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.
Wire hose clamps have a lot going for them. For one, they are low profile and don’t tend to gouge chunks of meat out of your fingers and knuckles when working around them. Having done almost everything around my house and on my sailboats for years, I have come to appreciate a good thing. Here is a quick primer on a wire hose clamp that I invented. There are several tools on the market that make nice wire hose clamps. I have owned two and used them. They have their limitations, especially in confined areas where you are likely to find need for them. Anyway . . .
I have been experimenting with several pump types to use in conjunction with the pump tank accessory. The pump tank accessory, to review, is a reservoir that holds the urine until it can be pumped out to a holding tank. The pump tank isn’t necessary in situations where gravity feed will empty the tank, that is situations where the holding tank or drain field is below the toilet all the time. There are a few situations where the holding tank or drain field sits above the toilet or where the drain line must clear a hurdle that is above the toilet. Most sailboats have the holding tank mounted higher than the toilet because they don’t have room in the bilge. Also, Granny in the basement installations and most below-ground prepper bunkers will need to pump the urine uphill. In those cases, the pump tank is a good accessory to have. The pump system can be manual or electric.
More in a multi-part series of articles on ventilation
RVs and travel trailers have a unique set of problems associated with ventilating the toilet. They are the one case where you regularly have 60 mile an hour winds on the outside blowing for hours on end. The other exception being a shack in Antarctica. This of course is what happens as you go down the highway. The problem it creates is negative pressure inside the cabin which allows the positive pressure outside to force itself inside. It will do so by any means possible. If you have ever been driving down the road in your RV and someone uses the toilet and you get a strong blast of stinky air when they flushed it or you just have a constant slight smell of the holding tank present all the time, that is what is happening. As a retired firefighter, I call it “back-drafting.” You have opened a pipeline from the outside to the inside going through the vent pipe and the holding tank and through the toilet dragging all the associated smells with it. The outside pressure being greater than the inside pressure is the force behind it. With travel trailers, it is not such a problem because people rarely ride inside the trailer when you are driving down the road from one place to another. If the cabin of your travel trailer does develop a smell then it dissipates quickly when you open the doors and windows to occupy it.
The first in a multi-part series of articles on ventilation
Ventilation is one of the most complex aspects of any composting toilet system, but it shouldn’t be. Almost all urine diverting standard sized and compact composting toilets require ventilation. In some, like the Separatt, it is the sole means of removing the smell and moisture produced by processing the solid waste. Urine odor can be fairly well confined to it’s container, but pouring it out is a stinky process indeed, unless you have treated it with a holding tank solution. Treating it is common with mobile applications like boats and RVs because public restrooms are often the place they get emptied and you don’t want to chase everybody out of the bathroom and have them complaining to the management. But I digress . . . This is a series of articles on ventilation. First I will discuss boats, except for houseboats with RV type flush toilets that use a floor flange which I address in the Part 2 which is RV and travel trailers. Part 3 will be fixed applications like homesteads, cabins, tree houses, etc and Part 4 will be prepper bunkers which are a special case and Part 6 is tiny houses, also a special case.
“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax– Of cabbages–and kings– And why the sea is boiling hot– And whether pigs have wings.”
The Walrus and the Carpenter – Lewis Carroll
So now we have to get a little personal. Having spent a lifetime directly involved with hands-on medicine as an Army Special Forces medic and as a municipal and then county firefighter/paramedic, and having been married three times, I thought I knew pretty much everything about female anatomy . . . well almost everything. But once I got into the toilet business, I found out some things that I didn’t know and that were surprising. Number one, as many women order my toilets as do men. It may be because, between the two of them, she is the one with the bank account. More common than you would believe. And number two, women’s anatomies are significantly different with respect to what we call “directional stability” in the boat design business. And number three, when women go to the bathroom (#2), they usually don’t go #1, then #2, nor do they go #2, then #1. They usually go #3. That proved to be a challenge that I hadn’t expected to have to overcome.
Looking to the future, some aspects of urine diverting toilet technology are clearly promising. Separating urine from the solid waste reduces the time and cost of converting human solid and liquid waste to a safe, recyclable product. The Novaquatis urine source separation project at Eawag has developed a highly efficient wastewater treatment plan. It is based on using a slight variation on the same type of plumbing infrastructure that we use today for standard wastewater treatment systems. These systems do have some drawbacks in that they can be expensive, and do require ongoing maintenance of the grid which includes lift stations (counter measures to the ironclad plumbing axiom that “poop flows downhill”) and processing plants. In addition, they require all users in the area to use a specific type of urine diverting toilet and a dedicated plumbing system. Urine diverting toilets have a good reputation based on theory because most people who understand them think they are a good idea. That is not the same thing as thinking that they actually want to own one or learn how to use one. People are slow to change habits, especially toilet habits.
There is something of a battle going on between the “bucket and chuck it” composting toilet crowd and the urine diverting composting toilet bunch. The bucket and chuck it followers see the urine diversion as an unnecessary step to what should be a simple process and they have a point in some respects. If you own a large piece of land with tons of compostable material so that you can create a composting mound large enough to create thermophilic composting through the winter and one that can absorb all the urine, then it could make sense to go the easier route. But the bucket and chuck it method can still be a nasty process. Sure, the toilet may not stink in your house, but when you empty it onto the composting mound it is a gloppy, stinky mess that must be washed out of the holding container. In addition, this requires the use of water to rinse out the container. This can sometimes be collected from rainwater as Jenkins system does but it still requires water which makes it less desirable in situations where water is scarce or composting material is scarce. But it is the best system in many circumstances.