At first glance, a composting toilet seems eerily similar to the outhouses of centuries past, leaving many of those that hear of them entirely turned-off to this surprisingly green alternative. However, it is important to recognize that the modern composting toilet is as advanced and as user-friendly as its flushing counterpart. In an era where “out of sight, out of mind” is the status quo, flushing toilets are the obvious choice, yet few have discovered the benefits that an on-site composting system can bring to both the environment and your wallet.
A composting toilet is any type of toilet system that takes human waste, dehydrates it, and then breaks it down into organic compounds that can be used as soil additives. Very little, if any, water is used, so a connection to an expensive sewer line isn’t necessary. Furthermore, an extractor fan installed inside the toilet works to keep any unpleasant odors at bay, leaving a clean, pleasant, and eco-friendly bathroom.
When learning about composting toilets, it is important to recognize that there are two main types, each with different composting methods. A toilet with a batch system employs a number of rotating containers that are sealed for composting, and switched-out as one becomes full, and a new bin is then made at the ready. There are typically three or four bins in the cycle, and by the time a full cycle is complete, the first bin is ready to be emptied and refilled. Of the two, a batch system is typically more expensive, but allows for less frequent emptying of the compost. For this reason, a batch system is best for people that choose to install a composting toilet in a vacation home, a country cottage, or any other place where they don’t spend the majority of their time.
The second form of toilet is a continual process system. As its name eludes, a continual process system skips the rotating binsfor a single large tank that converts human waste into compost as it moves deeper down, and is prepared for harvesting. Complete decomposition takes between six and twelve months, depending on the conditions inside the tank. In both forms, elements can be added that breakdown the organic waste quicker and more evenly, including mixing blades, air injection systems, and the addition of worms or microorganism decomposers. Evaporators are also necessary to ensure that the waste gets sufficient oxygen from the air.
Switching from a standard flush toilet to one of these composting toilets proves beneficial for the user in many ways. For many a consumer, it is nice to know that they are helping to save the environment by reducing the amount of water they use, and recycling the waste they produce, but the most important factor is the amount of money they will save. Of the 70+ gallons of water the average American uses per day, nearly one-third of that is used to flush toilets. When considering how much money is effectively flushed town the toilet when gallons are converted to dollars, the reason for converting to a waterless system becomes clear. Furthermore, the average American household pays over $500 in sewer fees per year. By disconnecting from the sewer lines, your money stays in your pocket. The added benefit of having free composting material around will also help you save at the garden supply store.
Now, it is also necessary to recognize that composting toilets aren’t the best choice for every type of bathroom. Ideally, a toilet will serve a household, or a very small business, as it’s not yet adapted to take-on the high volume of waste that is produced by large businesses, shopping malls, and high-rise housing complexes. On the contrary they are perfect for campsites, outposts, and places with shallow bedrock or high water tables, as they require no connection to a sewer line, and little if ay digging into the earth.
For more information on composing toilets, or to find a retailer, check out the following links
www.compostingtoilet.org – A great source for aerobic decomposing practices
www.biolet.com – One of the largest composting toilet manufacturers
www.envirolet.com – Another great manufacturer