The Reverend Henry Moule of Fordington invented the first composting toilet in the 1980s, and he discovered that dry earth and human waste together produce clean compost in a few weeks. Compost toilets not only reduce water use but also recycle valuable plant nutrients. Although the compost toile designs have been evolving since their discovery, the idea of composting is the same. Read this guide further to understand the working of these sustainable toilets.
What is Compost Toilet?
A compost toilet is an alternative to flush toilets by disposing of human waste and minimizing water use. These toilets eliminate the odor through an anaerobic process. Human waste is mixed with sawdust and peat moss, and the air is venting outward through a systematic setting. In compost toilets, human waste is recycled through natural processes of decomposition and evaporation. Human waste that enters the toilets is 90% water, which is evaporated through a vent system. The remaining solid material is decomposed to make natural fertilizer.
Types of Compost Toilets
Compost toilets are of various kinds; some have fans while others don’t. Some need power to operate while others are totally off-gird. Compost toilets have two basic types: slow compost toilets and active compost toilets.
Slow Compost Toilets
Slow compost toilets are also called moldering privy, and they are used infrequently or usually present at remote locations. The construction of these toilets is very simple as there is a box at the bottom and a seat on its top. Below the box, a contained compost system is installed that slowly decomposes the human waste. This system doesn’t help in pathogen elimination as it takes time to decompose human waste.
Slow compost toilets are best to use in remote locations as they save money and time and don’t leave behind the waste, so underground water is not contaminated.
Active Compost Toilets
Active toilets usually have fans that incorporate the oxygen into the system, so the composting process speeds up. Besides this, some active compost toilets have a heater to maintain a certain temperature that helps quickly degrade human waste. For the fan and heater to work, there should also be an electric source. You need to add some absorbent material to incorporate the oxygen into the system and also add carbon to it.
You can install these toilets where the use frequency is higher than the slow composting toilets. If you carefully balance all the elements and materials, you will get pathogen-free compost from active compost toilets.
How Does Compost Toilet Work?
The basic composting phenomenon will be the same whether your composting toilet uses a self-contained or central system. The compost toilet will work if the right environment is provided for anaerobic bacteria to decompose human waste. Right conditions mean; you must balance the carbon-nitrogen ratio and correct moisture and temperature level. If you don’t balance all these elements, you will not get the desired compost.
The best temperature range for anaerobic bacteria lies between 60 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Too much moisture in the waste is unsuitable for oxygen-breathing bacteria, so you have to keep your toilet moist but not wet. Some compost toilet manufacturers use automatic mixers, thermostats, and sensors to create a balance between chemicals and maintain moisture and temperature.
In compost toilets, liquids are separated from solids. Liquids are collected in a bottle and can be disposed of when the bottle or container is full. The solid waste is collected in a separate systemized container. The solid waste is combined with carbon-rich materials, including peat moss and coconut husk. To start the composting process, you need to turn a mechanical crank to mix the elements thoroughly. Bacteria and other microbes will break down the organic matter under optimum moisture and temperature conditions. In the end, you will get a nutrient-rich fertilizer. Overall, the composting toilet must perfume the following functions.
- Compost the human waste and toilet paper speedily and eliminate the odor
- Ensure that the compost is safe and easy to handle
- Evaporate the liquid from the waste
Misconception about Composting Toilets
Although composting toilets are not a new idea, many people still don’t know what composting toilets are. They have various misconceptions about these toilets, which are:
People might think that composting toilets are unhygienic. That’s not true, as the composting process eliminates harmful bacteria. Liquid and solid wastes are kept separated, and solid waste is dried carefully to eliminate maximum germs.
Most people think that compost toilets smell. The reality is that compost toilets smell less than traditional toilets due to their construction. Liquids and solids are separated, and carbon-rich material is mixed with the waste. A venting system is also installed and helps eliminate the odor.
People also think toilet paper is off-limits and doesn’t compost in this toilet. On the contrary, toilet paper is composted just like the waste in compost toilets.
Benefits of Compost Toilets
Due to the increasing pollution and rapid degradation of the environment, the world is now looking toward sustainable ways to live. Composting toilet is energy-efficient, reduces human waste, and converts it into valuable fertilizers. Here are the few incredible benefits that compost toilets offer.
The world is moving towards a shortage of water quickly. Due to the increasing population, the water shortage is becoming a severe threat to life. Compost toilet helps in this regard as they can save up to 35,000 liters of water per year. Especially if your home is off the grid or you are living on tank water, you better realize the importance of fresh water. You don’t want to waste your fresh water in the toilet, so composting toilets are best in such scenarios.
Little Installation Cost
Traditional toilets require many installation elements, including pipes and hoses. They also require bending and maintenance costs. On the contrary, compost toilets are cost-effective, and you don’t have to pay much for their maintenance. Once you have installed your compost toilet, you just need a bottle of cleaning enzymes occasionally, and you are good to go.
The most notable benefit of compost toilets is that they convert human waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer or compost. You will get free compost through decomposition as you don’t have to spend your money on a specialized compost setup.
Compost toilets are one of the best solutions to reduce waste and convert it into beneficial compost. You don’t have to install pipes and hoses on your land for these toilets. Thus, you don’t need to maintain pipe lines, and there will be no potential groundwater issues. So, there will be no maintenance cost.
Compost toilets are easy to install, and they are cost-effective and eco-friendly as well. Human waste is converted into useful compost in these toilets. To combat our depleting environment and to minimize water loss, compost toilets should be installed more often.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What do insects in a compost toilet indicate?
If your compost toilet is working, it’s unlikely to have an insect problem. If your compost toilet is unbalanced, you might face insect issues. So, if you find insects in your compost toilet, there must be a fault in your compost system.
2. Do composting toilets smell unpleasant?
It’s a misconception about compost toilets that they smell bad. In a compost toilet, liquid and solid wastes are separated, and an air vent is installed. Overall, a composting toilet is designed so that it doesn’t smell bad as all the waste material dries out immediately and decomposes.
3. How often do you have to empty your composting toilet?
It depends on the frequency of use that how often you should empty your compost toilet. If two persons are using it full time, then after three weeks, you will have to empty your compost toilet. If the compost toilet is only used on weekends, then you can empty your toilet after two months.