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You’ve Built Your Composting Toilet – What Do You Do Now?

Operating a composting toilet doesn’t require any special training. When you begin to use your new composting toilet for the first time, it is a good idea to cover the bottom of the composting vault with a few inches of good compost or rich soil. This adds the beneficial organisms that inoculate the system. It also provides a medium for the absorption of liquids

How is odor controlled

After each use, get into the habit of using a “dry flush” cover material. The best recipe is one part compost or good soil to one part dry carbon material such as straw, wood shavings, bean chaff, peat moss, rice husks, etc. Sometimes a small portion of ash can be added. The dry carbon material acts as a “bulking agent” and helps prevent compaction of the contents.

wood shavings
Wood shavings by Slavomir Ulicny from FreeImages

An ideal cover material is also biologically active (i.e. high in microbial activity). The more active the material, the better it will be at absorbing odors from your compost toilet. For instance, sawdust from woodworking shops is not recommended since this material is completely dry and devoid of biological activity. On the other hand, sawdust from sawmills is still moist, rich in microbes, and partially decomposed making it a great cover material.

The addition of adequate cover material is key to avoiding unwanted odors and insects such as flies. Develop the habit of immediately applying a sufficient layer of cover material so that no liquid or solid waste is visible. You should only be able to see cover material inside your toilet.

Just remember “one scoop per poop” to cover fresh deposits and it will probably aerate adequately.

Is additional aeration required?

If needed, aeration of your composting toilet can be further encouraged by adding interior mixers, grates, air channels, etc. However, these tend to be in the way when removing contents and present a maintenance nightmare if they need repair. Usually their liabilities outweigh benefits.

If a composting unit is operating efficiently and is well ventilated, there should be no noticeable odor detectable from above.

Do you need heat to kill pathogens?

Heat is a great destroyer of pathogens as is the passage of time. In continuous composting systems, the composting pile will typically reach temperatures of over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. To be certain, a compost thermometer can be used to monitor the temperature. In cold climates, a submersible aquarium heater, light bulb in a fire-proof box, waste heat from a dryer, or a heat tape can be installed to increase the temperature if needed. The amount of electricity required to operate a heat source is not great and could be powered by a small solar panel.

Is special toilet paper required?

Although no special paper is required, unbleached recycled toilet paper is recommended.

Can food scraps be added to the Composting Toilet?

Food Scraps
Food scraps by B.B. from FreeImages

Vegetable food scraps can be added. However, meat, grease, and dairy products should be avoided.

How long does it take to cure the compost?

From the time us first begin using your composting toilet, it will take approximately two years before you have a useable compost. One year to fill the bin and one year to cure the compost product.

Can the finished compost be used on Gardens?

Flowers by Mira Pavlakovic from FreeImages

Humanure can be applied to edible gardens; however, if you have any concerns about contamination, only use it on ornamental plants or have a sample tested by a lab.

Conclusion – Composting Toilets Save Water

Composting toilets are an environmentally friendly solution for water conservation. They are a sanitary alternative to pit latrines, are more economical than mound systems, and produce garden quality compost for soil enrichment. Dry composting toilets save water and improve the environment by providing an alternative to flush toilets.

Additional articles:

Composting Toilets – Decisions, Decisions: an overview of the decisions required during the selection or design of a composting toilet system.

Composting Toilets Save Water and Improve the Environment – An Alternative to Flush Toilets: discusses the design of composting toilet systems.

Book Recommendations:

The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure by Joseph Jenkins

The Composting Toilet System Book: A Practical Guide to Choosing, Planning and Maintaining Composting Toilet Systems, an Alternative to Sewer and Septic Systems by David Del Porto & Carl Steinfeld

See more books about composting here

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