weblife.org | library | Humanure Handbook | Chapter 6: Composting Toilets Must Be Managed

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We have used flush toilets for so long that after we defecate we expect to simply pull a handle and walk away. Some think that composting toilets should behave in the same manner. However, flush toilets are disposal devices that create pollution and waste soil nutrients. Composting toilets are recycling devices that should create no pollution and should recover the soil nutrients in human manure and urine. When you push a handle on a flush toilet, you're paying someone to dispose of your waste for you. Not only are you paying for the water, for the electricity, and for the wastewater treatment costs, but you are also contributing to the environmental problems inherent in waste disposal. When you use a composting toilet, you are getting paid for the small amount of effort you expend in recycling your organic material. Your payment is in the form of compost. Composting toilets, therefore, require some management. You have to do something besides just pushing a handle and walking away.

The degree of your involvement will depend on the type of toilet you are using. In most cases, this involves simply adding some clean organic cover material such as peat moss, sawdust, rice hulls, or leaf mould to the toilet after each use. Instead of flushing, you cover. Nevertheless, someone must take responsibility for the overall management of the toilet. This is usually the homeowner, or someone else who has volunteered for the task. Their job is simply to make sure sufficient cover materials are available and being used in the toilet. They must also add bulking materials to the toilet contents when needed, and make sure the toilet is not being used beyond its capacity, not becoming waterlogged, and not breeding flies. Remember that a composting toilet houses an organic mass with a high level of microscopic biodiversity. The contents are alive, and must be watched over and managed to ensure greatest success.

Source: The Humanure Handbook. Jenkins Publishing, PO Box 607, Grove City, PA 16127. To order, phone: 1-800-639-4099.

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weblife.org | library | Humanure Handbook | Chapter 6: Composting Toilets Must Be Managed