Switching to a waterless toilet eliminates the need for septic tanks and fields.
No black water = no septic treatment.
Now, instead of human waste being a burdensome material requiring millions of gallons of precious fresh water and intensive sanitation processes, it becomes a productive resource that provides a high nutrient medium to trees and ornamental gardens.
If your toilet was installed before 1994 it probably uses 13 or more litres (3 gallons) of pristine water per flush.
In one year a family of 4 (at 5 flushes each per day) will flush 95,000 litres of water that's almost 25,000 US gallons (over 20,000 Imperial gallons).
A shabby way to treat a precious resource that is essential for the continuation of life on the planet.
A low flow toilet uses on average 1.5 gallons of water per flush. For a family of 4 that translates into well over 10,000 gallons of fresh water per year... flushed down the toilet.
To put things into perspective that same family will drink about 2,700 litres (730 gallons) in a year.Even with a low flow toilet, that's 14 times more water being flushed down the toilet than the human population drinks. Yikes!
For the most part there is no difference in how the toilet is used until you come to the "flushing" part.
With a compost toilet, after you "go" a small amount (2 handfuls) of dry organic material is sprinkled over the contents. This material absorbs excess moisture and therefore reduces odour. The material can consist of sawdust, peat, coco coir, shredded paper, chopped dried leaves, chopped straw or hay.
Whatever cover material you choose remember that the finer it is the less loft it has. Loft (or fluffiness) allows air to circulate through the material which isn't what you want in a cover material. The finer the product the better coverage and odour control it will have.
A bucketful of the cover product must always be available beside the toilet.
Cover materials are the dry, organic materials that are used to cover the excrement. Covering is a necessary part of using a compost toilet for moisture control, odour management and to give the product the proper balance and bulk for the composting process.
Cover product should have a fine, consistency for the best results. When considering the environmental impact of one material over another think about accessibility, availability in your area (local products have less negative impact than products that are transported over distances) and renewability.
Factor in issues like transportation and packaging and processing methods when choosing your cover product. It's possible that seasonal changes will make different products available in your location at different times of the year.
Following are some choices of cover material:
Follow the directions or guidelines of your toilet manufacturer if yours is a ready made model. If you're making your own composting toilet there is a wider variety of cover materials you can try.
The amount you use is determined by the nose. Generally, 2 handfulls should cover the deposit leaving no discernible odour. If you need much more than that to get rid of the smell, try another product. The container will fill up too fast if you're using a lot of cover and you'll be forever emptying the composting toilet.
Toilet paper goes in to the composter as do paper towels and the rolls on which they're packaged. Sanitary napkins are not great but they will compost, although they'll leave bits of plastic in your finished product that must be removed.
The difference is in the overall management of the excrement and, of course, the fact that a composting toilet can be installed inside the house. Outhouses and pit latrines are just a hole in the ground where the human waste accumulates without moisture or heat management. This can allow pathogens to thrive and leech into nearby groundwater and sensitive eco systems. And I probably don't have to tell you about the smell.
Composting toilets are structures that support managed aerobic decomposition and provide the essential balance of moisture, oxygen, heat and organic material to encourage the natural and rapid breakdown of the materials into beneficial elements. The aerobic (aerobic refers to "the presence of oxygen") composting process kills potential pathogens with heat while "good" bacteria and microorganisms that tolerate high temperatures work to break the contents down. And all of this with no odour.
The material recovered when the composting process is complete is a pathogen free growing medium with a high nutrient value. It looks, smells and functions like any other compost.
As with any aerobic compost there are certain elements that are required for success. Oxygen, organic material, heat and moisture must be kept at certain levels. Electric models may be better at maintaining the ideal heat level for composting.
If you're experiencing bad odour, the contents of your toilet are probably too wet. Add a little more absorbent, organic material. When properly managed there will be no unpleasant odour from your toilet and the finished product should smell earthy...just like dirt.
View the following videos for ideas and information regarding composting toilets. We are not necessarily promoting any of these products, the videos are here for information purposes only and to show you 2 very different composting toilets.
Although a little more work and thought go into the functioning of a composting toilet they are one of our most efficient ways to save water. We hope that one day everyone will be sitting upon a composting throne while contemplating their next green footstep.