The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Of Composting Toilets
Okay guys, we’re going to get real here for a moment because I don’t believe that any tiny house inhabitant has been real enough on the topic of compost toilets. I would like to say first that I LOVE my compost toilet, but that is not to say that there haven’t been challenges. There has been a bit of a learning curve and the companies who sell them could definitely make some improvements. The most popular companies seem to be Separett, Nature’s Head and Airhead and they all have their redeeming qualities.
The premise of a compost toilet is that it separates poop and pee, which helps eliminate smell. It also means that you don’t have to deal with a black tank, which eliminates so many issues that most RV’s have. There is a separator in the center of the toilet to aid in separating the two, though it can take a little work on the users part based on their body type to get waste in the correct area. The two most amazing compost toilet attributes are 1. There is literally no smell. There is an incredibly powerful fan that pulls the smell outside and it works like a champ (though you will smell it if you’re standing outside near the vent, so place that wisely). If you are not plugged into power, you will need a battery just for the toilet fan so it runs continuously and 2. Not an ounce of water is wasted. Flushing toilets are a HUGE waste of water. Older toilets flush 3-4 gallons of water per flush and newer toilets flush 1-2 gallons per flush. It gives me immense satisfaction knowing that I’m not apart of that problem.
Men, let’s start with you first. You will have to sit down on the throne. Unfortunately, there is just no way around it because of the way that the toilet is designed. All bodies are different, but for the most part the majority of men will feel their jewels touching the divider between the pee portion and the poo portion of the toilet. DO NOT WORRY… It is not dirty and you are not going to catch some terrible disease, but it will take time to get used to it. It is very important that the poo and the pee stay separate, so you want to make sure you use it properly so there are no issues with smell or the emptying process. If used correctly, the pee will be diverted to your grey water tank, or you will need to empty a canister every few days if you do not have it diverted. I prefer the diverting technique since it makes life a lot easier. Depending on how much you poo and how much toilet paper you use, you will most likely be emptying that bucket every 6 weeks to 4 months (this is what the companies report, but my experience has been more like every 1-2 months).
If you are parked and stationary, you can create a space where you can turn your poo into compost. The process takes about a year (don’t quote me on that) and is dependent upon how hot your compost gets, in addition to a variety of other factors. If you are not stationary and are traveling, you will not be able to create a humanure pile and will need to find an appropriate waste management station that will take it. I have taken our full bucket to a porta potty business and found that they are happy to empty it or $35, which is less than our sewer bill ever was.
Women, you’re next. I’m not going to lie, it occasionally gets a little tricky for us. The majority of the month everything works fine, but period time gets a little more complicated. I use a Diva Cup for my monthly as it creates zero waste and is the most comfortable way I’ve ever dealt with my period. It does however constrict my bladder and I’ve come to realize that it’s harder to get pee to go in the designated area unless I do a little “pee dance”. Emptying the Diva cup also gets interesting. I prefer to empty mine in the shower, but when that isn’t an option, I do it over the toilet. Since it’s a space that is covered in white plastic, it can get messy. I’ve learned to keep a spray bottle under the sink filled with water, tea tree oil and lavender (or vinegar if I’m getting really serious) and spray it all down when I’m done. Super easy! All in all, the compost toilet takes some work, but is such a worthwhile solution to the excessive waste of water when flushing traditional toilets. It also gives you the freedom to travel with your van, tiny house or bus wherever and whenever you want without the mess of a black water tank and without sacrificing any modern amenities/necessities.