When we look at our lives hoping to make a change that will benefit our wallet and the world, our eyes rarely rest on the toilet. While many people have accepted and embraced the idea of using environmentally-friendly bathroom products and cleaning solutions, the toilet itself has – in large part – evaded intense scrutiny.
Do we have any alternatives?
Is there be a better way to get rid of waste than flushing it away with clean water?
The alternative has been widely used and accepted in the Eastern reaches of the globe for generations and is slowly making its way to us in the West.
The compositing toilet is a waterless human waste disposal device that relies on the natural process of decomposition by bacteria and fungi and evaporation to convert matter to compost that can then be used for gardening or environmental enrichment.
How can you change your budget and your world with a composting toilet?
The use of a compositing toilet instead of a flushing toilet can yield many benefits for both you and the environment. Many times, composting toilets are chosen out of necessity when an area has a low water supply or no sewage treatment plant nearby.
Even if waste facilities are available, many families have found that the use of a composting toilet is the best financial decision for them, not only cutting the cost of water usage but also avoiding maintenance cost and labor on a septic system.
The environment benefits when we opt for composting toilets as well. Composting toilets nearly eliminate the release of human waste and bacteria into natural bodies of water, whether on purpose or by accident, fostering a thriving marine ecosystem.
Without the need for sewer pipelines to be run underground, the soil balances can also remain stable and healthy, and there is never a concern about breaking or deteriorating sewer pipes, which can disrupt the environment and lead to a pricey mess in a homeowner’s yard.
What makes up a compositing toilet?
According to a bulletin published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the key components of a composting toilet include: a composting chamber, a ventilation system, a liquid collection system, and access to the finished compost. The required set-up is simple because the toilet relies on natural processes, rather than man-made plumbing, to dispose of human waste.
The composting chamber can be built above or below the ground, depending on your preference and home layout. Excess water slows the decomposition of human waste, which is up to 75% – 90% water, when the water content of the waste deposit is greater than the oxygen in the compost chamber. To prevent this disruption in the compost balance, a liquid collection system is needed. Ventilation within a compositing toilet system is key.
A 25:1 carbon-nitrogen ratio is needed for efficient composting, with oxygen being required for bacterial and fungal functioning. Temperature control is also an important factor to monitor since cooler temperatures usually mean longer composting time, so the composting toilet should be constructed to promote optimal decomposition temperatures.
Is the final product of a compositing toilet safe for use?
Experts agree that final compost should not be too dry to the touch, but it should also not be soggy; squeezing a handful of compost should leave only a few drops of water on your hand. Sawdust, wood chips, or similar materials can be added to maintain an appropriate moisture level when waste is decomposing.
You may also need to manually mix the compost to promote decomposition, but this is rare if toilet dimensions are on point and temperatures are stable. Many composting experts suggest using a separate chamber or system for urine because of its ammonia content, which can inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi needed to produce compost from waste. If the consistency of the finished compost is correct, it indicates that the compositing toilet has finished its work, and the final product should be safe to use as fertilizer or soil.
The International Organization for Standardization drafted a standard of practice measure for the use of compositing toilets in 2015 and outlined regulations for operation and construction. Apart from making sure that the composting toilet meets the standards required for safety and for function along with federal and state guidelines, there is very little that you have to worry about in terms of the compost itself.
According to the EPA, the finished product of a compositing toilet, given appropriate time depending on the temperature, is safe to handle and should not produce an odor. In fact, compositing toilets and their finished product is so safe, the EPA bulletin reported that “operation and maintenance (O&M) for composting toilet systems does not require trained technicians or treatment plant operators.”
What do you do with the compost?
The finished product of the composting toilet can be used for many things. In addition to being safe for fertilization, soil conditioning, and ground enrichment, many owners of compositing toilets recommend using the compost on trees and shrubs. In fact, both the ISO and EPA recommend constructing a compositing toilet so that the waste can immediately be used to nourish trees strategically planted on or around the composting chamber.
We do have the power to make conscious decisions that change the world, protect the environment, and improve our finances. The compositing toilet is definitely one simple, organic, cost-effective way to make that decision. Families that make the decision to investigate and potentially adopt a waterless toilet over their flushing toilet can also gain a new sense of independence and self-reliance. Composting toilets will likely becoming increasingly common as we all focus on sustainability for the future.