It’s all down the drain… or is it?

Since I’ve been asked some questions about the composting toilet I built, about how it works and what’s the goal of it, I decided to share some of the research I’ve been doing. Warning: I will not sugarcoat this topic, so if you don’t want to read about shit, just stop reading.

So what’s the difference between the good old outhouse and a composting toilet?

The outhouse was – as the name suggests – outside, so the problem of it being smelly didn’t really exist or at least wasn’t a focus. You just dug a hole, put a “house” over it and used it until it was full. In the early days they probably just dug a different hole at some other place. Later on it was emptied regularly.

The composting toilet is in some ways not that different, but the focus and intent is. For example one of the main goals is to conserve water, and by extension not water down the excrements so that they cannot be used for anything other than be treated in a plant with a high input of energy. To go even further, the idea is to create/close cycles in nature. So by composting your excrements, it is – with time – converted into valuable soil that can be used to grow food again.

That is probably the part that worries the most people: “But diseases can be transmitted and all kinds of stuff…” – Well, I can only rely the information that I found during my research, but it all depends on the time and quality of the composting process. I would probably still not use it for my vegetables but for bushes and trees instead, but that’s only because I didn’t go into the nitty gritty science of that topic (yet).

If that’s the part that worries you, there is always the possibility to just collect it in a (thick and preferrably not see-through) bag and throw it in the trash. With this solution, no natural cycles were closed, but at least the other goals that I mentioned can be achieved.

I also briefly mentioned the smell before… well, I read in a few articles, that a big part of the smell comes from the combination of urine with excrements. I did a small field test about a year ago and did notice a big difference. Having said this, I also feel the need to mention, that even though it does smell a lot less, it still smells. So it is imperative to always close the lid and preferrably have a way to ventilate the area of collection.

To achive this separation of urine and excrements, I used a special toilet seat produced by a company called “Separett” that offers all kinds of different non-water toilet solutions. From a very simple toilet seat like I used to a high-tech composting toilet.

In my first few weeks of usage, what surprised me the most, is the ratio between urine and excrement. I do need to empty my urine bucket almost every other day, whereas the excrement-bucket is still only half full after a few weeks. In the beginning, the smell was not really detectable, but now after about 3 weeks it seems to be time to clear out (even though it’s still not too bad). And I don’t have any ventilation yet!

Does anyone of you have different experiences? I’d love to read about them.

Shit

After sleeping in my new little house for two nights in a row, it became apparent pretty soon that the next thing before really moving in had to be the composting toilet. There is a house right next to my new home where I can use the toilet, but it’s winter, and I do want to have some luxury…

I found some leftover wood in the attic so I started to build my wooden box for the toilet. The separating toilet seat I had already ordered and received months ago from Separett .

So I started to build the box for the toilet. I’m sure that any carpenter would be horrified by the way I did it, but being pretty or doing it the “correct” way was not high on my list of priorities. I just wanted it to be stable and do the job. First, I built the frame.

toilet frame step 1 toilet frame finished

After that, I just screwed on the leftover wooden plates on all sides but the top. I thought about building one side to be like a door, but then decided against it (out of laziness probably) and try it with just the hole on top.

composting toilet box

The tricky part was the hole for the ventilation shaft and the hole for the toilet seat. I didn’t want the seat to be moving around on top, but couldn’t make the hole too small because – since I didn’t build a door on the side – the bucket needed to fit through there. So it’s not especially pretty, but it should do the job.

composting toilet box

And that’s how it looked in the end:

composting toilet in a box composting toilet in a box

I’ll let you know how it’s working out in a while…