Why use a composting toilet?
As the Tiny Living movement grows, interest in composting toilets is growing. There are two main reasons people are interested in composting toilets.
First, for a lot of tiny lifestyles, a composting toilet provides an easier way to dispose of sewage. Especially for people with nomadic lifestyles, sewage is a waste material that needs to be disposed of, and composting toilets are a convenient solution to do so.
Second, for many folks living on- and off-grid, composting toilets can be a means to live a more environmentally and financially sustainable life. For those who have the ability to complete the composting cycle, a composting toilet can reduce waste and provide valuable fertilizer to use as a soil amendment.
Composting Toilets are a Solution for Nomads
For nomads, people living full-time in structures that move like RVs, skoolies or vans, using a composting toilet can mean not having to rely on dump stations to dispose of sewage. Where compost bins are not available, solids can be bagged and put in the trash, and liquids are dumped in public toilets or on the ground where appropriate. While landfilling your solids is not an ideal arrangement, it can be far more convenient than hauling your entire home to a dump station to empty a black tank.
Eliminating the need for a black tank can also simplify plumbing for a nomad’s mobile space. A traditional RV toilet needs to be located directly over the black tank, or use a macerator pump to move sewage to the tank. A self-contained composting toilet can be placed anywhere without regard to placement of water tanks. A small space like a van might not have room for a black tank, but might have just enough space for a self-contained composting toilet.
Odors are also an issue for traditional RV-style and other self-contained chemical toilet designs. Black tanks smell bad, and need to be heavily treated to keep the smell to a bearable level. Stepping into an RV that uses a chemical toilet, you’ll usually be greeted with a faint chemical sewage odor. A properly managed composting toilet has no odor. The addition of an exhaust fan can eliminate odors from composting toilets even when they are not perfectly managed. The fan will even help exhaust odors produced during the use of the toilet, which is more than even a traditional household flush toilet can do. In small spaces, eliminating toilet odors can be a huge benefit.
Composting Toilets for Off-Grid Use
For stationary off-grid users, composting toilets can simplify plumbing significantly. In addition to eliminating plumbing from the toilet, composting can mean not having to install a septic tank and have it pumped periodically. This can save on building time and financial costs. Not requiring the use of a septic tank might also allow building on land that would not pass a perc test.
For emergencies, temporary communities like concerts and festivals, or refugee camps, composting toilets can offer a means to manage large amounts of sewage with minimal infrastructure or financial investment.
Completing the Cycle
Those who have space for compost bins can complete composting cycle to produce valuable fertilizer for use in gardening or farming, whether on- or off-grid.
Producing your own fertilizer for use as a soil amendment can have significant financial benefits for those working their own land. For very little initial investment, the fertilizer produced can significantly increase crop yields without the additional cost of purchasing commercial fertilizer.
Reusing nutrients produced by a composting toilet also has added environmental benefits. Traditional approaches send sewage to a treatment plant to be chemically treated, and separated into sludge to be trucked to landfills and nutrient-heavy liquids to be discharged into waterways. The environmental and infrastructure costs of this approach are significant. Composting and reusing beneficial nutrients for gardening or farming eliminates the need for chemical treatment, landfilling, and releasing of contaminants into waterways. It can also reduce the nutrient runoff associated with commercial fertilizers.
Compost from a composting toilet can also be mixed with food waste in the compost bin, further minimizing the amount of waste that needs to be landfilled.
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