Composting Toilet — Report on 8 months full time usage

dzzz

Definitely valid points dwh. Even if you adhere to treating 3-4 week old compost as contaminated, there is still a huge difference in mobility and freedom and length of stops at RV dumps:
............
I expect no one treats it as contaminated. It goes in the trash or is spread.

I hate to think of fixing/cleaning a broken incinerating toilet. A composting toilet isn't going to break significantly, and is less complex. I can understand preferring an incinerating toilet, but it doesn't extend off-grid time compared to a no energy composting toilet or a hole in the ground.

I was close to ordering a vacuflush, but I've pretty much turned 180 degrees and thinking about low odor simplicity. When poo and technology combine I don't want to be the repair man.
 

kerry

Expedition Leader
The other influence was the increasing volume of users escalating after the 80's. There are a very limited number of campsites on the river (only certain places where you can actually get the boats eddied out and have an area to make camp), so each camp site has high usage. Cat holes and toilet paper and open pile 'o poo became a problem. Add to that the most of these rivers go through desert or semi-arid enviornments and you have a problem. As an example, one stretch of river in Colorado recieved 250,000 visitors, mostly commercial rafters, in a 3 month period at the industry peak. Most confined to a 10 mile stretch with a dozen places to stop. That is a lot of people using a very, very few stops, to eat and camp and use the bathroom.
Yes, except the toilet requirement had been in effect for quite a while before they changed it to a washable toilet with an rv type dump system. I can certainly understand small towns not wanting to have their dumpsters filled with plastic bags of crap, but to justify it with public pronouncements of human waste not being permitted in landfills was equally as crappy.
 

Cat Jockey

Observer
kerry

Yes, except the toilet requirement had been in effect for quite a while before they changed it to a washable toilet with an rv type dump system.
The toilet requirement came first. Then everybody started using ammo cans and 5 gallon buckets lined with trash bags. Then promptly discard their bags 'o poo from 12 people for a week in the first small town gas stations. EDIT: The point being that the BLM had to do something. Yes, a 5 gallon bucket kept the campsites clean, but people got rid of the stuff ASAP. Now the BLM has everything from local municipalities to Indian Nations complaining, "hey, all this human waste you are requiring these rafters to pack out, they are dumping on the first piece of private property they come across." And, I don't blame those people. Again, very, very small communities getting bombarded by groups dropping off 300-400 human days of poo. In one day. (12 people X 7 days = 84 poo days. 3 or 4 of those groups on high use rivers over a 3-4 month season = one years worth of human poo getting dumped at gas stations and post offices every day for 100 days straight. #1, that is not cool to do to somebody and #2, no pun intended, that is a very unsafe amount of human excrement concentrated in a small area. /EDIT

I can certainly understand small towns not wanting to have their dumpsters filled with plastic bags of crap, but to justify it with public pronouncements of human waste not being permitted in landfills was equally as crappy.
I think you are discounting the small size of some of these BLM referenced landfills and the volume of human poo they get influxed with 3-4 months a year. It was a legitimate issue for both unplesantness and safety. Again, very high ratio of human waste to landfill size - much higher than anything you will find in 95%+ landfills in the US. I am not trying to be argumentative and leave it at that. ;)

dzzz

I expect no one treats it as contaminated. It goes in the trash or is spread.
If I was as far back as I could drive in the Alaskan bush, yea, just like the bears - in the woods. Or even in Colorado or Oregon, Montana, etc. If I was spending a month in the desert of the south west, I wouldn't. Even without an incinerator, I could go one month very easily without needing an RV dump.

I hate to think of fixing/cleaning a broken incinerating toilet. A composting toilet isn't going to break significantly, and is less complex. I can understand preferring an incinerating toilet, but it doesn't extend off-grid time compared to a no energy composting toilet or a hole in the ground.
Indeed. What I am working on is a small, 12"-16" square incinerator utilizing propane and on board air that is used outside the vehicle at camp and then comes apart/collapses for storage. Primarily for trash, but also for compost remains. Should be cheap and easy and take up very little space/weight, so it fills my needs to be able to remain self sufficient for weeks on end.

When poo and technology combine I don't want to be the repair man.
Words of wisdom to be sure. That is signature quality. :xxrotflma
 
Last edited:

dwh

Tail-End Charlie
Just curious on this point - what do you mean by "without heat"?
According to this (and other sites I've seen, such as one report I read from some university study):

http://weblife.org/humanure/chapter7_19.html

"A thermophilic compost pile will destroy pathogens, including worm eggs, quickly, possibly in a matter of minutes. Lower temperatures require longer periods of time, possibly hours, days, weeks, or months, to effectively destroy pathogens. One need not strive for extremely high temperatures such as 65°C (150°F) in a compost pile to feel confident about the destruction of pathogens. It may be more realistic to maintain lower temperatures in a compost pile for longer periods of time, such as 50°C (122°F) for 24 hours, or 46°C (115°F) for a week. According to one source, "All fecal microorganisms, including enteric viruses and roundworm eggs, will die if the temperature exceeds 46°C (114.8°F) for one week." 42 Other researchers have drawn similar conclusions, demonstrating pathogen destruction at 50°C (122°F), which produced compost "completely acceptable from the general hygienic point of view."


And, from the same page:

"A sound approach to pathogen destruction when composting humanure is to thermophilically compost the organic refuse, then allow the compost to sit, undisturbed, for a lengthy period of time after the thermophilic heating stage has ended. The biodiversity of the compost will aid in the destruction of pathogens as the compost ages. If one wants to be particularly cautious, one may allow the compost to age for two years after the pile has been built, instead of the one year that is normally recommended."


And,

"In the words of Feachem et al., "The effectiveness of excreta treatment methods depends very much on their time-temperature characteristics. The effective processes are those that either make the excreta warm (55°C/131°F), hold it for a long time (one year), or feature some effective combination of time and temperature.""
 

dwh

Tail-End Charlie
All existing mobile toliet systems have potential exposure to pathogens, so I don't see how the lack of complete composting is a problem. It's not like anyone is having a snack while pumping out a black tank or emptying a cassette into an outhouse.
The issue is not that the person emptying the unit is going to get sick, the issue is that what is being emptied is not decontaminated and so it can't be just tossed away anywhere one pleases.
 

dwh

Tail-End Charlie
The BLM claimed that it was necessary because boaters were dumping garbage bags with human waste into local landfills and this was not permitted. Seemed like an odd claim to me so I called the EPA or whatever federal agency was responsible for landfills in the west. I was told that the BLM was giving us a line of BS.
From what I can see here, the regs are State regs, not Fed regs:

http://weblife.org/humanure/appendix3.html


The states may not have regulated disposable diapers (yet), but many of them have clear regs concerning composting toilets.


California and Idaho specifically mention in their definitions of "graywater" that laundry water from diapers is not greywater.
 

The Adam Blaster

Expedition Leader
I guess to be positive about the level of safe decomposition of the waste you'd have to #1 use a thermometer buried inside your "pile" and #2 stir the material to ensure proper mixing of the waste to make sure it was all properly composted at the minimum necessary temps. over the specific period of time.

But, even after bagging the material and throwing it in a dumpster, the decomposition continues - albeit if the bag is sealed the heat will stay in, but the lack of new oxygen may hinder the process.

Also, the main concern would be with the latest addition of material into the system just before removal and disposal occurs. This would be the highest possible level of non-composted material being taken out of the toilet system.

Maybe an extra safeguard would be to plan your "additions" as long as possible ahead of the time when you empty the toilet system.
Probably not as easy as it sounds... lol
 

dzzz

I think a little bit of common sense is all that's needed. Anyone who needs to pretend we don't spend all of our time in the presence of various forms of mammalian fecal material probably doesn't want a composting toilet. Or to read this thread.
The ethical obligation is to not increase disease risk to anyone.

Trasharoo could be excellent for hauling a bag externally to the vehicle,
to plug a forum members product. One could comfortably spend months in the desert without the need to dispose of solid waste.

For disposal in pit toilets the contents could be emptied into a biodegradable yard waste bag and the whole contents tossed in the hole. (Always working on ways to spend no more time near pit toilets than I can hold my breath)
 

Cat Jockey

Observer
I think a little bit of common sense is all that's needed. Anyone who needs to pretend we don't spend all of our time in the presence of various forms of mammalian fecal material probably doesn't want a composting toilet. Or to read this thread.
The ethical obligation is to not increase disease risk to anyone.
Well said. Small volume partially composted toilet stuff can be ethically dealt with in ways other than an RV dump as the true issues arise with high concentration and this can be avoided.
 

JRhetts

Adventurer
Not sure which model they have, but here is the site: http://www.natureshead.net/
John, does your toilet require power?
Bill

This is the unit we have and I reported on. Others are very similar, and yet others are very different.

We have a 12v fan drawing less than 10mv running 24/7. This draws fresh air across the composting pile, adding oxygen and eliminating odor. We draw off the 600 aH battery bank and 0.5Kw solar panel system we have on our vehicle, so it is truly nothing in the scheme of our things. One could use a dedicated solar vent fan and probably do just fine even in a space inhabited 24/7 and thereby not need any battery support.

Now to the YMMV area. Yes, there must be pathogens in the solids we dump. But both I and my physician wife estimate that there are pathogens of almost untold quantities and variations all around us. But upon some introspection, more specifically, in my personal background I have a couple of things that reduce my concern: i) I raised children, handling their diapers constantly and never got sick; b) I traveled throughout the jungles of West Africa in the 1960s, encountering literally hundreds of enthusiastic natives with their hands held out for ritual greetings -- literally covered in poop they had just wiped from their posteriors; iii) we have traveled and lived in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, where sanitation standards are VERY different from our own, and we have not been harmed or debilitated by these excursions. All of this makes us think that we are more robust than our sometimes squeemish feelings might lead us to think. So we are not particularly afraid of this vector of contamination.

Others have every right to feel differently and act accordingly. Indeed, it might just be that we have been lucky, but ... I'd rather be lucky than good, as I recall someone once said.

J
 

dwh

Tail-End Charlie
Now to the YMMV area. Yes, there must be pathogens in the solids we dump. But both I and my physician wife estimate that there are pathogens of almost untold quantities and variations all around us. But upon some introspection, more specifically, in my personal background I have a couple of things that reduce my concern: i) I raised children, handling their diapers constantly and never got sick; b) I traveled throughout the jungles of West Africa in the 1960s, encountering literally hundreds of enthusiastic natives with their hands held out for ritual greetings -- literally covered in poop they had just wiped from their posteriors; iii) we have traveled and lived in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, where sanitation standards are VERY different from our own, and we have not been harmed or debilitated by these excursions. All of this makes us think that we are more robust than our sometimes squeemish feelings might lead us to think. So we are not particularly afraid of this vector of contamination.
I agree. I personally was also a parent and am not squeamish. Nor do I worry about being contaminated. I also wash my hands. No worries.

My concern, as I mentioned in post 20, is NOT about being personally infected from handling waste, nor about the owner/user of the "composting" toilet becoming infected - I assume you wash your hands too.


My concern is specifically that what is being called "compost" is not. It's marketing doubletalk which makes pathogenic waste appear to be "totally harmless, just dump it any old place".

I think not.
 

SChandler

Adventurer
Why not just bury the compost? Wouldn't this be similar to if you were hiking in the woods and nature called? The difference would be you'd need a bigger hole and the breaking down of the fecal matter has a head start. If you are in the bush somewhere remote and it's time to dump either the urine bottle or the compost, why not treat it like you would hiking? Dump the urine on the ground, away from bodies of water and bury the compost. What's wrong with treating the generated material this way?

Just so we're clear, I'm not proposing doing this in the middle of a city park in Downtown, Whatever Country. I'd really like to hear thoughts on treating the materials this way when in remote locations.
 
Last edited:

kjp1969

Explorer
As a father of 3 and RV'er of 7 years, plus the designated clean-up guy around the house for all manner of bodily fluids, human and animal, I have a pretty high tolerance for the gross. Even still, dedication to a composting toilet seems to this guy to be, uh, how to put this, strong. :sombrero:

A question that's probably been asked and answered before, but I'm interested in your perspective: Why not do it normally, with a dedicated black water tank that gets dumped into the sewer system which is already engineered to perfectly handle a large volume of human waste? Even a fairly small 15 gal. tank would probably last 2 people a couple of weeks.
 

762X39

Explorer
My experience with composting toilets dates back 25 years so I totally don't get what the issue is.To one of the previous posters, it is about not having to empty a black water tank every week (among other things). A composting toilet typically requires emptying about every 4 or 5 weeks and even then the end product is pretty benign. We can argue symantics about just what you are taking out and disposing of and yes you do have to change your habits but if my wife can squat behind our truck on the highway to pee, anything is possible and reasonable.:coffee:
I am going to search my files for a simple composting toilet system that I came across and post the link.
 
Top