Sometimes we have to go to the bathroom. We all do it. Like Forrest Gump says, “It happens.” In the toilet world, not all toilets are created equal.

Some need a septic setup, and others do not. Flush toilets also need a decent water supply.

People living in alternative housing like RVs, Van conversions, Shipping Container Homes, Remote cabins, Yurts, Shed Conversions, and Tiny Houses don’t always have the luxury of a septic setup or possibly running water. 

Here comes the composting toilet to the rescue! It is a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional flushing toilets. 

Picture this – you do your business, and instead of flushing it away with gallons of water, it gets turned into nutrient-rich compost that can be used to fertilize plants.

No water is needed, unlike traditional toilets. 

Pretty cool, right? It’s not gross, I promise.

So, if you’re looking for a greener way to handle your business or don’t have a septic setup, why not try a composting toilet?

It’s a small change that can make a big difference for your wallet and the planet! 

Table of Contents

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I can earn commissions. If you decide to purchase through my links, it is at no cost to you.

What is a Composting Toilet?

This type of toilet utilizes the natural process of composting to break down waste into usable compost. It is also a waterless toilet, sometimes called a “dry toilet.” 

A few of these toilets use a very small amount of water. I would personally want some water to clean out the bowl after use. 

What is composting?

Composting is an environmentally friendly way to create nutrient-rich soil by combining organic materials like food scraps, yard waste, and human waste. 

Microorganisms break down the organic matter, resulting in a dark, crumbly, and earthy-smelling substance to be used to fertilize plants and enrich soil. 

composting

Why are people getting a composting toilet?

Many people use this option for off-grid life, camping trips, or alternative houses. Some of these toilets are also being used in rural areas in developing countries or places where utilities are harder to access.

Composting toilets provide the feel of a modern-day outhouse.

Because they do not require a sewerage system or water source, many people are using them in their alternative living space. 

buying a toilet

Main Types of Composting Toilets 

Single and Multi-Chamber Toilets

They come in two main types:

  • single-chamber
  • multi-chamber toilets

Single-chamber toilets have only one chamber where the liquids and solids go through the composing process.

Multi-chamber toilets have separate chambers for solid waste and liquid waste. This separation helps facilitate the composting process and prevents smells.

This multi-chamber setup is called a urine diverter. 

Self-contained composting toilets vs. Central units

Self-contained units are standalone units that contain both the toilet bowl and the composting chamber.

These toilets are commonly used in small spaces, such as RVs and tiny houses.

Central composting toilets are great for larger buildings or communal settings. They connect multiple bathroom fixtures to a single composting unit, which is usually located away from the toilets. 

How To Use a Composting Toilet?

First, you must ensure the toilet is properly set up and ventilated. This helps promote the composting process and minimize smells.

When using the toilet, you can either sit or squat.

After each use, it is important to cover the waste with a suitable compost material, such as sawdust or peat moss, to keep it odor-free.

If you are using a multi-chamber model, the urine will be captured in the front and the solid in the back. 

How do composting toilets work?

It separates liquid and solid waste and uses natural processes to turn them into compost. You add materials like sawdust or peat moss to help break down the solids.

A ventilation system speeds up the composting and controls the smelly situation. 

Do You Have to Empty a Composting Toilet?

These toilets require you to remove the fully composted material and empty the liquid in order to clean it.

The frequency you’ll need to empty it depends on the size and capacity of the composting chamber and the number of users. 

Generally, it needs to be emptied every few months. 

5 Easy Steps to Emptying a Composting Toilet

This is just a reminder that you’ll want to wear gloves and wash your hands afterward! 😝

  1. Remove the Tray or Bin: Most units have a removable composting tray or bin. Carefully slide it out.
  2. Check Compost: Ensure the compost looks like soil and doesn’t smell bad. If it’s not fully composted, it may need more time.
  3. Transfer to Compost Pile: If you have a compost pile, you can add the contents there for further composting. Some people also use compostable bags for more effortless transfer.
  4. Clean the Tray: Clean the tray using a compost-safe cleaner before returning it.
  5. Add New Material and Replace Tray: Refill the empty tray with a layer of bulking material like sawdust, peat moss, or coconut coir, and then slide the tray back into the toilet.
compost

5 Places to Empty a Composting Toilet

  1. Compost Bin or Pile: If you have a dedicated compost pile and the compost from the toilet is fully processed, you can add it to the pile for further composting.
  2. Garden Beds: You can use your compost as a soil conditioner for non-edible plants and ornamental gardens. Make sure the compost is fully cured to eliminate any pathogens.
  3. Waste Facility: Some municipalities have waste facilities that accept compost. 
  4. Burial: Sometimes, you can bury the compost in a hole at least 8 inches deep. This should be done away from water sources and not used on edible plants.
  5. Compostable Bags: If you’re on the move, like camping, you can use compostable bags to hold the compost until you can dispose of it properly. Find the bags on Amazon –> Composting Bags
composting bag

Is a Composting Toilet Worth It?

They are a solid choice if you’re into being green, saving some green, and skipping a sewerage system.

Did you know?

The average toilet uses about 2 gallons per flush.

They use less water than your average toilet, saving up to 3,000 – 4,000 gallons a year per person. That’s a big deal.

Average water usage of toilet-min

6 Advantages of Composting Toilets

1. Saving Water

These toilets can save water and reduce water bills. 

2. Fewer Odors

These toilets are designed to minimize the smell. The composting process effectively breaks down organic matter and reduces unpleasant smells. Many systems are equipped with ventilation systems to control odors further.

3. No Need for a Black Tank

Composting toilets eliminate the need for a black tank, a common component of traditional toilets in RVs and boats. Black tanks can be bulky and require regular emptying. If you do not have to carry a black tank, you can use that space for more function and storage in your small living space.

4. Free Plant Food

Composting toilets produce nutrient-rich compost that can be used as fertilizer for plants and gardens.

5. Eco-Friendly Waste

Composting toilets helps minimize environmental impact by converting waste into a valuable resource.

Composting toilets reduce the energy and resources required for conventional waste management by diverting waste from water treatment systems.

6. Simple Installation

They are relatively easy to install and can be plumbed into an existing plumbing system or used as standalone units.

Some composting toilets are designed for DIY installation, while others may require professional installation.

You must ensure your hose pipe is on properly and the toilet is on level ground. 

What are the Disadvantages of a Composting Toilet?

Cost

The upfront cost is higher compared to a flush toilet. That is just if you are comparing toilet to toilet.

You have to add other things like water usage and sewer system to compare the costs against each other. 

Cleaning Out

You must clean the waste when it is full, which means getting your hands dirty – a little bit. This also is where you have to be proactive when it is full instead of waiting till you can’t hold it to realize the toilet is full. 

i have to the bathroom

Improper installation

If the unit is not installed properly, it can produce an odor. You must ensure your hose pipe is on the right and the toilet is on level ground.

Surely you do not want to have the device tip over!

Regulations on dumping the leftover waste

While there is no law outlawing composting human waste, dumping it may be a different story. You have to be mindful of where you will be emptying the solid. The liquid should be relatively easy. 

Different Components of a Composting Toilet

Toilet

The toilet component is similar to a regular flush toilet in appearance and functionality. There is also a toilet seat and seat cover, much like a traditional toilet.

Collection Unit

The collection unit is where the composting process takes place. It houses the composting chamber or chambers, where the organic waste is deposited and undergoes decomposition.

The collection unit may also include a ventilation system to facilitate airflow and control odors. It is a small fan for the ventilation system.

How does a urine-diverting toilet function?

A urine-diverting toilet is a composting toilet that aids in composting by separating liquids from solids. This separation helps prevent odors and facilitates the composting process. 

What to Consider Before Getting a Composting Toilet

what to consider when buying a composting toilet

When purchasing a composting toilet, there are several features to consider:

Size

When choosing a composting toilet, finding the right size that suits your space and usage requirements is important. Consider the available installation space and the number of users the toilet will serve.

If you buy a toilet for 2-3 people versus 4+, you may select a different option. 

Available Space

Make sure you’ve got enough space for the composting toilet installation. Consider the dimensions and clearance requirements of the toilet and any ventilation or access needs.

Tank Capacity

The tank capacity refers to the volume of the composting chamber or collection unit. Consider the frequency of use and the number of users to determine the appropriate tank capacity. A larger capacity may require less frequent emptying.

You may consider different options if you buy a toilet for 2-3 people versus 4+. 

Energy and Water Usage

If energy and water conservation are important to you, consider the energy and water usage of the composting toilet. Some models may be more energy-efficient or waterless, while others require minimal water for certain functions.

Odor Removal

Check the odor control features of the toilet. Look for toilets with built-in fans, ventilation systems, or odor filters to minimize odors and ensure a pleasant bathroom experience.

NSF Certification

NSF certification indicates that the toilet meets industry safety, performance, and quality standards. It is not mandatory but can provide peace of mind and assurance of a reliable and effective product.

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Composting Toilet?

The cost of installing a composting toilet can vary depending on several factors, including the brand, features, and installation requirements.

The cost of a composting toilet varies, ranging from $500 to over $2,000. Additional costs may include plumbing connections, ventilation systems, and necessary permits or professional installation fees. 

Brands to consider

There are lots of manufacturers of composting toilets. Here are a few well-known brands. 

  1. Nature’s Head Composting toilet: Known for its self-contained, urine-diverting design, ideal for RVs, boats, and tiny homes.
  2. Sun-Mar: Offers self-contained and central composting toilet systems, with electric and non-electric options.
  3. Separett: They specialize in urine-diverting toilets, suitable for both permanent homes and vacation properties.
  4. Air Head Composting Toilet: This toilet is slighlty smaller than the Nature’s Head and can hold a larger capacity. It’s rounded design make it a great choice for smaller spaces.

Final Thoughts

Composting toilets offer a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional flush toilets. They can help conserve water, reduce energy consumption, and provide valuable compost for gardening and agriculture.

While they may have some disadvantages, such as higher initial costs and maintenance requirements, many people find that the benefits of composting toilets outweigh the drawbacks.

Investing in a composting toilet depends on your values, needs, and available resources.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the drawbacks of a composting toilet?

Composting toilets require manual cleaning. They are also more costly upfront. You have also to ensure the aeration is always properly working.

Can You Poop in a Composting Toilet?

Yes, composting toilets are designed to handle both solid and liquid waste. You can safely use a composting toilet for all your bathroom needs.

Can You Pee in a Composting Toilet?

Yes, most composting toilets can handle urine as well as solid waste. Some composting toilets have a urine-diverting system, separating urine from solid waste to facilitate composting.

Should I put toilet paper in a composting toilet?

Yes, toilet paper is biodegradable and can be safely composted. If possible, look for recycled paper that breaks down more easily in a composting environment. 

Are Composting Toilets Safe To Use?

Composting toilets are safe to use when installed and maintained properly. They are designed to break down waste efficiently and minimize odors.

What To Do With Urine From Compost Toilet?

The urine from composting toilets can be used as a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for plants. Dilute it with water before applying it to your garden.

How Does a Composting Toilet Work in a Van?

A composting toilet can be installed in a van for mobile use. It operates like a regular composting toilet but you may need to opt for a more compact composting toilet design to fit the limited space.

How Does a Composting Toilet Work in a Tiny House?

Composting toilets are commonly used in tiny houses due to their compact size and waterless operation. They can be easily installed and provide a sustainable waste management solution for small living spaces.

Do Composting Toilets Smell Bad?

Composting toilets should not produce strong odors when used properly with the appropriate compost material. The composting process and odor removal systems help minimize unpleasant smells.

Can Composting Toilets Be Used in the Cold?

Yes, composting toilets can be used in cold climates. However, extremely cold temperatures may affect the composting process and require additional measures such as insulation or heat sources.

Where Does Toilet Paper Go in a Composting Toilet?

Toilet paper can be placed in the unit along with the solid waste. It will break down.

Author
  • Erin Hybart

    Meet Erin, a real estate enthusiast with a wealth of knowledge and an insatiable curiosity for all things Real Estate and living with intention. She passionately advocates for alternative, affordable, and eco-friendly housing solutions. She believes in pushing the industry's innovation boundaries and thinking outside the box. As a licensed real estate agent in Louisiana, Erin dedicates herself to assisting clients in buying and selling properties and mentoring fellow agents to succeed in their own Real Estate businesses. In addition to her professional pursuits, Erin channels her expertise into captivating house-flipping adventures.

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