There aren’t a lot of blogs that dedicate themselves to topics about using a toilet. This one does. Here we talk $#!+ about a specific kind of toilet, commonly (and many believe erroneously) called a “composting” toilet. What does that actually mean – composting toilet? Well, I guess that is open to interpretation. But for our purposes, it is referring to a specific toilet, the C-Head, a compact toilet that initiates the composting process of solid human waste while the waste is inside the toilet. These types of toilets are finding their way into use more and more. The significance of that is that we are coming to appreciate and understand the efficiency, the advantages, the logic and the harmony with nature that composting of our waste engenders. I fully expect to see them grow in usage once people come to understand the advantages.
This is an information blog. If you are impatient and want to get on to the articles regarding a specific topic, there are three ways to do that. One scroll down and read the intro of each article, or two use key words in the search box to the right to locate an article or three, click on a category heading on the right column of this page and then scroll down through the list that comes up. Otherwise click on “read more” below to continue reading this introduction.
What is the consistency of solid waste after a week? When “dumping” the solid wastes before it has composted (into a bag or over the side), is there spillage? Is it messy?
Many people, women and children mostly, cannot choose to urinate or defecate independently, how effective is the waste separation for liquid and solids if these processes happen simultaneously? How often does liquid get into solids accidentally?
If solid waste is left for weeks without churning, does it compost? Or does the solid waste need to be cleared out if the toilet will not be used for weeks? Months?
To answer these questions a basic understanding of the process is needed. When you churn the waste after using the C-Head, a vane located at the bottom of the toilet creates a wave-like action with the medium, causing the solid waste to tumble end over end. This quickly coats the outside of the waste with the drying medium you are using and then “enspherates” or “conglobulates” it into a convenient round form (fancy words for rolls it up into balls . . . yuck!). Every time the waste is churned thereafter, more medium clings to the outside as the moisture within the waste leaches through the previous layer of medium to the surface. The medium and the waste will begin to clump up. This has several really good effects. It covers the entire surface of the waste with a thick layer of medium, it forms it for easy removal when you tip the bucket, it minimizes the build-up of condensation by not increasing the surface area of the waste from mashing it up, and it doesn’t pack the waste into the bottom of the bucket as do the other toilets that use a dough mixer type bar to mash the waste into the medium.
So basically the waste is covered and stored in the medium until it can be emptied. It does not compost enough to cause it to break down into soil or lose its original form. Using a dough mixer type device does give the appearance of the waste having been composted and that is the main reason that type of system is used. For the same reason they recommend coco coir for your medium since its brown color most closely resembles finished compost. Coco coir is a good medium, but it is expensive, hard to find and labor intensive to break down. Other much cheaper mediums work better and are cheaper and easier to find. But the waste is not composted completely by any standard. Mashing the medium may speed up the composting marginally but not enough to really make a difference for most compact composting toilet applications. None of the other composting toilet manufacturers recommend coming into contact with the waste in their toilet which tells you a lot. Compact composting toilets only initiate composting. Their size makes them impractical for complete composting. The waste must be composted further outside the toilet and letting it sit inside the toilet for any period of time only invites insect infestations and solidification of the waste, making it harder to remove. The toilet would need to be out of service for months for the waste to compost to a safe state.
With the C-Head, dumping the solid waste is easy and relatively clean. Some dusting of medium and small areas of residual waste may remain behind on the inside of the bucket but it is usually minimal and can be hosed off easily, especially if the bucket is filled with water and allowed to sit for a short time before taking a garden hose to it. When the bucket is full, the waste is normally damp looking but not “wet,” at least it shouldn’t be. If it is wet then excess urine is finding its way into the solid waste bucket during use. It will smell like sewage long before it gets wet. The best solution if that happens is to empty the bucket into a plastic bag or compost tower and rinse and refill the bucket with dry medium. If the medium is very wet then add more medium and churn it until it dries out enough to pour it out. The best practice is to empty the toilet as soon as you detect a sewage smell.
It is imperative that the pee and poop stay separated to keep the toilet odor free. That being said, everybody’s physiology is different and some women find it more difficult than others to get everything in the right spot. Men get a pass. Children are usually not a problem because they are usually fascinated by going to the bathroom and pay special attention to what they are doing. Just instruct them to get everything where it is supposed to go.
The Lady’s Maid is a good solution if the user is having difficulty keeping urine out of the solid waste. It is very effective, simple to use and inexpensive. To use it you hold it against the urine diverter or your body and it will catch and direct the urine. Positioning is learned and it usually is managed with the first use. These ladels are found at Walmart for 97 cents. Simply drill a 1 inch hole or several smaller holes in the center of the bottom of the ladle.
Solid waste should not be left in the toilet if it is not going to be used. Empty the toilet every week regardless of how full it is and leave it clean if you are not going to be using it for some time. There is no advantage to being able to store large amounts of waste in the toilet. It only means a more difficult process when emptying becomes inevitable. Compost the waste outside in a compost tower or discard it.
Please feel free to make constructive comments or ask questions below.
Copyright 2019 – C-Head LLC – All rights reserved.
Several people have written to me wanting me to write an article about installing a BEX kit in their C-Head for use at home, RV, travel trailer or houseboat. Here is a step by step plan for doing that. Keep in mind that all installations tend to have special issues that must be overcome on a case by case basis. If you do have an issue that you cannot resolve, please contact us for help.
I was contacted by a concerned C-Head owner regarding the recent passage of Georgia House Bill 201 that changes the laws in Georgia in an effort to reduce pollution in the estuarial waters of the ICW along the Georgia coastline. I researched HB 201 and it becomes apparent that the underlying purpose of the law is to control the use of bum boats polluting the scenery more so than the water. I get it. I live on the water and pay the government extra for the privilege. Truth be told, these people don’t produce enough human waste to effect anything, certainly not on the scale of the estuarial waters of Georgia. But toilets are an easy target for solving a problem that has little to do with the toilets. Few people will protest this angle of attack.
In addition to being able to have a customized fit, there is no other composting toilet on the market that comes close to being as beautiful as the C-Head. Choices in both the outside finish and the toilet seat size and color makes all the difference and make no mistake people want their bathrooms to look inviting, even as uninviting as the tasks may be. It’s called the “throne” for a reason. Today’s composting toilets have a range of looks that goes from resembling a washing machine (and the same size) to a plastic water cooler; from looking like they belong on the space shuttle or else in a local laundromat. Why is that? Well, expediency in manufacturing is probably the most basic reason. Ease of cleaning sure isn’t. The outsides can be deceiving as far as cleaning the inside goes.
The evolution of my garden has lead to several discoveries and great creations. I started out growing my veggies in buckets, primarily because I wanted to be able to adjust the layout of the garden as things developed. I also had a source for cheap buckets and according to the many of the YouTube videos that I watched, growing your food in buckets should have made a lot of sense for a 1/4 acre permaculture, self-sustaining, self-contained garden. As the garden developed, natural spaces began to form and I expanded them to utilize as much of the ground space as I could within the limited area that I had to work with.
It is May in Florida and we are starting to get rain about once a week. Winter tends to be our dry season. In the spring, it rains hard when it rains but it doesn’t last long so we are getting about 2-3 inches a week. That is important because, you want to keep your compost moist but not wet. Too wet could cause it to smell and can wash out the nutrients and too dry will impede the composting process. There is a happy medium. Because you need to control the moisture content of the compost, the wishing well tower is designed not to be waterproof, but allows you to control how much rainwater gets inside the tower. The roof is made of slats that allow water to drop between the boards, and the same goes for the hinged lid over the tower. If you find yourself in a period of high precipitation, that is heavy, frequent rainfall like we get here in Florida occasionally, then you want to cover the slats with water proof material like canvas or corrugated tin or plastic material to shed the water away from the tower.
Our warranty on return or parts replacement is pretty straight forward.
We work hard to make sure that the customer gets what they need and know exactly what they are getting. This saves everybody a lot of headache. In some cases the customer may want to return the toilet and request a refund. For that reason, upon receiving the toilet, the customer should take pictures of any damage to the shipping container, including holes, scrapes or obvious re-taping of the exterior. The customer should also take pictures of any damage found to the toilet while unpacking, preferably with the postal clerk or UPS guy in the picture. Gotta love them smartphones. Follow the handling instructions guide found at the very top of the box under the flaps. If any damage is found, take pictures of the damage and notify us immediately by email.
Meet Kristina Monroe. Some time back, she purchased a C-Head (which at that time was for land based purposes called a BoonJon) and incorporated it into her incredible home design. She has even written a book about how her new home came into existence, including the dream, the design and the final outcome. The name of the book is “Twisted Oak” and in it she devotes almost a complete chapter to the advantages of my toilet design and how it has worked with respect to her permaculture lifestyle. In her book she lays out in story form why she and her family decided to take the plunge and build the house of their dreams. She describes how they take maximum advantage of the property and its assets and construction techniques to create an environmentally friendly, beautiful, warm and cozy home with results that are fantastic.
The C-Head toilet works especially well in houseboats. The larger holding tanks and the existing flushing toilet with it’s through the floor toilet flange, give the houseboat owners an advantage over other type boats. Specifically, they can use the BEX kit (bottom exit kit) to take advantage of the existing plumbing and make life easier. The BEX kit, allows you to drain the urine into the holding tank directly through the bottom of the toilet using the existing flange. Since you are only using concentrated urine with a little flush water occasionally, the capacity of the holding tank is increased greatly, which reduces the need to find a pump out station. You can spend an extended time, weeks or months even, on the water and hold the liquid waste until you return to your marina to have it pumped out. No special trips or going off the hook to find a marina so that you can empty the tank. The C-Head is unique in this regard since there is no other composting toilet on the market that has this capacity.
With a bucket and chuck it system, you can simply pour the mixed pee and poop waste contents of your toilet onto a pile of compostable material and then cover it with more material and let nature do its thing. This is a common method of composting your waste in a permaculture way. Joe Jenkins has a nice system for doing just that. It is, however, impractical for use on a 1/4 acre residential lot, simply because of the size and the amount of compostable material needed to create thermophilic composting in the winter time. It also doesn’t have a means to sort out and manage any waste that may be suspected of being unhealthy, that is to say, waste that comes from a person who is demonstrably ill or suspected of being so. You need a processor that allows you to separate and process unhealthy waste more aggressively and cleanly as well as one that allows you to take advantage of the useful properties of your poop and pee separately.