Why Convert To Dry Composting Toilet
Owning a dry composting toilet is not another unnecessary new-age trend. It seems that lots of people have a habit of taking this idea at face value.
Truth is, reusing human waste isn’t brand new. Or that smelly, for that matter. In fact, we humans relied on repurposing poo for hundreds of years, especially in agriculture. So what gives?
We’re no scientists but one thing is clear as crystal – the problem of being wasteful lies in our habits, or lack thereof. It can be argued that as we grew disconnected from the cyclic rhythm Nature prepared for us, we started losing touch with our sense of sustainability.
This might explain why terms like shit and piss are swear words at best, frivolously flushed away in our “civilized” water toilets. But our hot take is this: They deserve more recognition than that, fart jokes and all.
So is there any benefit and rationale behind the idea of composting toilets or is it all truly just a fad? We at Shit & Blossoms believe there is, and then some! Let us give you the 411 as to why we are committed to rethinking human waste.
How Does A Dry Composting Toilet Work?
At our earthship in Serbia, composting and toilets go hand in hand. What makes these toilets “dry” is the fact that they DO NOT use water for transportation or treatment of collected waste (more on that later).
But here’s the kicker: By separating liquid from the solid waste we try and mimic the separation process already taking place within our bodies.
Why go through all the trouble? The very act of separation preserves the richness of nutrients, keeping things as nature intended. This includes the Big 3: nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus – primary nutrients found in fertilizers. In addition, oxygen is a helpful component in the decomposition process of the solids, thanks to the hard-working microorganisms.
In contrast, if you mix urine and feces together, they get robbed of those nutrients, causing higher releases of ammonia (a more volatile form of nitrogen). That, paired with oxidative processes, along with anaerobic decomposition is what creates methane, hence that distinct odor in traditional septic systems.
So to put it simply, both pee and poo can be used as a resource when properly isolated, and a powerful one at that.
But How Do I Use This Type Of Toilet?
In contrast to your run-of-the-mill toilets, the main difference is how you position yourself regardless of whether you’re going for a pee or a poo.
For all the fellas out there, if you’re going in for a #1, sorry, but you’ll have to get used to the idea of sitting while peeing. This way you’re making sure urine goes INTO the separator.
As for the girls, the habit of sitting on the toilet pays off. However, if you’re going in for a pee, you’ll still probably have to slide a bit to the front. We should mention that sliding back or forth while sitting also depends on your body type – but we’ll leave that to your own discretion.
Obviously, the same goes for #2, only this time you’ll have to slide slightly back while seated.
Note that after peeing, use a bit of water to wash off the separator (not more than 10ml). We always keep a small bottle of water next to our composting toilet for this purpose.
As for wrapping things up after taking a sh!t, you can use the toilet paper and toss it into the solids container (or bucket). Because what? Cellulose! Look at it this way: Instead of flushing after yourself, you’ll need a covering material. We recommend using wood scraps because it ensures air circulation, necessary for previously-mentioned oxidative processes.
For any additional info on what is allowed to go into a liquid/solid container, consult our visual guide:
Let’s Talk About Urine Separators!
Shit and Blossoms urine separators are green products, made by eco-enthusiasts for eco-enthusiasts who are ready to make sustainable changes in their life.
Our flagship models Marcel and Floran are handmade porcelain urine separators that are as hygienic and durable as any porcelain toilet bowl. They’re easy to install, perfect for eco-conscious homes, tiny homes, camper vans, cottages, float homes, boats, permaculture households, rural or urban spaces that envision composting toilet systems.
Both Marcel and Floran are available in white color, but sometimes we like to get creative and produce limited handpainted editions.
Benefits Of Composting Toilets
Did you know that every time you flush your toilet you practically waste 6 liters (1.6 gallons) of fresh drinking water? Older toilets can even use up to 11 liters, while those with dual flush systems 3 to 6 liters.
The main reason we opt for a composting toilet is it’s a sustainable environmentally-friendly system. It provides the same comfort as a normal water toilet but without making a harmful impact on the environment with septic waste.
By using urine separators such as Marcel or Floran, liquid waste is transported to the reed bed, garden, grey waters, or other filtration systems. Not only that, but you save water! Have in mind that urine is sterile and can be repurposed for garden use where you grow your plants.
Dry toilets can help you save up to 6600 gallons of water (around 25000 liters) annually PER PERSON.
Human waste content reduction
The most ridiculous thing about how we treat human waste is the way we dispose of it in our seas and rivers. That’s the same water we use for drinking or otherwise!
Traditional septic systems mix many liters of water into our feces, reducing the possibility of natural decomposition. More importantly, the groundwater, springs, and wells can be easily contaminated with bacteria this way.
Another perk is, some organizations such as Rich Earth Institute will even buy the urine from you! We recommend you to ask around if there is such an initiative around where you live.
By reusing waste, through urine separation and composting, we adhere to the natural recycling process. Urine is sterile, therefore safe and easy to handle: you can connect it to your greywater system, reed bed, or watering tank as a natural fertilizer for your gardens.
Solid waste is safe to handle after composting it for 6 to 12 months. After the pathogens are eliminated, you can store it safely outdoors, or compost it again until it decomposes fully. The result? The richest humus you can get your hands on.
They’re suitable for remote locations
What do the International Space Station and your mountain cabin have in common? They both don’t have access to sullage and use urine-diverting dry toilets.
The main benefit of dry composting toilets is that they complement living quarters at remote sites where conventional septic systems do not exist. This is particularly beneficial if you’re planning to go off-grid.
Household garbage reduction
Because dry toilets are based on composting, they can accept kitchen waste. To be precise, anything that is organic and therefore, biodegradable, can be tossed away in the dry toilet. Think paper, banana peels, eggshells, and leftovers!
Have in mind that composting is all about finding the right balance when imitating natural processes. So, for every (nitrogen-rich) green matter you toss in, there has to be at least 4-5 times more (carbon-rich) brown matter.
What No One Tells You
To be fair, dry composting toilets are not for everyone. Maintenance requires a much more responsible and committed approach than conventional wastewater systems.
Lack of commitment can make the removal of the humanure an unpleasant process. This includes:
- Too much urine getting into the solids container
- Using the wrong covering material
- Failing to respect the 6-12 months composting period
Not only that, the end product can produce odor, or even become a health hazard in and of itself.
Because we have experienced all of these problems first hand, and learned much from it, feel free to drop us a line – we offer consultation services to our customers. We also developed a complete composting toilet system, SANPLOUF – which you can preorder here.
- Is a dry composting toilet worth it?
Yes, composting toilets are definitely worth it. Not only will they save you money in the long run (due to water usage efficacy), but the environmental impact of composting toilets is virtually non-existent. By using a composting toilet you’re contributing to the processes of returning the organic matter back into the natural recycling system.
- Do dry composting toilets smell bad?
No, composting toilets are not supposed to smell bad. If there’s a bad smell coming from your composting toilet, you might want to check if you missed a step in the installation or maintenance process.
There are few factors affecting the composting process: the proper balance (1:4-5) of nitrogen-rich material (food scraps, fresh grass, manure, human feces) and carbon-rich materials (dry grass, dry leaves, cardboard (not paper), wood shavings, wood chips, hemp chips…).
Additions like forest soil, indigenous microorganism, fungi spores, compost bacteria are there to add biodiversity. This helps with faster decomposition – and more importantly – a richer final product a.k.a. multi rich compost.
Lack of oxygen also contributes to bad odor. To make sure microorganisms have enough air, use covering materials like wood chips or shavings, rather than sawdust because of fraction (or you can mix the two).
- How does a dry composting toilet work?
A dry toilet works by separating liquid and solid waste into two separate chambers. So when you go to do your #1, #2, or both: your pee goes through the urine separator into a liquid container, and your poop goes into the solid container.
Since water is not used, there’s no flushing. Instead, you use covering material for solids and about 50ml of water for liquids.
- Are dry composting toilets sanitary?
Yes, composting toilets are sanitary and safe to use. However, composting toilets require more commitment than wastewater toilets both in terms of installing and maintenance.
- How do dry composting toilets help in water conservation?
Dry toilets can help you save up to 6600 gallons of water (around 25000 liters) per person annually. A composting toilet – specifically the urine separator – requires only a few drops of water to clean up after having a pee.