Sunday, May 8, 2016

Basic composting toilets; Part 1-The toilet

Image from
Spend anytime on the tiny house and off-grid facebook groups or forums and eventually the discussion will center around toilets. In fact, it is usually one of the first questions asked of tiny house folk by those in conventional homes. We have become accustom to doing our "business" in a white porcelain throne and evacuating the "mess" with gallons of fresh water. However, there is another way and it is ecologically better for the environment and cheaper for the homeowner. Introducing the composting toilet. 

The most basic composting toilet consists of a 5 gallon bucket, some form of composting media and a toilet lid. Heck, you could even forego the toilet lid and just use a 5 gallon bucket lid to cap the bucket at the end of your "duty". 

Shown to the right is my first composting toilet in my tiny house. It is a bucket I found by the side of the road and a lid I removed from a discarded toilet. Cost: ZERO. I did not have access to running water so I used a plastic bag to line my bucket. Some single men will keep the simple bucket but most "civilized folk" will choose to enclose the bucket in some sort of cabinet, like shown above (this unit is marketed by Typically, these basic composting toilets will cost $300 or less; most much less. As the construction on my tiny home progressed, so did the "fancyness" of my toilet enclosure.

There is also a slew of commercial composting toilets that range in price from approximately $500 to over $2000. I am unable to review these units because I have no experience with them. However, Ariel in tiny house Fy Nyth has reviewed her Nature's Head; follow this link. Macy of Minimotives has also reviewed her composting toilet, the Separett; follow this link.  To be honest, I would like to have a Nature's Head composting toilet. However, at the current time, I have other uses for $1000.
Nature's Head Composting Toilet
I will not go into the science, theory and description of composting toilets; that has been covered very well by Joseph Jenkins in the Humanure Handbook. Most of us shelled out roughly $10 to purchase this book but it is now available free at this link. Most of the actual composting happens in a compost pile. Bucket toilets hold the "stuff" till dumped but the commercial units actually dry out the "stuff" and start the composting process a bit. It is best to separate the urine from the poo; unless you have lost your sense of smell and no one ever visits your domain. Covered poo without urine does not smell; other than a slight smell of earth or sawdust. Dump your 5 gallon bucket when it is nearly full (honestly, you need a bit of room between the bottom of your "bottom" and the top of the "business" in the toilet.  In the next installment of this series, we will discuss composting media.

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