Compost Toilets

Compost Toilets (Humanure)

Composting our own manure is something we never thought we would be promoting that's for sure but when it becomes clear of the amazing ability composting microbes possess twinned with the amazing amount of damage that conventional sewage treatment can do to the environment it suddenly becomes like something you want more and more people to do.

Many people now know about composting toilets, particularly those in the alternative movement who are quite familiar with composting in their gardens, and who understand the advantages of recycling and simplification of our needs. But to the many others who have not really thought about where their sewage goes after flushing, the thought of composting their own waste is a little uncomfortable. Objectionable questions are fired at you when you first introduce the concept to someone, and many persons leave the subject still thinking that  composting toilets are dangerous and disgusting . Well, composting toilets used properly are far from this.

They are effective biological converters of human and household “waste,” saving money and energy for the person and community. They start the regeneration of the Earth’s precious environment that is long overdue.

What is a Composting Toilet?

 A compost toilet can be thought of as an on site waste treatment plant

Composting toilets are toilet systems which treat human waste by composting and dehydration to produce a useable end-product that is a valuable soil additive. They come in a variety of models and brand names as well as different shapes and designs to enhance the natural composting process. They use little or no water, are not connected to expensive sewage systems, cause no environmental damage and produce a valuable resource for gardening. As you will see from a brief search on the internet there are numerous models ranging from high tech $20000 systems to low tech $20. Like most ecological solution designs what system you implement will be site and context specific.

The Benefits of Composting Toilets

Making a Big Difference

The advantages of natural waste treatment systems are many and varied. The following section shows the benefits of the system in comparison to existing waterborne waste treatment systems. These benefits improve conditions for the individual, the community and the environment. An understanding of how your system benefits the individual and the community will help you to maintain it and confidently explain it to others.

Benefits to the Individual

There are many great reasons to use a composting toilet!

  • Water Use Reduction (20-50%) A significant savings in water storage will result if the household is not on reticulated water supply. Combine this with wastewater re-utilisation in irrigation and other household water reduction techniques and water storage costs can be cut by up to 60%.
  • Odour Problems Reduced If you have a septic tank than compost toilets will actually reduce bad odors ,some high tech compost toilets also extract odor via an extraction fan.
  • End Product Recycled While only small in amount, the solid end product is a valuable humic fertiliser that can be utilised around trees and gardens.
  • Reduced Greywater Loading Where composting toilets are installed instead of septic and mini-treatment systems, there is a large reduction in the “loading” on the effluent treatment system by the removal of “blackwater.” Smaller, less maintenance, greywater systems are possible.
  • Independence A household with a composting system is independent from potential problems of the waterborne sewage system. If future water shortage or system backup problems occur with conventional systems, there is not much that you can do personally about it. On-site composting systems are much more flexible, they are easier to fix and have less damage potential if operated incorrectly.
  • Recycling The composting toilet possesses the ability to recycle much of your household waste. Food scraps, paper, lawn clippings and grease from you grease traps and greywater systems can be composted back through the toilet. If you choose to put in a reed bed greywater systems, the annual clippings can also be composted. There is no wastage in this system.
  • Unusual Sites Composting toilets can be installed in many different situations which would not accommodate other systems. Rocky sites, high water table, no water storage, environmentally sensitive, close to running watercourses, and swampy ground. All these difficult site situations can be accommodated with a small amount of alteration to the basic system design.

Benefits to the Community & the Environment

Together with the personal benefits of the composting toilet there are overall benefits to the society and the environment.

  • Water Use A reduction in water use allows the large capital costs of dams and reservoirs to be spread over a greater population. It also enables decentralised water sources to be used.
  • Reduced Marine Pollution Nutrient load on streams and rivers is almost negligible. This results in more oxygen being available in the water and a return to improved activity of marine life.
  • Pollution Detected Quickly Without sewage systems to flush away wastes, It would be easier to ascertain where toxic wastes are being leaked into watercourses. Industry would be more willing to rectify these problems if it were easier to identify the sources.
  • Damage Limited Miscalculation in individual composting systems has a much smaller impact than the same mistake in a large centralised system. It is also easier to rectify and return to normal operation.
  • Flexibility of Planning Composting toilet systems are built only when the need arises. The high headwork and treatment costs of conventional sewage systems must be borne by the community ahead of development. If development does not go as planned, then money is wasted.
  • Less Environmental Impact Compared to sewage systems, on-site composting and greywater treatment has less impact on the environment:

• Large effluent releases into watercourses and oceans are avoided.
• Disruption to soils systems through pipeline installation is eliminated.
• Leakage of raw sewage into groundwater through pipe deterioration and breakage is eliminated.

  • Flexibility in Estate Planning By eliminating the planning constraints of the sewage system underground piping and infrastructure, housing developments can be designed with more emphasis on environmental and social considerations, rather than how best to situate the blocks to make pipes run straighter.

For such a simple technology, the benefits to the individual and to the community are quite amazing! A Bill Mollison quote springs to mind "Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple."