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A sawdust toilet requires three components: 1) the toilet receptacle; 2) cover materials; and 3) a compost bin system. The system will NOT work without all three of these components. The toilet is only the collection stage of the process. The composting takes place away from the toilet, and the compost bin system is important.

1) Use at least a double-chambered, above-ground compost bin. A three-chambered bin is recommended. Deposit in one chamber for a period of time (e.g., a year), then switch to another for an equal period of time.

2) Deposit a good mix of organic material into the compost pile, including kitchen scraps. It is a good idea to put all of your organic material into the same compost bin. Pay no attention to those people who insist that humanure compost should be segregated from other compost. They are people who do not compost humanure and don't know what they're talking about.

3) Always cover humanure deposits in the toilet with an organic cover material such as sawdust, leaf mould, peat moss, or rice hulls. Always cover fresh deposits on the compost pile with coarser cover materials such as hay, weeds, straw, or leaves. Make sure that enough cover is applied so that there is neither excess liquid build-up in the toilet nor offensive odors escaping either the toilet or the compost pile. The trick to using cover material is quite simple: if it smells bad or looks bad, cover it until it does neither.

4) Keep good access to the pile in order to rake the top flat, to apply bulky cover material when needed, to allow air to access the pile, and to monitor the temperature of the pile. The advantage of aerobic composting, as is typical of an above-ground pile, over relatively anaerobic composting typical of enclosed composting toilets, is that the aerobic compost will generate higher temperatures, thereby ensuring a more rapid and complete destruction of potential human pathogens.

The disadvantages of a collection system requiring the regular transporting of humanure to a compost pile are obvious. They include the inconvenience of: 1) carrying the organic refuse to the compost pile; 2) keeping a supply of organic cover material available and handy to the toilet; 3) maintaining and managing the compost pile itself.

[sawdust toilet lift-off box]

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 8: The Compost Bins