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How Do Composting Toilets Work?

Composting Toilets

In this article we will answer the question how do composting toilets work. By using a composting toilet you can eliminate up to half of your water use and protect your ground water at the same time.

how do composting toilets work

A compost toilet is an odorless environmental solution that can be installed anywhere and fairly easily. The great think about compost toilets is there is no need for plumbing.

In North America alone we flush approximately 7 billion gallons of drinking quality water down the toilet every single day.

This same water, all to often, ends up right back in our lakes and ground water. Composting toilets offer a much better solution to waste treatment. A compost toilet can quickly be installed for about half of what it would cost to install a septic system.

Did you know that over 90% of toilet waste is made up of water content?

Isn’t this kind of funny, we have toilets where we poop in our water. This same water then gets sent down to this treatment plant. The treatment plant has to figure out ways to get the poop out of the water so that we can have drinkable water.

We know that never fully works because the water ends up having traces of all sorts of things like cleaning agents and pharmaceuticals.

At the same time we have to put fertilizers on our crops because we’re eating foods that are taking nutrients out of the soil. Then we use artificial fertilizers and put them back into the soil to get plants to grow. This is not the most optimal solution.

Why don’t we just not poop in the water in the first place?

What is a composting toilet?

A composting toilet is a waterless toilet that uses microbes to breakdown human waste into a nutritious plant fertilizer known as compost. A compositing toilet, also referred to as a dry toilet, started out in Scandinavia and its taking human waste and turning it into a resource.

Once the human waste is broken down it creates an odorless and fluffy compost, reminiscent of what you would see in a garden compost bin.

The end product from the composting toilet should only be used in non-edible garden soils. This is true even though most of the harmful microbes are gone by the time the compost is done decomposing.

How do composting toilets work?

Many people would be put off if you were to tell them you poop in a bucket which essentially how a compositing toilet works. The first thing that they think of is an old smelly portable toilet or an outhouse. And we can understand how such an image would come to mind but a composting toilet doesn’t work like either of these.

If you setup a composting toilet the right way there is almost no smell at all. In fact, you will find that it often smells better than your running toilet. The difference in outhouses and portable toilets compared to a composting toilet is how the waste is broken down.

Decomposition, also known as rotting, is the process by which human waste is broken down into simpler forms of matter. Outhouses and portable toilets breakdown waste using anaerobic decomposition. Anaerobic microbes are slow and leave behind lingering and unpleasant odors.

Composting toilets, on the other hand, breaks down human waste quickly minus the odor using aerobic microbes. Aerobic microbes cannot survive in the presence of oxygen. If there’s an odor or foul smell coming from your composting toilet its not working right.

Succinctly put, composting is nothing more than allowing nature to renew and preserve itself. Decayed organic matter will decompose over time and becomes water or enriched soil.

Unlike the septic system you most familiar with, compost toilets require no flushing. Instead, as mentioned earlier, they depend on aerobic microbes to break down human waste. Instead of flushing, waste is composted with items such as coffee hulls, wood shavings, peat moss, saw dust, leaves, and balk mulch. These help absorb the liquid and reduce the odor.

Building a composting toilet

A good resource to check out for building composting toilets is the Humanure Handbook. It has a ton of excellent tips and tricks about composting toilet systems.

Why should you use a composting toilet system?

The Humanure instructional manual is another great resource to learn all about composting toilets systems and the positive effect they have on our environment. Here are just a few benefits that you will experience if you decide to build your own compost toilet.

  • Decrease in the amount of water consumption
  • No plumbing required and helps save you money
  • Excellent resource for the environment
  • Chemical free
  • Since no water supply is necessary you can be used anywhere
  • Great for camping and hiking trips with friends and family
  • Helps you better live in harmony with nature

Maintaining a composting toilet system

A composting toilet is fairly simple to maintain as long as you remember to not add products that will get rid of the microbes. These microbes are essential in breaking down human waste. So there’s never a need to add any ammonia based or bleach products because you don’t want to kill the good bacteria needed for decomposing.

If you feel you need to add something, baking soda and water are fine because this mixture can assist the microbes with their job of breaking down the waste while not interfering with microbes.

Overall, composting toilets are eco-friendly, affordable and convenient. They help preserve our energy’s resources. There are many third world countries who still don’t have fresh drinking water. By using composting toilets, it means there is more fresh water to be had by everyone.

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