By Jordan Laio, Hometalk
Waterless toilets combined with composting are a multitasking green dream team — you avoid wasting water (and save, on average, 40,000 gallons of water per year) and turn what would otherwise become toxic waste into vibrant, nutrient-dense garden compost.
Waterless urinals are becoming more common (they can be found on some college campuses and in some restaurants, for example) and indicate that there is an awareness of the problem and that some people are taking steps to reduce or eliminate water waste.
However, when it comes to home use of waterless toilets and composting systems, many people are gripped by what the Humanure Handbook terms “fecophobia,” the fear of using humanure for agricultural purposes (as well as fear of handling or even talking or thinking about handling feces, composted or not). For those people this may be an uncomfortable topic, but as clean water supplies become more scarce and agricultural lands become less fecund (not to be confused with “fecal”) this is going to become a necessary discussion. Bear in mind that “humanure” must be composted for two years at a high temperature, and is typically used for fertilizing non-edible garden plants.
How waterless toilets work
The most basic waterless toilet system is the composting toilet where decomposition occurs under the toilet receptacle itself. This idea is similar to a Porta-Potty, but instead it’s permanent, usually constructed of wood and cinder blocks and instead of a chemical pool at the bottom there is soil and a big pile of composting humanure. This setup requires technical knowledge and carpentry skills, and instruction for building one is beyond the scope of this article.
A more simple setup is an outhouse with a sitting arrangement with a hole which allows defecation into, for instance, a five-gallon bucket. When the bucket is full, it is carried to a compost pile, dumped and left to compost for a minimum of two years. This system makes sense for homeowners with a good sized yard or those living in the countryside. Some people even place a simple composting toilet in their bathrooms, next to their “regular” toilet. If emptying a compost toilet bucket disgusts you, you can make it much easier by lining the bucket with a biodegradable bag. Just tie up the bag like a trash bag, and carry it out the the compost bin.
We’ve tried it; we liked it.
While living on a farm in Connecticut for three months, this setup was my regular toilet. I was surprised (pleasantly) by the lack of odors (after each use you throw some sawdust, straw or leaves in the bucket which totally suppresses odors). Dumping it out wasn’t any worse than dumping out a bucket of vegetable scraps into the compost pile. Networx editor Chaya Goodman Kurtz also lived on a farm with a simple composting toilet, and vouches for the fact that when maintained properly, the composting toilet did not smell.