Composting Toilets

"Composting Toilet" is a term that covers a wide variety of products. Make sure you thoroughly investigate your options before you buy. Some options are far more advanced than others.

When I was a girl, my paternal grandparents had a farm house way out in the country. No plumbing.

There was an outhouse. Basically, it was a huge hole dug in the ground, covered in cement with a cement box in the middle. The cement box had a hole in the top with a toilet seat attached. Then, of course, a small house built around the "toilet". My Uncle Ray was really "up-town" -- his outhouse was a two-seater. I always carefully locked the door as soon as I went inside, concerned that someone might join me.

Uncle Ray had constructed an "inside toilet" to use in the night. It was a common kitchen chair with a round hole cut in the seat. A board was placed across the braces, and a chamber pot placed on the board. Of course, in the morning, someone would have to take the chamber pot to the outhouse and empty it.

I read about a "composting toilet" years ago that was so well integrated into a home that visitors had no idea that it was not a standard toilet. Supposedly, this composting toilet flushed wastes into a basement, siphoned off the liquid wastes which were purified and used on the garden, and finished compost was regularly available. I still don't know if what I read was someone's imagination or not because I've never been able to re-locate the source.

After reading about such a wonderful invention, I was on a visit to a farm near Austin. I was delighted to learn that they had just installed a composting toilet and I would be able to see it. I was so dissapointed when they showed me a plastic version of my grandparents' outhouse. The unit was entirely above-ground. It was entered from inside the second story of the house. Waste dropped into the "storage" section at the first floor level. The only difference I could find between this product and an outhouse is that there were air vents from the bottom "storage" section to the outside of the unit (which was attached to the house). They had not yet begun to use the composting toilet, so I can't report on odor, etc.

After this, I looked into various kinds of composting toilets. I found one that was almost identical to Uncle Ray's "toilet chair" except it had a removal drawer instead of a chamber pot which would require emptying.

There is certainly a place for these products. But understand that there are a wide variety of products available, all going by the name "compost toilets". Some of these products bear little resemblance to each other. Make sure you know what your local legal regulations are, know what you need, understand what you are buying and what needs to be done to install it. Thoroughly research this. Get out on Internet forums, find people who are farther along in the purchase process than you are and see what they know. Find people who have already purchased compost toilets and learn from their experience. In short, inform yourself.

If your library carries old copies of Mother Earth News, check out the article in the June/July 2002 issue. Here are some Internet links to get you started. I want to make it clear that this is a subject I know very little about (which is why I am sending you elsewhere to research it) so do not take this list of links as any kind of endorsement or recommendation of a specific product or approach:

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Compost Tea Brewer
Build a brewer with a bucket and less than $15 worth of components, and make aerated compost tea.
www.booklocker.com
Composting the Holidays
Compost fall leaves, hay bales, holly wreaths, pine trees, etc. Compost pumpkins (food waste) in a compost pile.
www.booklocker.com

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ALTERNATE METHODS

  1. Soil Incorporation
  2. In-Soil Ingestion or Digestion
  3. Trench Composting
  4. Mulching
  5. ** Composting Toilets **
  6. Compost Tea

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