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Thread: Compost Toilets

  1. #1
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    Default Compost Toilets

    It's come up on a few other threads, so I thought I'd start a thread about composting toilets.

    The field of beekeeping brings in a wide array of people. Composting toilets appeal to those looking to be more self sufficient or the environmentally conscious. There is a healthy overlap with beekeeping.

    So is there anyone on Beesource who uses a composting toilet beside me?

    How I do it: I have a wooden cabinet with a toilet seat on top in the bathroom next to the porcelain toilet. Inside the cabinet is a five gallon bucket. Next to the cabinet is a galvanized feed bucket full of sawdust. Outside is a composting bin made of old used pallets. It's about a meter cubed on the inside. Stuck in the pile is a long probe dial thermometer.

    When you do your business in the sawdust toilet as it is called, you cover it over with sawdust. When the bucket is full, it is kept in a storage shed until most of the collection of about a dozen buckets has filled. When all the buckets are ready to be emptied, I open up the pile with a compost fork and pile all the new deposits on there. It ends up being a couple of cubic feet. Lately, I have also been emptying out my chicken coop at the same time and intermixing the litter on the pile too. I lightly scrub the buckets with rainwater and a dedicated toilet brush and empty them onto the pile. Then I throw on a generous layer of rotting hay, insert the thermometer and it's good to go. The buckets sit under the eave of a little shed where they are sterilized by rainwater.

    Sterilization of the waste takes place by the heating of the pile by thermophilic bacteria. I've discovered that the chicken litter adds enough energy to boost the pile temperature as high as 155F for around two weeks. This is higher and longer than is required to kill pathogens. Without the chicken litter, the pile tends to have temperatures around 135-145 which is still quite sufficient. After the last deposit has been added to the pile, it is allowed to sit for a full year before being excavated as an added measure of safety. Though some people are concerned about what crops the compost is placed upon, I am not. I used it on everything, however, I have decided to quit gardening for the time being so it will go on the grapes and banana trees.

    This last year, I purchased my own electric powered wood chipper from Patriot Products. It allows me to make all of my sawdust (wood chips run through the leaf shredder) on site from my own brush and tree trimmings. I did a test with a Kill-a-watt meter and found that a 96 gallon trash can full only uses about 1.5 kWh of electricity.

    Benefits: Makes you much more self sufficient. You can cut your water usage by a third or more. I save about 1000 gallons per month. It produces high quality compost. Reduces load to your septic tank or eliminates the need for one. Your mother-in-law will likely visit less often. Teach yourself and your children about resource and waste stewardship.

    Drawbacks: Need a source of sawdust, but can use other things like rice hulls. Work required, ferrying buckets, getting sawdust, and maintaining the pile.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  2. #2
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    Garland, Bladen County, NC, USA
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    I helped install a Swedish one... up in Hardwick, MASS... many years ago. It was quite interesting... as one did not clean it out until everything was composted. It did require a house with a basement... it had a certain shape to it that caused air to flow down into it and allowed the composting to occur in the container in the basement. This guy was really ahead of his time... and 30 years later... I believe he still uses it...
    “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled.” - The Quran

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    Yes, that would be the Clivus Multrum. They are still in use and still produced and sold. I would be happy to have one, but don't have a basement.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  4. #4
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    Sep 2011
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    Strafford, NH, USA
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    I think I saw you post this on another forum, Backyard Chickens maybe...?

    At any rate, I have used a few of these in the past but all of them comercially built. One was a faberglass unit that comosted in place, it was at a friends cabin the the Lake Tahoe area where there was no available soil to built a septic system. The other one recently used was/is at the Society for Protection of NH Forests, it is a deep system built down into the ground below their facility. Using both had the feel of "hanging" out in the breeze presumably due to the down draft of air used for odor control.

    I don't know that I would ever have one at my main house, if I ever have a cabin in the woods maybe. It is enough for me to clean out the D-box on my septic system every year or two.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    I'm not on Backyard Chickens, but I've been thinking about it.

    No breeze in this one, just a thump rather than a splash.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    Hhhmmm, don't know where I read it then. Might have been someone else, but they kept their mother in-law away the same way ;-) and used a shed and rain water much like you do

    How long does it take to fill a bucket, and what of the othe products... do you have a sign posted to keep the ladies from adding to the pile?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    Someone else might have posted it, I have blogged about it and done several presentations. Nice to hear about my work getting out there.

    It depends on who is filling it. My wife can fill it in less than two days. I can go a week by myself. Anything that is biodegradable is fair game. I recently had a chicken death and had to compost her but I put her directly in the pile. We try to compost paper and food in our worm bin, but high protein and fat foods go into the toilet. It completely eliminates the need for a garbage disposal. At one point were doing compostable diapers but they are kind of expensive. I have also composted items of cotton clothing. I composted a pair of boxers to see what would happen. All that was left was the stitching and elastic wasteband perfectly preserved. I've also composted a squirrel. I'd like to compost the neighbor's dogs, but I guess I must do with the poo they leave in my yard.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    I have chickens who get all the high end scraps, worms to feed all my junky scraps and my composting consists mostly of what ever is on hand when I make up my fall leaf piles (chick coop clean out, garden wastes, etc). One big pile a year turns into "leaf mould" compost ~8 months later.

  9. #9
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    Sep 2008
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    GREENWOOD INDIANA USA
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    I use one in a rural "house". It has no running water or electricity, and we are only there on the weekends. We use Peat Moss rather then sawdust, because it's much easier to get locally. Since we're only there on weekends, it takes 4-6 weeks to fill a five gallon bucket. What amazes us is the fact that it has no smell.

  10. #10
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    Kingsport, Sullivan, Tennessee
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    Search youtube for "humanure". -james

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    I want to make up an composting toilet outhouse, outback near the beeyard and garden.
    “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    Quote Originally Posted by JOHNYOGA2 View Post
    What amazes us is the fact that it has no smell.
    My proof of concept period was during the time my wife was pregnant with our first child.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    What amazes us is the fact that it has no smell.
    Many years ago I can distinctly remember sticking my nose down into my friends Clivus multrum (after it had been in use about 1 year) just to see what I could smell..... NADA!
    “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled.” - The Quran

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    We recently purchased a lifetime lease in the Hogskin Valley Landowners Association, wich is part of Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center (NarrowRidge.org). It is a sustainable living community, everyone there is off grid and uses composting toilets. We are just living there on the weekends for now in a 10X30 cabin. I have used alot of my neighbors big commercial compost toilets and new they didnt smell but I was worried that our 5 gallon bucket method might be a little to smelly in that little bitty cabin. well aftter 3 days last weekend I was very pleasently suprised that there is no foul smell at all!!! Our flush toilet in the city smells worse!

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    I have always wanted to start one of those. I really want to be offgrid too.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    we are so excited to be moving there......it will be a big transition!!! our bees will be moving there this spring. then we will be starting our earthship style honey house, hopefully in 6 to 8 years we will have our full size earthship built and will be debt free and full time beekeepers!!!!!! our website is under construction but hopefully soon you will be able to follow us on this amazing adventure @ TheBurnsandTheBees.com

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    What are your local health and sanitation codes for such a method?
    How far does it have to be from the local water well for domestic puposes?
    Ernie
    My websitehttp://bees4u.com/

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    From hipbee "Our flush toilet in the city smells worse!"


    Perhaps time to flush?

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    Quote Originally Posted by BEES4U View Post
    What are your local health and sanitation codes for such a method?
    How far does it have to be from the local water well for domestic puposes?
    I consider myself to be in a regulatory dead zone. I'm not operating a composting toilet inside the house, and there's no law against composting it, only selling it to the public, which I'm not doing.

    You must check your own state laws.

    As far as water, we have karst topography which means limestone with a plethora of subsurface conduits. I know of no wells in the vicinity and we and our neighbors all have rural water (city water except ten times as expensive.) Furthermore, I haven't seen any evidence of runoff at all. I build the base so that any seepage should infiltrate directly below into the ground where, coincidentally, there is a septic tank lateral line just a few feet below.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  20. #20
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    Jun 2011
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    Statesville, North Carolina
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    Default Re: Compost Toilets

    Just out of curiosity (I might be making one of the 5 gallon bucket ones) what controls the odors?

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