slots 22. In appropriate embodiments, the tabs 20/a, 54 and 56/a are inserted through slots 22, 52 and 58, respectively. In particular, side panels 42 and 140 form supporting pillars 141 and 143 along perforation lines 41 and 43, respectively, beneath top 80. Further, side panels 42 and 140 engage v-shaped tabs 44a beneath interior seat panel 44.

The user may quickly finalize assembly of the operative configuration for the structure 160 by interlocking the support members. In a representative embodiment, the support members include the interior and exterior front panels, side panels and the seat panels. Ideally, the assembled structure 160 will support at least three hundred and twenty-five (325) pounds (lbs.) of weight.

When assembled, the structure 160 may be conveniently deployed as a stool in a conventional manner or advantageously used as a toilet, as shown in FIGS. 1-3 and 6-11, by opening or closing lid 48 as indicated by arrow 100. When used as a stool in the conventional manner, lid 48 may be equipped with a retaining mechanism as discussed in reference to other components above such that lid 48 remains securely closed during use and between uses.

When used as a toilet, the internal bowl 70 can employ a container or receptacle 40 to receive wastes, discussed in detail below. After use, the user may simply remove the container 40 and dispose of it appropriately. Another container can then be inserted into the bowl 70 to use the structure 160 as a toilet again. The container 40 can be formed from plastic or another leakproof material. Additionally, in one embodiment the container 40 comprises a biodegradable polymer material, such as a polyhydroxyalkonoate, discussed in detail below. The toilet and container/receptacle 40 are correspondingly formed such that the container can be temporarily attached to the toilet during use, by various means including a rubber band as discussed above or by the employment of various retaining mechanisms discussed in reference to other features above, and subsequently removed and replaced. Preferably, the toilet and container 40 are correspondingly formed with notches and cut-outs such that container 40 does not interfere with the functionality of the various seat panels and/or lid 48 when it is attached to toilet 12.

In some embodiments, the structure 160 is used as a toilet, as shown in FIGS. 3, 7 and 9, without the internal container 40. Since the bottom of the structure's internal bowl 70 is open, waste can be directly deposited on the ground 20 or into an open pit 13 beneath the structure, as shown in phantom in FIG. 1. When used in this fashion, the user preferably excavates a hole beneath the toilet for the retention of waste. After use, the toilet can be alternatively moved to a nearby location for continued use with the filled hole covered or the structure may be disposed in the pit or otherwise disposed of as desired, for example by incineration.

An appropriate sanitary product dispenser 95 may also be included with the invention. In such embodiments, corresponding selective attachment mechanisms are included to permit compatible engagement of the portable toilet with such external or peripheral devices, such as appropriate paper or other sanitary products, and associated dispensers 95, for hygienic purposes.

In yet another representative embodiment, the shrink-wrap packaging may also be used as a receptacle for waste. Likewise, the reusable retaining mechanism(s) are also used to secure a suitable container or receptacle 40 to the toilet 12 during use and then reemployed to retain the toilet's collapsed shape for storage. In this manner, the user wastes no material when using the invention.

Referring again to FIG. 1, the portable toilet system 10 may also include a container or receptacle 40. The container 40 generally comprises a leakproof, biopolymer material that collects and holds an excrement sample. In one embodiment, the container 40 is configured to partially cover and insert within the internal bowl portion of the portable toilet 12, as shown in FIG. 1. In another embodiment, the container comprises a planar sheet 40a of biopolymer material that is interposed between the portable toilet 12 and the ground. In another embodiment, an open pit 13 is provided directly under the portable toilet 12 whereby a portion of the planar sheet 40a lines the open pit 13 to collect the excrement. Finally, in yet another embodiment the container 40c comprises a section of biopolymer material that is interposed between the interior seat panel 44 and the external seat panel 46. As such, the container 40c is positioned to collect excrement thereby preventing the excrement from contacting the surface upon which the portable toilet 12 is supported. Thus, a combination of the portable toilet 12 and the container 40 provide a convenient device 160 whereby waste material is collected and managed.

Once an excrement sample is collected in the container 40, the user may desire to safely dispose of the excrement to prevent the spread of disease, undesirable pollution, or wildlife contamination. In one embodiment, the container 40 is configured to collect and disinfect a collected excrement sample. Referring now to FIG. 12, a representative method for disinfecting an excrement sample is provided. An excrement sample generally includes waste products of metabolism and other non-useful materials. Specifically, excretory products include urine and feces, but may also include blood, vomit, mucus, and other forms of bodily discharge. Urine and feces is generally composed of unmetabolized food, including proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and cellulose, as well as water, bacteria, salts, bile, indole, and skatole. Additional components may include blood, mucus, and any variety of pathogens, including viruses, parasites, harmful bacteria, and fungi. All living creatures produce excrement in one form or another. The present method is directed toward disinfecting human excrement samples, but may also be used for disinfecting excrement samples of other species. For example, the present method may effectively be used to disinfect an excrement sample of a dog, a cat, a horse, a cow, a pig, a chicken, or any other excrement producing species.

The first step 82 of the method is to collect the excrement sample. As previously discussed, the excrement sample is collected in a decomposition container 40. The decomposition container 40 may include any device capable of containing the excrement sample and the other components of the disinfection system, as described in detail below. In one embodiment, a decomposition container 102 comprises multiple layers of biopolymer sheets as illustrated in FIGS. 13A-13C.

Referring now to FIG. 13A, a representative perspective top view of the decomposition container 102 is illustrated. The decomposition container 102 is generally planar having a generally rectangle shape. However, other planar shapes may effectively be used. For example, the decomposition container 102 may include a round or rectangular shape. An upper surface 103 of the decomposition container 102 is positioned to receive the excrement sample. The upper surface 103 comprises the upward facing surface of the top layer 104 of the decomposition container 102. The material and characteristics of the top layer 104 will be discussed in detail below.

The decomposition container 102 further comprises a means 106 for enclosing the excrement sample within the container 102. The means 106 may include any method sufficient to retain the excrement. For example, the means 106 may include a drawstring 108, as illustrated. The top layer 104 may be modified to include a channel 111 within which the drawstring 108 may be located. The channel 111 may be provided by folding a portion of the top layer 104 back onto itself. A section of the folded portion of the top layer 104 may then be attached to the upper surface 103 of the top layer 104 by an appropriate method.

For example, the folded portion of the top layer 104 may be secured with an adhesive, or may be secured by melting together a portion of the two adjacent surfaces. Where a drawstring 108 is selected as the means 106, an opening 112 may be provided in the channel 111 to permit the user the access and actuate the drawstring 108 for securing the excrement. Alternatively, two or more openings may be provided to facilitate closing the container 102. The means 106 may also include an adhesive, a mating channel closure, and any other appropriate method for securing the excrement sample. Alternatively, the channel 111 may be provided by folding and attaching a portion of a separate layer onto the top layer 104 of the decomposition container 102, as shown in FIG. 13B.

The excrement may be collected in the decomposition container 102 either directly from a user, or by transferring the excrement from a primary location to the decomposition container 102. To facilitate the collection of the excrement, the decomposition container 102 may be positioned proximal to the user during elimination of the excrement. For example, where the excrement is eliminated into a portable toilet, the decomposition container 102 may be positioned within the bowl of the toilet directly beneath the seating surface of the toilet. As such, the excrement may be collected directly into the decomposition container 102. Alternatively, where the excrement is initially deposited outside the decomposition container 102, the excrement may be collected and deposited into the decomposition container 102 by any appropriate means.

Referring now to FIG. 13B, a representative cross-sectional end view of the decomposition container 102 is illustrated. The decomposition container 102 comprises a top layer 104 and a bottom layer 114. The top layer 104 comprises a first material 150, and the bottom layer 114 comprises a second material 152. In one embodiment, the first and second materials 150 and 152 include a polymer, or biopolymer capable of performing according to the embodiments of the present invention. In one embodiment, the polymer material of the first and second materials 150 and 152 includes a polyhydroxyalkonate (PHA).

PHAs are linear, biodegradable polyesters of various hydroxyalkonates. PHAs are most commonly synthesized and intracellularly accumulated by numerous microorganisms as energy reserve material. The mechanical properties of PHAs are highly dependent on the constituting monomer units and molecular weight. More than 150 different monomer units have been identified as the constituents of PHAs. These monomers can be combined to produce materials with extremely different properties.

PHAs are biopolymers chains comprising variations of the monomer unit as shown in diagram 1. The R group of the monomer may be substituted by a wide range of organic molecules. For example, R can be substituted with hydrogen or hydrocarbon chains of up to around C13 in length, and n can range from 1 to 3, or more. Therefore, when R is a methyl group and n=1, the polymer is poly-(3-hydroxybutyric acid) (PHB). Alternatively, when R is a methyl group and n=0, the polymer is polylactic acid (PLA), and when R is a hydrogen atom and n=4, the polymer is polycaprolactone. PHAs can include any number of monomers and commonly range from 100 to 30,000 monomers in length with molecular weight ranging from about 500 Daltons (Da) to over 1,000,000 Da.

As with other polymers, PHA materials may be extruded into final product shape, dimension, and thickness. In one embodiment, the PHA material is extruded into a sheet having a diameter from about 0.01 millimeters to about 1.50 millimeters. Additionally, in one embodiment a PHA material is selected and extruded to include plurality of microscopic pores. In another embodiment, a first PHA material is provided with a first biodegradation rate, and a second PHA material is provided with a second biodegradation rate. In yet another embodiment, a third PHA material is provided with a third biodegradation rate.

Referring again to FIG. 12, following the first step 82 of collecting the excrement sample on the upper surface 103 of the decomposition container 102, the next step 84 includes treating the excrement with a bioactive agent. Generally, the bioactive agent is any culture or mixed culture of microorganisms capable of digesting the various components of the excrement. For example, the bioactive agent may include one or more microorganisms or components to include enzymes such as lipases, proteases and amylases, capable of digesting, or breaking-down the excrement into its basic chemical components. In one embodiment, the bioactive agent includes a microorganism that can digest the protein components of the excrement into small peptides and individual amino acids. In another embodiment, the bioactive agent includes a microorganism that can digest the lipid or fat components of the excrement into glycerol and fatty acids. In another embodiment, the bioactive agent includes a microorganism that can digest the carbohydrate components of the excrement into small organic molecules and individual elements of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. In another embodiment, the bioactive agent includes a microorganism that can digest the cellulose components of the excrement into small organic molecules and individual elements of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.

In yet another embodiment, the bioactive agent is a mixed culture including several microorganisms. For example, the bioactive agent may include bacterial microorganisms with extracellular enzymes. These enzymes, as well as free enzymes, include cellulase, protease, lipase, and amylase.

Referring again to FIG. 13B, the upper surface 103 of the top layer 104 may include a bioactive agent. For example, in one embodiment, the upper surface 103 of the top layer 104 is pretreated or pre-coated with the bioactive agent 121. In this embodiment, the bioactive agent 121 is either pre-applied to the upper surface 103 during manufacturing of the first material, or is applied during the assembly, or packaging of the decomposition container. In another embodiment, the bioactive agent 121 is applied to the upper surface 103 of the top layer 104 subsequent to manufacturing and packaging of the decomposition container 102. In this embodiment, the bioactive agent 121 may be applied either prior to the step 82 of collecting the excrement, or following the step 82 of collecting the excrement.

The bioactive agent 121 may be applied in a liquid form, a powder form, or a combination thereof. For example, a liquid preparation of the bioactive agent 121 may be prepared and stored in a spray bottle whereby a user applies the bioactive agent 121 via the spray bottle. Alternatively, a powder preparation of the bioactive agent 121 may be prepared and stored in a container. The container may be configured to include a plurality of holes at one end such that by inverting the container and shaking and/or squeezing the container, the powder preparation may be applied to the decomposition container. In either embodiment, the bioactive agent 121 is deposited such that the bioactive agent 121 contacts the excrement.

Referring now to FIGS. 12 and 13B, the third step 86 is to provide oxygen to the bioactive agent 121. Decomposition of the excrement is accomplished by providing O2 to the aerobic bioactive agent 121 to convert excrement to CO2 and water, as well as provide new cell mass. In environmental chemistry, the Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) is a measure of the amount of oxygen that bacteria will consume while decomposing organic matter under aerobic conditions. Biochemical oxygen demand may be determined by incubating the bioactive agent 121 and a portion of an excrement sample, in a sealed sample of water for five days and measuring the loss of oxygen from the beginning to the end of the test. The aerobic bioactive agent 121 feeds on the excrement sample within the sample of water while metabolizing the dissolved oxygen in the water sample. Dilutions of the bioactive agent 121 must be made prior to running the test to ensure that the bioactive agent 121 does not deplete the available oxygen before the end of the test. Results of the test are reported in milligrams of oxygen.

In one embodiment, a BOD of approximately 300 mg is required to decompose an average human excrement sample. Therefore, the bioactive agent 121 must be supplied with at least 300 mg of oxygen per excrement sample. Where the excrement and bioactive agent 121 are exposed to ambient air 124, the water from the excrement, the oxygen dissolved within the excrement, and the oxygen from the ambient air 124 may be sufficient to allow the bioactive agent 121 to decompose the excrement sample. However, optimal decomposition is obtained by providing additional O2 to the system, for example, by providing O2 from an oxidizing agent. Therefore, when the drawstring 108 is actuated, the excrement and bioactive agent 121 are enclosed within the decomposition container 102, and the bioactive agent 121 may become starved for oxygen. As such, the bioactive agent 121 may become inactive and unable to digest the excrement. Therefore, it may be necessary to supplement the oxygen supply of the enclosed decomposition container 102 by using chemical oxidants.

In one embodiment, a chemical oxidant 130 is provided within a lumen 132 of the decomposition container 102. The lumen 132 is defined as the space between top and bottom layers 104 and 114, wherein the lumen 132 is enclosed by one or more sealed junctions 134 between the top and bottom layers 104 and 114 of the decomposition container 102. The chemical oxidant 130 may include any chemical or combination of chemicals that produces oxygen when exposed to water, air, and/or a catalyst.

For example, in one embodiment the chemical oxidant 130 comprises sodium percarbonate. When exposed to water, the sodium percarbonate dissociates to form sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide dissociates to water and O2 in the presence of a catalyst, for example a catalyst being potassium iodide (KI) or catalase. The produced oxygen is then released from this reaction into the lumen 132. As sodium percarbonate is the salt of a strong base and a weak acid, aqueous solutions of sodium percarbonate are quite alkaline with pH greater than 11. As such, dissociated sodium percarbonate provides alkaline hydrogen peroxide solutions which are known as strong oxidizing agents. Therefore, it is imperative that first material 150 provide separation between the oxidizing agents and the bioactive agent 121. For example, if the oxidizing agent contacts the bioactive agent, the bioactive agent will be killed. One of skill in the art will appreciate that other chemical or combinations of chemicals may be effectively used within the lumen 132 to accomplish the purposes of this invention.

The excrement and bioactive agent 121 are deposited on the upper surface 103 of the top layer 104 and, as such, occupy a first compartment 161 of the decomposition chamber 100. The first compartment 161 is separated from the lumen 132, or second compartment 162 of the decomposition chamber 100 by the top layer 104. The top layer 104 is comprised of a first material 150. The first material 150 is selected so as to accommodate a relationship between the bioactive agent 121 and the chemical oxidant 130.

For example, in one embodiment a first material 150 is selected to permit water from the first compartment 161 to pass through the first material 150 to the second compartment 162. As such, the water from the first compartment 161 may activate the chemical oxidant 130 of the second compartment 162. In this same embodiment, the first material 150 is further configured to permit oxygen, generated by the activated chemical oxidant 130, to pass through the first material 150 into the first compartment 161. As such, the oxygen from the second compartment 162 is made available to the bioactive agent 121 of the first compartment 161. The first material 150 is further selected to comprise plurality of one-way pores thus permitting the passage of a fluid from the first compartment 161 to the second compartment 162. Furthermore, the one-way pores prevent a disinfectant product of the second compartment 162 from passing into the first compartment 161 to disinfect the bioactive agent 121. The one-way pores may include any device or feature that limits movement of liquid or air to one direction. For example, in one embodiment the one-way pore is a one-way valve.

In one embodiment, a first material 150 is configured to include one or more one-way valves 170. The one-way valve 170 is provided to allow oxygen from the activated chemical oxidant 130 to pass through the first material 150 into the first compartment 161. The one-way valve 170 is configured to provide oxygen exchange from the second compartment 162 to the first compartment 161 while preventing a disinfectant product of the chemical oxidant 130 from passing into the first compartment 161. The first material 150 may further comprise plurality of one-way pores to permit passage of water from the first compartment 161 to the second compartment 162, as previously discussed. As such, water is made available to activate the chemical oxidant 130 of the second compartment 162. In another embodiment, a breakable vial 180 containing water 182 and one or more catalysts 184 is enclosed within the second compartment 162. The breakable vial 180 is crushed to release the water 182 and catalyst 184 into the chemical oxidant 130. As such, the released water 182 activates the chemical oxidant 130 to produce oxygen. Additionally, the one-way valve 170 may be used to provide water to the chemical oxidant 130. In this embodiment, the breakable vial 180 may include only a catalyst 184. Alternatively, the vial 180 may be omitted and the catalyst 184 added to the chemical oxidant 130. As such, the chemical oxidant 130 and the catalyst 184 are activated by the water as introduced via the one-way valve 170.

As previously discussed, the first material 150 is further selected to be biodegradable. The biodegradation rate of the first material 150 is selected based on the ability of the bioactive agent 121 to decompose the excrement sample. For example, in one embodiment the first material 150 is selected to biodegrade subsequent to the bioactive agent's 120 complete digestion of the excrement sample. In another embodiment, the first material 150 biodegrades 15 days after being exposed to the excrement and the bioactive agent 121. In another embodiment, the first material 150 biodegrades 3 to 4 days after being exposed to the excrement and the bioactive agent 121.

The first material 150 is further selected to biodegrade prior to the biodegradation of the second material 152. In one embodiment, the second material 152 is selected to biodegrade 3 months following the biodegradation of the first material 150. In another embodiment, the second material 152 is selected to biodegrade 1 week following the biodegradation of the first material 150.

Referring again to FIGS. 12 and 13B, the fourth step 88 is to disinfect the bioactive agent and pathogens of the system with a disinfecting agent. One of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that the bioactive agent and the pathogens of the present system are collectively classified as microorganisms, however it is understood that pathogens also include viruses. One of ordinary skill in the art will further appreciate that additional pathogens and bacteria may be introduced into the present system independent of the disclosed components or steps of the present invention. For example, additional bacteria and pathogens may be introduced into the present system by an insect or an animal coming in contact with the system. Therefore, it is anticipated that the disinfecting agent of the present system will disinfect all pathogens present within the system.

Oxidizing agents are commonly used as disinfecting agents to kill or disinfect microorganisms. Oxidizing agents, such as chlorine, act by oxidizing the cell membrane of microorganisms, which results in a loss of structure and leads to cell lysis and death. A large number of disinfectants operate in this way. Hydrogen peroxide is commonly used as a disinfectant, or disinfecting agent. When hydrogen peroxide comes into contact with the catalase enzyme of a microorganism, the peroxide compound is broken down into a water molecule and a hydroxyl free radical molecule. The hydroxyl free radical thereafter oxidizes the membrane of the microorganism resulting in cellular death. Therefore, in one embodiment of the present invention, an oxidizing agent is provided that causes cellular death upon contact of the oxidizing agent with a microorganism of the system. In another embodiment, a chemical reaction of the oxidizing agent and water provides a disinfecting agent that causes cellular death upon contact of the disinfecting agent with a microorganism of the system. Alternatively, exothermic heat created by the bioactivity of the bioactive agent may also provide disinfecting temperatures, thereby eliminating the need to destroy the pathogens by another means.

As previously discussed, a first material 150 is selected to comprise a first biodegradation rate. Upon biodegradation of the first material 150, the contents of the first and second compartments 161 and 162 are combined. As such, the excrement byproducts, the pathogens, and the bioactive agent become exposed to the chemical oxidant 130 and/or disinfecting byproducts of the chemical oxidant 130. At this point, the disinfecting agent of the chemical oxidant 130 disrupt the cellular walls of the pathogens and bioactive agent 121 resulting in complete disinfection of all pathogens present within the system.

As previously discussed, the second material 152 is selected to comprise a rate of biodegradation that is slower than the biodegradation rate of the first material 150. Additionally, the biodegradation rate of the second material 152 is selected to be slower than the time needed for the disinfecting agent to disinfect the microorganisms of the system. For example, in one embodiment the process of decomposition requires approximately 3 to 4 days, and the process of disinfecting the microorganisms of the system requires approximately less than 1 day. Therefore, in this embodiment, the second material is selected to biodegrade no less than approximately 5 days following collection of the excrement sample. In another embodiment, the second material 152 is selected to biodegrade no less than approximately 1 day after the disinfection of the microorganisms of the system. In yet another embodiment, the second material 152 is selected to biodegrade at a period of time subsequent to the disinfection of the microorganisms of the system.

Referring again to FIG. 12, the last step 90 of the method is to dispose of the byproduct materials of the excrement sample, the bioactive agent, the pathogens, and the chemical oxidant 130. At this step 18 in the process, the excrement sample has previously been decomposed by the bioactive agent and the pathogens of the system. As such, the processed excrement sample generally comprises only small and simple chemical components or breakdown products of the original excrement. Additionally, the oxidizing agent 130 of the second compartment 162, and the contents of the first compartment 161 have been commingled resulting in the disinfection of the microorganisms within the system. Therefore, the byproduct of the system, termed humus, comprises decomposed organic material containing dead organisms and high molecular carbohydrates that are unable to be decomposed by enzymes.

Having been disinfected of harmful pathogens, the humus of the system may be disposed in any manner useful to the user. For example, the rich organic content of the humus may be useful as mulch, compost, or fertilizer. Additionally, the humus may be used as a landfill material. For example, in one embodiment the humus and the second material 152 are together buried underground. As such, the humus and the second material 152 further decompose and assimilate into the surrounding environment. In another embodiment, the humus and the second material 152 are used to fertilize a crop. In another embodiment, the humus and the second material 152 are deposited into a landfill.

Referring now to FIG. 13C, a representative cross-sectional end view of a decomposition container 200 is illustrated. In this embodiment 200, a third material 154 is selected and interposed between the first material 150 and the second material 152. The third material generally comprises a biopolymer material similar to that of the first and second material 150 and 152. The third material 154 is further selected to comprise a biodegradation rate that is faster than the biodegradation rate of the second material 152, and slower than the biodegradation rate of the first material 150. For example, in one embodiment the third material 154 biodegrades subsequent to the biodegradation of the first material 150, and prior to the biodegradation of the second material 152.

The third material 154 is positioned between the top layer 104 and the bottom layer 114, thereby forming a middle layer 144 of the decomposition container 200. The space between the top layer 104 and the middle layer 144 provides a third compartment 164 of the container 200, wherein the third compartment 164 is enclosed by one or more sealed junctions 134 between the middle layer 144, the top layer 104, and the bottom layer 114. In one embodiment, a second bioactive agent 190 is provided within the third compartment 164 of the decomposition container 200. The second bioactive agent 190 may include any microorganism capable of digesting unmetabolized products of the decomposed excrement sample. In one embodiment, the metabolic activity of second bioactive agent 190 is greater than the metabolic activity of a pathogen within the system. Alternatively, the metabolic activity of the second bioactive agent 190 may be equal to, or less than the metabolic activity of the pathogen. For example, in another embodiment, the metabolic activity of the second bioactive agent 190 is less than the metabolic activity of the pathogen, and thus the second bioactive agent 190 is provided in large quantities. As such, the large quantity of the second bioactive agent 190 comprises a cumulative metabolic activity greater than the metabolic activity of the pathogen.

The second bioactive agent 190 prevents a pathogen from metabolizing, and therefore surviving on any unmetabolized components of the excrement sample. For example, in one embodiment a bioactive agent 121 is provided to digest an excrement sample. In this embodiment, the bioactive agent 121 is unable to fully digest one or more component of the excrement sample and therefore leaves a portion of the excrement sample. As such, a pathogen of the excrement sample is able to survive by digesting the unmetabolized portion of the excrement sample. In this embodiment, the second bioactive agent 190 is provided to metabolize the remaining excrement sample, thereby depriving the pathogen of the food source. Therefore, following the biodegradation of the first material 150, the residual excrement sample, the pathogens, and the bioactive agent 121 are combined into the third compartment 164. Once combined, the second bioactive agent 190 begins metabolizing the unmetabolized food source of the pathogens and the first bioactive agent 121. As such, the excrement sample becomes completely digested and decomposed thereby depriving the microorganisms of any energy source within the decomposition container 200.

The third material 154 of the decomposition container 200 is selected to biodegrade subsequent to the biodegradation of the first material 150 and prior to the biodegradation of the second material 152. The first and third materials 150 and 154 may further comprise a plurality of pores to permit passage of water through the first and third materials 150 and 154. For example, in one embodiment water from the excrement sample of the first compartment 161 passes through pores of the first material 150 and into the third compartment 164. In another embodiment, water from the third compartment 164 passes through pores of the third material 154 and into the second compartment 162. Alternatively, the third material 154 is impermeable to water and, therefore, the second compartment 162 comprises a breakable vial 180 having water 182. In another embodiment, the first and third materials 150 and 154 further comprise one or more one-way valves 170. As such, oxygen from the second compartment 162 may pass through the one-way valve 170 into the third compartment 164. Additionally, oxygen from the third compartment 164 may pass though the one-way valve 170 into the first compartment 161.

Upon biodegradation of the third material 154, the bioactive agent 121, the excrement sample, the second bioactive agent 190, and pathogens of the third compartment are combined with a chemical oxidant 130 within the second compartment 162. As previously discussed, oxygen radicals of the chemical oxidant 130 oxidize the cellular membranes of the microorganisms resulting in complete disinfection of all pathogens within the decomposition container 200.

Referring now to FIG. 14A, a representative partially cross-sectioned perspective view of a decomposition container 300 is illustrated. The decomposition container 300 generally resembles a bag, wherein the container 300 comprises an outer covering 302, an inner compartment 310, and an opening 320. The container 300 further includes an inner surface 306 comprising a first material 150. The first material 150 includes properties and characteristics similar to those of the first material 150 discussed in connection with decomposition containers 102 and 200, above. The first material 150 is positioned within the outer covering 302 so as to line the interior of the decomposition container 300. The upper edge 352 of the first material 150 is sealed against an inner surface 304 of the outer covering 302. As such, a lumen or second compartment 312 is provided between the first material 150 and the outer covering 302. The outer covering 302 comprises a second material 152 having properties and characteristics similar to those of the second material 152 discussed in connection with decomposition containers 100 and 200, above.

The second compartment 312 is sealed at the upper edge 352. As such, the contents of the inner compartment 310 are separated from the contents of the second compartment 312. Therefore, in one embodiment the inner compartment 310 contains a bioactive agent 121 and the second compartment 312 contains a chemical oxidant 130. The characteristics of the bioactive agent 121 and the chemical oxidant 130 are similar to those of the bioactive agent 121 and the chemical oxidant 130 discussed in connection with decomposition containers 102 and 200, above. The bioactive agent 121 may either be pre-applied to the inner surface 306 of the container 300, or may be applied through the opening 320 following collection of an excrement sample.

The decomposition container 300 is utilized to collect an excrement sample. The excrement sample is inserted into the container 300 through the opening 320. The volume and geometry of the decomposition container 300 may be modified to accommodate any use of the bag. For example, in one embodiment the volume and geometry of the container 300 is configured to accommodate a single excrement sample. In another embodiment, the container 300 is configured to accommodate multiple excrement samples. In another embodiment, the geometry of the container 300 is configured to include a flat bottom such that the container 300 may support itself in an upright and opened position directly beneath the internal bowl 70 of the portable toilet 12. In another embodiment, a portion of the outer covering 302 is lengthened to provide addition material with which to cover the external seat portion 44 of the toilet 12, wherein the remainder of the container 300 is positioned within the internal bowl 70 of the toilet 12. One of skill in the art will appreciate that other modifications can be made to the container 300 to further achieve successful coupling of the container 300 with the portable toilet 12, as described above.

Once the excrement sample has been collected, the excrement is then treated with a bioactive agent 121. As previously discussed, the bioactive agent 121 may be pre-deposited, or pre-applied to the inner surface 306 of the container 300. As such, the excrement sample is disposed on top of the bioactive agent 121. Alternatively, the excrement sample is first collected and then a bioactive agent 121 is applied through the opening 320 of the container 300 to the outer surface of the excrement. In either embodiment, the bioactive agent 121 is made available to interact with the excrement sample.

Once the desired volume of excrement sample is collected, the container 300 is closed and sealed. In one embodiment, the inner surface 304 of the outer covering 302 is configured to include a closure device 326. In one embodiment the closure device 326 is an adhesive strip. In another embodiment the closure device 326 is a mating channel closure. In another embodiment the closure device 326 is a drawstring. In another embodiment, the closure device 326 comprises two or more drawstrings to facilitate making a dam for collecting the excrement from a flat sheet. As such, the closure device 326 eliminates the need for rigid support over that of the single drawstring approach.

The process of decomposition is similar to the decomposition process discussed in connection with FIGS. 12-13C, above. The bioactive agent 121 and the excrement sample may either be conjoined or admixed. The bioactive agent 121 is conjoined with the excrement sample by bringing the two components into contact with one another. Alternatively, the bioactive agent 121 and the excrement sample are admixed by physically manipulating the components to form a relatively homogenous mixture. The admixing may be accomplished either by directly contacting the components of the mixture with a paddle or a stick, or by indirectly contacting the components via the outer surface of the decomposition container 300. However, optimal admixing may be accomplished via a tool, such as a paddle.

Upon biodegradation of the first material 150, the contents of the inner compartment 310 combine with the chemical oxidant 130 of the second compartment 312. As such, free radicals of the chemical oxidant 130 disinfect the microorganisms of the system, as previously discussed above.

Referring now to FIG. 14B, a representative partially cross-sectioned perspective view of a decomposition container 400 is shown. The decomposition container 400 generally resembles a bag, wherein the container 400 comprises an outer surface 402, an inner surface 404, an inner compartment 410, and an opening 420. The container 400 is comprised of a second material 152 having properties similar to the second material 152 previously discussed in detail. The container 400 further comprises a first packet 430. The first packet 430 generally comprises a sealed container having a lumen or first compartment 432, the first packet 430 being comprised of a first material 150. The first material 150 includes properties and characteristics similar to the first material 150 previously discussed in detail.

The first packet 430 contains a chemical oxidant 130. The chemical oxidant 130 is provided to supply oxygen to a bioactive agent 121 within the container 400. The characteristics and properties of the bioactive agent 121 and the chemical oxidant 130 are similar to those of the agent 120 and oxidant 130 discusses in connection with the decomposition containers 102, 200, and 300, above. The first packet 430 may be further modified to include a one-way valve 170. The one-way valve 170 is provided to release oxygen from the first compartment 432 of the packet 430. Additionally, a breakable vial 180 may be included in the first compartment 432 to provide water 182 to the chemical oxidant 130, as previously discussed.

The decomposition container 400 is utilized to collect an excrement sample. The excrement sample is inserted into the container 400 through the opening 420. The volume and geometry of the decomposition container 400 may be modified to accommodate any use of the container 400. For example, in one embodiment the volume and geometry of the container 400 is configured to accommodate a single excrement sample. In another embodiment, the container 400 is configured to accommodate multiple excrement samples. In another embodiment, the geometry of the container 400 is configured to include a flat bottom such that the container 400 may support itself in an upright and opened position directly beneath the internal bowl 70 of the portable toilet 12. In another embodiment, a portion of the outer covering 402 is lengthened to provide addition material with which to cover the external seat portion 44 of the toilet 12, wherein the remainder of the container 300 is positioned within the internal bowl 70 of the toilet 12. One of skill in the art will appreciate that other modifications can be made to the container 400 to further achieve successful coupling of the container 400 with the portable toilet 12, as described above.

Once the excrement sample has been collected, the excrement is then treated with a bioactive agent 121. The bioactive agent 121 may either be pre-deposited, or pre-applied to the inner surface 404 of the container 400, or may be applied directly to the outer surface of the collected excrement sample. In either embodiment, the bioactive agent 121 is made available to interact with the excrement sample.

Once the desired volume of excrement is collected, the container 1400 is closed and sealed. In one embodiment, an upper edge 1406 of the inner surface 1404 is configured to include a closure device 426. In one embodiment, the closure device 426 is an adhesive strip. In another embodiment the closure device 426 is a mating channel closure. In another embodiment the closure device 426 is a drawstring.

The process of decomposition is similar to the decomposition process discussed in connection with the disclosure above. The bioactive agent 121 and the excrement sample may either be conjoined or admixed, as described above. Following complete decomposition of the excrement sample, the first material 150 of the first packet 430 biodegrades and the contents of the first packet 430 combine with the contents of the inner compartment 410. The microorganisms of the inner compartment 410 are then disinfected by the free radicals of the chemical oxidant 130, as previously discussed.

In another embodiment, a second packet 440 is added to the inner compartment 410 of the decomposition container 400. In this embodiment, the second packet 440 contains a second bioactive agent 190. The second bioactive agent 190 is provided to ensure that any unmetabolized excrement is metabolized, thereby depriving any pathogen of nutrients within the system. The characteristics and properties of the second bioactive agent 190 are similar to those of the second bioactive agent 190 previously discussed.

The second packet 440 comprises a third material 154. The third material 154 is selected to biodegrade prior to the biodegradation of the first material 150 of the first packet 430. Furthermore, the first material is selected to biodegrade subsequent to the biodegradation of the third material 154, and prior to the biodegradation of the second material 152. Specifics regarding the material properties and characteristics may be found in connection with the previous discussion regarding the first, second, and third material 150, 152, and 154, above.

Therefore, following decomposition of the excrement sample by the bioactive agent 121, the third material 154 of the second packet 440 biodegrades and the second bioactive agent 190 is combined with the contents of the inner compartment 410. Once the second bioactive agent 190 metabolizes the unmetabolized components of the excrement sample, the first material 150 of the first packet 430 biodegrades and the contents of the first packet 430 are combined with the contents of the inner compartment 410. As such, the free radicals of the chemical oxidant 130 disinfect the microorganisms of the container 400, in accordance with the previous discussion.

One of skill in the art will appreciate that any embodiment of the present invention may include any of the presently disclosed features, functions, or elements and remain within the scope of the invention. Additionally, one of skill in the art will appreciate that the bioactive agent of the present invention may be expanded to include an enzyme, or other non-microorganistic entities to aid in decomposing the excrement sample.

Furthermore, the bioactive agent of the present invention may be embodied in any variety of forms. For example, in one embodiment, the bioactive agent is lyophilized, or otherwise preserved to prevent premature metabolic, or biological activity. In another embodiment, the bioactive agent is vacuum sealed to protect the agent against exposure to moisture and oxygen in the ambient air.

In another embodiment, the bioactive agent is combined with a filler and/or an excipient to form a pill or cake. In this embodiment, the bioactive agent is then flushed or otherwise introduced into a sewer system to decompose excrement therein. In another embodiment, the bioactive agent is introduced into a septic system. In another embodiment, the bioactive agent is introduced to excrement during the chemical treatment of the excrement by a water treatment plant. Alternatively, a filler may be used to introduce the bioactive agent into the decomposition container, as discussed above.

In another embodiment, an envisioned product starts with an O2 oxidizer generator positioned on the bottom of the product. The next layer up includes a bioactive agent. Excrement is then collected on top of the bioactive agent. Additionally, another bag of oxidizer is provided on top of the excrement; however this oxidizer has no contact with any catalyst of the system. Rather, the top or second oxidizer produces hydrogen peroxide that is used to disinfect the excrement. This is accomplished due to weight of hydrogen peroxide being heavier than air; therefore the hydrogen peroxide will not leak off into the air. Furthermore, each of the aforementioned components may be contained in materials having varying rates of biodegradation so as to regulate the exposure of each component to other components of the system or product.

Referring now to FIG. 15, a representative flow chart is shown for manufacturing the decomposition container of the present invention. The process of manufacturing the container may be accomplished as individual steps, or may be automated into a continuous process. Prior to manufacturing the container, the first step 21 is to select the raw material of the decomposition container. As previously discussed, the material of the decomposition container includes a biodegradable biopolymer comprising hydroxyalkonate monomers. The hydroxyalkonate monomers may be selected and combined in any order necessary to accomplish the needs of the material. For example, in one embodiment a single monomer is selected and synthesized to provide a homogenous biopolymer material. In another embodiment, two or more monomers are selected and synthesized to provided a heterogeneous biopolymer material.

The polymer material may be synthesized by any method or technique known in the art of polymer science.

The first step 23 to manufacture the container is to extrude the synthesized material into sheets or tubes for the container. Extrusion is the process of compacting and melting the selected biopolymer material and forcing it through an orifice in a continuous fashion. In the present method, the orifice comprises a die, or other shaping device for molding the melted biopolymer material into a sheet material.

The extruded sheets are then trimmed or otherwise prepared to be processed into the final decomposition container. In one embodiment, the extruded sheet material is labeled or printed 25 prior to being assembled as a decomposition container. The label or printed information may include instructions, information regarding the source of the container, and artwork.

The step 27 of assembling the decomposition container largely depends upon the final embodiment of the container. For example, each component of the various embodiments requires different offline operations. For example, where the oxidizing agent is supplied in a separate container, the oxidizer container is first formed on conventional converting machinery. The film is then oriented vertically and filled with the chemical oxidant. Following this step, the top of the container is sealed and the container is cut to the necessary length.

In another line the breakable vial or a biodegradable bag for containing the water and catalysts is made on a converting line. The vial or bag is then oriented vertically and filled with aqueous KI, catalase enzyme, and/or water. Following this step, the container is sealed and cut to length.

Still another converting line provides the bioactive agent, where the bioactive agent is contained within a lumen of the system. Again, these bags are created, oriented vertically and filled with the bioactive agent. The bags are then sealed and cut to the appropriate dimensions. Where the decomposition container 102 is the container shown in FIG. 13A, there are several off line operations that need to be performed.

The material for each container is unrolled and fed to a printing station that provides all the labeling. From here the film goes to the next station that applies adhesive in the machine and cross machine directions. The next station lays down the oxidizing agent bag. Next, adhesive is placed on the upper part of this bag. Following this step the bioactive agent bag is positioned on top of the oxidizing agent bag. As the line moves forward, the bag sheet is cut to length and stacked up for further processing. Offline, the drawstring assembly is made on automatic equipment. The resultant product is a flexible tube of material containing a drawstring.

The bag assemblies are loaded into an automated machine that places a rigid, yet flexible channel around the sheet. Next, the drawstring assembly is positioned on the sheet. Then the hem is formed to seal the sheet. The product is then released from the machine and packaged for shipment.

The final product provides an apparatus with a bottom portion that is impervious, and a top layer that is microporous for vapor transmission only. The bottom of the bioactive agent bag is microporous such that oxygen from the chemical oxidant bag can be accessed by the bioactive agent. However, one of skill in the art will appreciate that various methods may alternative designs may be incorporated to accomplish the purpose of the present invention. For example, one of skill in the art will appreciate that the portable toilet 12 and the container 102, 200, 300 or 400 may be modified to enhance compatibility when used in a portable toilet system 10, as described above.

Referring again to FIG. 1, the portable toilet system 10 may further include a privacy screen 60. The privacy screen 60 generally comprises a plurality of hinged dividers that surround the portable toilet 12 to provide privacy to a user thereon. The privacy screen 60 may comprise any material that is lightweight, portable and not transparent. For example, in one embodiment the privacy screen 60 comprises a cloth or canvass material that is supported by a frame structure 262. In one embodiment, the frame structure 262 comprises a plurality of wood pieces that frame the outer diameter of each section of the privacy screen 60. In another embodiment, the frame structure 262 comprises a plurality of tubing pieces, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or aluminum, that frame the outer diameter of each section of the privacy screen 60. In yet another embodiment, the privacy screen is constructed of biodegradable materials, such as corrugated paperboard. In each embodiment, the privacy screen 60 is provided to substantially surround the portable toilet 12 to provide privacy to the user. While the privacy screen 60 generally surrounds the portable toilet 12 and user, in some implementations of the present invention, the privacy screen 60 is combined with natural surrounding to provide adequate privacy to a user. For example, in one embodiment the privacy screen 60 comprises a single panel 68 of sufficient width and height to provide privacy to one side of the portable toilet 12 and user. In this embodiment, the single panel 68 is supported against the natural surroundings of the portable toilet 12 to provide privacy to the user. In another embodiment, the single panel 68 further includes a pair of feet 64 whereby the feet 64 are set perpendicularly to the plane of the panel 68 thereby supporting the single panel 68 in an upright position without the aid of the natural surroundings. Thus, in some embodiments of the present invention the single panel 68 is interposed between the portable toilet 12 and an onlooker to provide privacy to a user thereon.

Thus, as discussed herein, embodiments of the present invention relate to a portable toilet system for managing waste and providing waste disinfection. More particularly, at least some embodiments of the present invention pertain to systems and methods for collecting and disinfecting excrement, including systems and methods for recycling excrement into a usable product.

The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from its spirit or essential characteristics. The described embodiments are to be considered in all respects only as illustrative and not restrictive. The scope of the invention is, therefore, indicated by the appended claims rather than by the foregoing description. All changes that come within the meaning and range of equivalency of the claims are to be embraced within their scope.

Claims

1. A portable toilet system, comprising:

a portable toilet comprising a polymer material, the portable toilet having a folding structure including a front wall and a rear wall, the front and rear wall being parallel to one another and spaced apart, the portable toilet further including a first and second side wall being parallel to one another and perpendicular to the front and rear walls, the first and second side being connected to and interposed between the front and rear walls to define an interior bowl with an open bottom and top, wherein each of the sides includes means to enable the sides to angle inwardly near their middle to form two spaced apart integral support pillars, and wherein the front wall includes an interior front panel and an exterior front panel, the portable toilet further including a selectively interlockable interior seat panel and a selectivley interlockable exterior seat panel providing openings aligned to provide a toilet seat and an integral cover for the seat panels; and
a container positioned adjacent to the portable toilet to collect an excrement sample.

2. The portable toilet system of claim 1, wherein the portable toilet further comprises a privacy screen placed adjacent to the portable toilet to provide a visual barrier between the portable toilet and an onlooker.

3. The portable toilet system of claim 1, wherein the interior front panel includes one or more tab(s) and the exterior front panel includes one or more slot(s) shaped, sized and aligned to receive the one or more tab(s) such that the interior and exterior front panels are selectively interlockable.

4. The portable toilet system of claim 1, wherein the interior and exterior front panels include corresponding selective attachment mechanisms such that the interior and exterior front panels are selectively interlockable.

5. The portable toilet system of claim 1, wherein the interior and exterior front panels are permanently affixed to one another during the manufacturing process.

6. The portable toilet system of claim 1, wherein the polymer material is flame resistant.

7. The portable toilet system of claim 1, wherein the polymer material, the container, and the privacy screen are biodegradable.

8. The portable toilet system of claim 1, wherein the container comprises a biopolymer material, a bioactive agent, and an oxidizing agent.

9. The portable toilet system of claim 1, wherein the selectively interlockable exterior seat panel includes one or more tab(s) having one rounded corner and one angled side.

10. The portable toilet system of claim 1, wherein the selectively interlockable interior and exterior seat panels include selective attachment mechanisms such that the interior and exterior seat panels are selectively interlockable to the front and rear walls, respectively.

11. The portable toilet system of claim 1, wherein the integral cover includes one or more selective attachment mechanism(s) such that the integral cover can be selectively retained in a closed position.

12. The portable toilet system of claim 1, wherein the selectively interlockable interior seat panel includes two v-shaped tabs shaped, sized and aligned to matingly engage the proximal end of each side wall at the point where the side walls angle inwardly near their middle.

13. A portable toilet system, comprising:

a portable toilet having a folding structure comprising a polymer material, wherein the folding structure includes a front wall and a rear wall, the front and rear wall being parallel to one another and spaced apart, the portable toilet further including a first and second side wall being parallel to one another and perpendicular to the front and rear walls, the first and second side being connected to and interposed between the front and rear walls to define an interior bowl with an open bottom and top, wherein each of the sides includes means to enable the sides to angle inwardly near their middle to form two spaced apart integral support pillars, and wherein the front wall includes an interior front panel and an exterior front panel, the portable toilet further including a selectively interlockable interior seat panel and a selectively interlockable exterior seat panel providing openings aligned to provide a toilet seat and an integral cover for the seat panels; and
a container positioned adjacent to the portable toilet to collect an excrement sample.

14. The portable toilet system of claim 13, wherein the interior and exterior front panels are selectively interlockable.

15. The portable toilet system of claim 13, wherein the interior and exterior front panels are permanently affixed to one another during the manufacturing process.

16. The portable toilet system of claim 13, wherein the selectively interlockable exterior seat panel includes one or more tab(s) having one rounded corner and one angled side.

17. The portable toilet system of claim 13, wherein the container comprises a plurality of biopolymer sheets, each biopolymer sheet being attached to another biopolymer sheet at a perimeter edge, and a lumen being interposed between opposing biopolymer sheets, each lumen being occupied with a disinfectant component selected from the group consisting of a bioactive agent, an oxidizing agent, water, and air.

18. The portable toilet system of claim 13, wherein the selectively interlockable interior seat panel includes two v-shaped tabs shaped, sized and aligned to matingly engage the proximal end of each side wall at the point where the side walls angle inwardly near their middle.

19. A method for providing a portable toilet system, the method comprising:

providing a portable toilet comprising a polymer material, the portable toilet having a folding structure including a front wall and a rear wall, the front and rear wall being parallel to one another and spaced apart, the portable toilet further including a first and second side wall being parallel to one another and perpendicular to the front and rear walls, the first and second side being connected to and interposed between the front and rear walls to define an interior bowl with an open bottom and top, wherein each of the sides includes means to enable the sides to angle inwardly near their middle to form two spaced apart integral support pillars, and wherein the front wall includes an interior panel and an exterior panel, the portable toilet further including a selectively interlockable interior seat panel having one or more v-shaped tabs formed therein to engage the angle of the side walls and a selectively interlockable exterior seat panel providing openings aligned to provide a toilet seat and an integral cover for the seat panels;
providing a container, the container being positioned adjacent to the portable toilet to collect an excrement sample; and
providing a privacy screen, the privacy screen being positioned adjacent to the portable toilet to provide a visual barrier between the portable toilet and an onlooker.

20. The method of claim 19, further comprising the step of coupling the container to the interior bowl of the portable toilet.

Patent History

Publication number: 20100275362
Type: Application
Filed: May 10, 2010
Publication Date: Nov 4, 2010
Inventors: Stephen Biesinger (Provo, UT), Graham Norris (Provo, UT)
Application Number: 12/777,137

Classifications

Current U.S. Class: With Seat (4/483)
International Classification: A47K 11/02 (20060101);