Composting toilets

Vashon, WA(Zone 8b)

My family is considering getting an Envirolet composting toilet to put in out studio outbuilding. I am wondering about how well they work, and if there is much "aroma' from the self contained system, which is the one we would need to use. Or... do you have experience with other brands and their positive and negative points? We can't afford it just yet, but I like to research big purchases well in advance. Thanks.

Moss Point, MS(Zone 8b)

I am also very interested in this subject for several reasons. Cost is prohibitive from everything I've seen and I see no reason that this should be so. They aren't rocket science.

I read somewhere recently that the Swedes are working on a model that separates liquid from solids at time of use.

The serious water shortages, inefficient and over burdened water treatment facilities, ocean dead zones, organic farming and folks increasingly moving off the grid are all pressing reasons to handle our waste differently.

I have two investment properties that are useless since Hurricane Katrina. They had both been inhabited for 40 to 50 years but now the county has changed the rules. One has been declared too small to support both a water well and a septic system. The other has been declared too close to a wetland for a septic system. They won't allow power to be connected again. My local health department has never heard of a composting toilet.

Vashon, WA(Zone 8b)

Someone told me composting toilets are now allowed in my county, though I would have to research the codes for myself to be sure.

Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

I don't know if you live where this homemade composting toilet is allowed, but the link is pretty interesting.

http://www.solviva.com/wastewater.htm

Greensboro, AL

when I was little (say 50 years ago) my grandmother moved into a newly built house in a small Michigan town. (She lived across from the school).

The "bathroom" in her house, was the same as our outside two holer but it was inside next to the wood bin. When you used the bathroom you dumped a scoop of lime down the hole.

http://www.lime.org/ENV02/ENV802.htm#Bio1

Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

Thanks, Gloria! That was good info regarding lime.


Greensboro, AL

The lime seemed to contain the accumulation you might expect of the toilet.

Wow. That was an ancient memory!

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

My Dad would lime the two holer, primarily to keep the odor down. Every so many years, he would dig a new hole and move it, covering the old. Interesting Lime link ~ thanks.

Moss Point, MS(Zone 8b)

Pod I grew up with one just like yours except maybe you didn't have the black widows lurking under the seat like I did. We got indoor plumbing when I was 7 and it was heavenly.

The Soliva site linked above outlines the nightmarish experience one has trying to deal with the nuts at the DEQ. I would advise anyone to make whatever DIY arrangement you can and don't ask and don't tell. Maybe someday the government will grow a brain but certainly not yet.

Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

Twiggy, you're right about the BS! I fully agree with the "don't ask, don't tell". We live 7 miles out of a very small town, so can get away with a little more.

I think lower on the page there was a picture of a homemade composting toliet that was attractive enough. There's a lot of info on the site about composting toilets and I love the way the filtering system works.

Maury, I just wanted to throw the homemade one in for consideration, if you live in an area where you could get by installing one. I love the envirolet toilet, and if I lived in the city it would be great to add to a shed or studio.

Clarkson, KY

You know if you could take it (the property) off the grid, I don't think any one could squeal too loudly...and maybe with info and enough people in the same boat the law could be found that allows it. I know someone in our area (where it is totally legal and still not allowed) was considering dealing with the red tape by asserting that there was no bathroom (or at least no black water) on her property. That effectively put her in a different category where they had no 'active' say in what she did. --No one particularly checks camper/ RV toilets because they don't go in to any 'questionable' system--

Vashon, WA(Zone 8b)

Thanks all, I'm going to look into some of the homemade options as well as compare pricing on the manufactured type. We are not in town, but we are in King County along with Seattle, so sometimes we have to deal with fairly rigid regulations. Our place is quite visible from the road, so I cannot completely disregard the rules even if I know what I'm doing is not harmful to the environment or any kind of health hazard. Any further thoughts or experiences are welcomed. I'm just exploring our optiona at this point.

Clarkson, KY

Please understand, I was not advocating disregarding the rules, more redefining them. If a toilet is defined as something which produces blackwater then a composting toilet is not legally a toilet...Good Luck!

Greensboro, AL

Hmmm. Redefining rules.

Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

Yep, redefining rules!

Actually, Maury, with a little research on composting toilets, there are a number of homemade units that look nice. Neighbors wouldn't even know you had one, becasue it's claimed they don't even smell. The compost can be used to fertilize ornamental plants.

Lumberton, TX(Zone 8b)

The one described in the solviva book is very interesting. Basically a bucket, and when you go twosies you top it with a scoop of either sawdust or leaf mulch. Emptying the bucket depends on how many are using it. When you empty it, it's composted, not to a safe-for-food crops state, but fine for non-food plants. It's intriguing.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

My Oma had the two seater board too. A large hole for adults, a small hole for kids.
If we were moving back to a composting toilet, I'd be adding EM to the tank to deal with the odours and to keep the composting microbes in a healthy concentration of beneficial ones.
http://www.emamerica.com/environment/general/index.php
http://www.emamerica.com/environment/faq/index.php

Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

We've got one on the list for our property next summer on the garden side. Got everything to build it, just ran out of time.

Lumberton, TX(Zone 8b)

I'd sure be interested in "real world" results. I'm thinking about trying it in my back yard. That's disgusting, so don't tell anybody, y'all!

Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

Before investing too much time and effort, you might just try a 5 gal bucket with a lid in the corner of an out building, with a bucket for your additives (sawdust, etc) sitting next to it. Try it for a couple of months to see if what you think.

Lumberton, TX(Zone 8b)

That was my plan. If it's as simple as she claims it is, it should work. Just have to find some sawdust.

Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

Might do a search for homemade composting toilets. I know there are other things you can add, instead of sawdust....just don't remember what they are.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

I'd still add some EM, perhaps innoculate the sawdust with it, similar to making Bokashi bran.

Vashon, WA(Zone 8b)

I did find a simple design for a homemade composting toilet. We would have to investigate sources for cover materials (ex. sawdust) that would work. Here's the link:

http://www.weblife.org/humanure/chapter8_2.html

Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

This link says dry cooking ash (?), lime or saw dust. I think I also read somewhere that shredded leaves or soil could be used, too. You could probably find saw dust at any cabinet or furniture making store. If sawdust isn't available, I wonder about the pine shavings that are sold for hamsters, etc. I don't think it's terribly expensive. LOL, didn't use to be, I remember a huge bale for about $8. EM would probably help, but it wasn't mentioned on any link that I read.

http://www.itdg.org/html/technical_enquiries/docs/compost_toilets.pdf

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

You can also buy compressed blocks of cedar shavings made for pet bedding. They smell nice when wet, and could easily be dampened and used like saw dust.

Vashon, WA(Zone 8b)

The site I found suggested that wetter sawdust from a lumber mill would work better than dry sawdust from a carpentry shop, so I imagine dampened pet bedding could work. There was something about types of wood, which ones are better for eventual use as fertilizer and which might contain substances that might be not so good for garden use.

Eunice, MO(Zone 5b)

A friend put in a sawdust toilet. They live in a small trailer. I mention this so you understand how small the bathroom is. I expected to confronted with an odor when I went in and was pleasantly surprised. No odors at all. This was set up as a temporary facility until they could save enough money to drill a well and plumb the place. He just used a 5 gallon bucket under a bench type seat like you would find in the old outhouse. He dumped the buckets out back to compost. It only took a couple of months before earthworms were living in the compost pile. By the following year it was dark rich looking dirt with a wonderful earthy aroma. You know the one I mean, the smell that says things will grow great here. We have a lot of sawmills around here, getting the sawdust is not a problem. They have water now and regular plumbing and a septic tank, but I am not sure that was a step forward. Of course with 5 children, the regular plumbing is much easier than keeping care of sawdust bucket.

Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

Cool! Glad to hear from someone that has first hand knowledge!

Moss Point, MS(Zone 8b)

Kathy that sure sounds a lot better than the two holer and chamber pot I lived with until I was 7.

Eunice, MO(Zone 5b)

At this time of year anything is better than the 2 holer. I have had plenty of experience with that myself.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

Gives a whole new meaning to "frozen buns".

Eunice, MO(Zone 5b)

You got that right!

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

Been there, done that..........I need one with a heated seat!
Guess I'm not as tought as my Oma.

Eunice, MO(Zone 5b)

You sit on that cold seat and the whole body tenses up. Try to relieve yourself in that condition brrrr! We put a foam seat on ours and it helped tremendously. Body heat warmed it up enough you could do what you came for.

Rutledge, MO(Zone 5a)

I use the bucket system for humanure (or "humey" as we affectionately call it) and have for many years. Done correctly, it doesn't smell bad at all, which I think is true for all composting toilets (commercial ones i've used in the past, in public parks and such, were super-stinky). We use sawdust as a cover and the type of wood does make a difference. As i recall we got cedar one time and thought it would be great (it smelled so good just by itself) but, oh right, it's pretty rot resistant, and, um, the point is for it to rot. Ooops. So even tho it seemed like a good idea, we don't use that anymore if we can possibly help it. Also, wet sawdust is WAY better than dry, so we keep our sawdust outside and uncovered.

The Humanure Handbook by Jenkins is the best book i know of re: the bucket system.

I've not read it, but you might want to check out: the Composting Toilet System Book: A Practical Guide to Choosing, Planning and Maintaining Composting Toilet Systems by David Del Porto and Carol Steinfeld (saw on amazon.com).

There's another i read years ago that i quite enjoyed, called Lifting the Lid: An Ecological Approach to Toilet Systems (New Futures) by Peter Harper and Louise Halestrap (available at amazon.com.uk).But since it's from the UK and discusses lots of european pre-mades that arent readily available on this side of the pond, not sure how helpful it would be.

I hope you find something that works well for you, and feel free to ask me if i can answer any questions about the system i use. Good luck!

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

bunsterco, any idea how it would work to use a galvanized 30 gallon trash can instead of a 5 gallon bucket? I was wondering if it would be worth having the extra capacity to cut down on the number of emptying trips, or would something of that size be too big for properly covering the contents?

I'm sure it would be mighty heavy when full but perhaps half-full would be workable.

Any input on "tank size"?
Thanks!
Shoe

Lumberton, TX(Zone 8b)

As with gardening, I think (for me at least) it's prudent to start small! I'm sure y'all will appreciate the irony -- I'm going to use one of those huge kitty litter buckets. ;}

Rutledge, MO(Zone 5a)

Shoe,

i cannot imagine trying to dump a 30 gallon container-- the 5 gallon are pretty dang heavy already. i'm also not sure about using metal with urine-- seems like that might not be a good combo.

i have heard of the idea of building a system where you use the giant trash cans with wheels on them (the kind the city i used to live in provided to make getting trash to the curb easier) instead of 5 gallon buckets. seems like that would definitely involve stairs or 2 levels of some sort, and i never looked into it much, since the buckets work fine for us.

you might want to look into a moldering toilet design. i dont know a lot about it, but a google search returned a lot of results, some of which looked useful at a glance.

good luck!

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Thanks, bunsterco. Methinks five gallons of excrement must weigh lots more than I imagined. Reckon I better consider doing as brigidlily and start smaller than a big container.

And yes, didn't think about the urine effect.

Okay, off to Google moldering toilet design. Thanks!

Shoe

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