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Old 08-07-2009, 08:33 AM   #1
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Composting Toilets

So, it started here: http://www.skoolie.net/forum/viewtop...=4584&start=15

I thought this would be a great place to keep all of our ideas, thoughts, brainstorms, etc. about composting toilets in one place where people can easily find it. I'm hoping to have a lot of great discussion about using composting toilets on buses because there doesn't seem to be a lot of information out there right now.

I'll start it off with a reply to this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by RazorCityDen
We haven't bought it yet, but were using an "Airhead" composting yacht toilet and only running a grey water tank. A little pricey on the short end but will eliminate black water tank, plumbing and dumping drama, reduce fresh water consumption and plumbing and the engineering already done.

Take Care,
Den

The Airhead, and all other prebuilt composting toilets that are similar to this, are a great idea and would be awesome for people who can drop that much money into a toilet. And from looking at the Airhead's website, it seems that a "couple" could full-time for about a month before having to dispose of the waste. Herein lies the problem. We are looking to full-time with "FOUR" people on the bus. This would require dumping twice a month. Ok. So exactly WHERE do you dump solid waste (because in two weeks it will NOT have enough time to fully compost) while traveling or staying at a campground? It's not like a blackwater tank. And if you are dumping that often, you might as well have a blackwater tank. It will make it much easier.

I have corresponded with one family of four that is living full-time on a bus and utilizing a composting toilet system. But because it's been difficult for them to come up with a more workable solution, they are simply using the bucket/sawdust method. I asked what they did about dumping and he told me that he simply uses plastic bags and throws it in dumpsters along the way.

Now I, for one, don't want to do that.

So that is basically what started our quest for the ultimate composting toilet system for full-time family life on a bus. So far, the system that Jim has brainstormed could really work with some ingenuity (which he has plenty of) and patience and time to fully work out the kinks. But we are definitely open to all ideas, suggestions, etc. that you all have to offer.

I look forward to talking more about this.
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Old 08-07-2009, 10:28 AM   #2
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Re: Composting Toilets

Ok, this will be the official poop post thread? Looking at all kinds of different methods. Hav'nt decided on anything yet. There are lots of ideas and equipment out there. Someone wrote awhile back, they would empty their com-poop into a box and put a little gift wrap on it. Then leave it in the back of the truck, at the mall. Someone would inevitably steal it. Maybe that's a little "out there" but how about this. It will only cost you a couple drinks, and I like to have a drink after work anyway.
You are ready to end your day. You go to the local pub, and have a stiff one. You look for the biggest redneck available and tell him what you think. He proceeds to kick the shi* out of you. You go back to the bus, a little more humble and "empty".
No blackwater tank, no plumbing, nothing to empty, and extra space in the skoolie. Ok, maybe not so do-able. Especially if you are "regular"
Seriously, Thought of homebuilt composter with an area outside the bus to keep 2 other 5 gal. buckets for rotation of the toilet bucket. 1 under the seat, 1 cooking, and 1 empty. When the one was finished cooking (I figured about a month) ya just empty that bucket wherever and rotate everything. Ya still have to stir the cooker once in awhile. Hell, I don't know. That's why I don't have a crapper yet.
I still like the marine toilet that can shoot a big hairy 20'. A great form of non-lethal self defense and truly humiliating to the enemy. (being the pacifist I am)
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Old 08-07-2009, 11:52 AM   #3
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Re: Composting Toilets

Getting rid of composting waste for a moving fulltimer is going to be problematic. Unless you park on a piece of land that you own and don't mind fertilizing, dumping bagged waste can seem rather rude at best, and hazardous at worst. However, before discarding the thought of dumping bagged solids completely, look at it from a different perspective...

Humans routinely dump animal waste - whether it's leftovers from walking the dog, to cleaning out the catbox - into our landfills without a second thought. Sh!t does happen, ya know? And the municipal garbage collection facilities are set up to contain and handle this waste just like any other garbage. Worried about urine? Fresh Step brand cat litter now offers a pine based litter that gells the liquids into a paste that is easy to contain in a bag. This takes care of the liquid storage question. For that matter, almost any clumping litterbox brand could be used sparingly to contain the waste.

To compost in a traditional manner would require a lot more resources. It would be doable, but you'll need to sacrafice space, and there will still be questions about dumping the remains. After looking at the humanure site, it appears a bus would require the same "3 piles" as any other traditional compositng system. One that's fresh, one that's cooking, and one that's done. To accomplish this in the volume a family of 4 will produce, I'd recommend plastic 55 gallon barrels take the place of the normal board-sided structure. That still leaves the question of "where to dump the done pile". Unless you own a patch of land, it's a question that can't easily be answered - especially in the quantities in question. No campground or public park is going to want to find you dumping a mysterious pile of "earth". No matter how beneficial and innert.

Another possibility I've been looking at is vermiculture composting. Again, there is still the question of what to do with the "earth" once it's been processed by the worms.

Short term solution... catch and cure your original deposits in a bag and multiple bucket system, then dump like any other animal waste.
Long term solution... own a patch of land that you may fertilize as needed. Traditional composting of any form, be it plant or animal matter, takes time and space.

Just some food for thought.
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Old 08-07-2009, 01:09 PM   #4
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Re: Composting Toilets

Airhead link: http://airheadtoilet.com/howitworks.html

From what I understand from folks that actually use the Airhead, there are no special disposal issue associated with it, the composted matter is non-offensive and can be spread around anyplace else you could dump a bag of peat moss. I'm not sure what happens when it's not quite composted or how long that takes, it never came up with the folks I quizzed.

Like most things, this is really going to boil down to cost on the front end or back.

Installing a traditional black water RV system is going to be cheaper on the front end if you have a good handle on reasonably priced used parts and don't think of your time being worth anything. If you have to buy new parts and consider the time it takes to hang a black water tank, plumb it with vent, in pipe and out pipe and then bring a fresh water line in you start to get close to the price of the Airhead.

Marine heads seem like a good idea to me, but you still got black water tank associated issues.

Then I consider being tied to approved disposal sites. I'm building my rig to stay in the boonies for extended amounts of time, I can bring in water and propane with my Jeep tow vehicle. Grey water can be responsibly disposed of on the ground with due consideration. There is no easy way to take care of solid waste unless you want to dig a privy and I would rather not. However, I do know a guy that takes his Airhead out of his rig and places it in the woods with a good view

The Airhead composter is low maintenance, you go for a three day bump you don't have to worry about it when you get home. No need to empty and flush the black water tank when you park your outfit for another month before you use it again. Nothing under your rig to freeze, get damaged etc.

As far as the homemade units go, it's an interesting pursuit, if that's what you want to pursue, but I'm going to pass on the experience

That's how this thing stacks up to me, personally I don't think of the money as being out of line all things considered.

Like I said in the other thread if folks know of something as proven and convenient as the Airhead, that's cheaper, I for sure want to hear about!

Take Care,
Den
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Old 08-07-2009, 01:37 PM   #5
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Re: Composting Toilets

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smitty
The Humanure Handbook
http://weblife.org/humanure/index.html

This is a crappy topic
Smitty

Agreed, Smitty. And I am actually in the process of making my way through the Humanure Handbook. That's where I initially started and what spurred me to figure out a way to do it on the bus. I even wrote the author personally and asked if he knew of anyone doing the way we are wanting. He said, "No", but agreed that the biggest obstacle was going to be finding a place to dump.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Papabear
Seriously, Thought of homebuilt composter with an area outside the bus to keep 2 other 5 gal. buckets for rotation of the toilet bucket. 1 under the seat, 1 cooking, and 1 empty. When the one was finished cooking (I figured about a month) ya just empty that bucket wherever and rotate everything.
This is exactly the method we will use until we find a longer term solution - IF we do. Could be that this system works well and we stick with it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TygerCub
Getting rid of composting waste for a moving fulltimer is going to be problematic. Unless you park on a piece of land that you own and don't mind fertilizing ...
That is actually something we have considered on "down the road". We've talked about having a homebase of some sort to use as a dumping station. We could actually use my sister-in-law's place in Missouri if we could arrange regular visits. We're hoping to possibly find some land somewhere in our travels and that could be a solution, as well. In the meantime, however ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by TygerCub
Humans routinely dump animal waste - whether it's leftovers from walking the dog, to cleaning out the catbox - into our landfills without a second thought. Sh!t does happen, ya know?
True. I guess I wasn't really considering that perspective.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TygerCub
No campground or public park is going to want to find you dumping a mysterious pile of "earth". No matter how beneficial and innert.
Exactly! We were thinking that maybe finding some back road wooded area and then just fertilizing the trees with it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by TygerCub
Short term solution... catch and cure your original deposits in a bag and multiple bucket system, then dump like any other animal waste.
Long term solution... own a patch of land that you may fertilize as needed. Traditional composting of any form, be it plant or animal matter, takes time and space.

Just some food for thought.
Thanks so much, TygerCub. Food for thought is always a good thing. I appreciate your input.

p.s. I must admit that I never, in my life, would have ever thought that I would put so much thought and consideration into fecal matter. Not sure how I feel about this.
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Old 08-07-2009, 01:47 PM   #6
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Re: Composting Toilets

Quote:
Originally Posted by RazorCityDen
From what I understand from folks that actually use the Airhead, there are no special disposal issue associated with it, the composted matter is non-offensive and can be spread around anyplace else you could dump a bag of peat moss. I'm not sure what happens when it's not quite composted or how long that takes, it never came up with the folks I quizzed.
Hey Den. Thanks for sharing the info you have received from those who use the Airhead. I read through their pages and that's when I realized that they have designed it to work with TWO people who, preferably, spend weekends on a boat for a season. And, yes, by the end of that time the material is fully composted and there is no issue with dumping it.

But FOUR people full timing and having to dispose of the material every two weeks does NOT allow proper time for the composting to happen. It requires more time than that. Otherwise, you are just dumping fresh material. If that's the case, then the cost of such a toilet makes zero sense.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RazorCityDen
Then I consider being tied to approved disposal sites. I'm building my rig to stay in the boonies for extended amounts of time, I can bring in water and propane with my Jeep tow vehicle. Grey water can be responsibly disposed of on the ground with due consideration. There is no easy way to take care of solid waste unless you want to dig a privy and I would rather not. However, I do know a guy that takes his Airhead out of his rig and places it in the woods with a good view
Funny about your friend who takes his to the woods. I like that.

Like you said, we plan to boondock quite a bit and not rely much on campgrounds/parks/etc. Just like dumping greywater on the ground, it would be easy enough to dump fully composted material in the woods, around the trees, etc. and I don't think anyone would know or care.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RazorCityDen
As far as the homemade units go, it's an interesting pursuit, if that's what you want to pursue, but I'm going to pass on the experience
Understood.
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Old 08-07-2009, 04:27 PM   #7
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Re: Composting Toilets

Okay..my turn to talk crap This is a big consideration for me too as I also am worrying about this for Four bodies full-timing for a while. I really liked envirolet (envirolet.com) toilets. Even for the money, they seem to do the job. You can choose a variety of ways to have the unit do the actual composting for you. Solar device for venting and air flow or electrical hookup or the vent/air system can run off battery dedicated for just that purpose. You have the unit in the bathroom, with a raker-bar for mixing. It has big pans, just like a litter box. You flip the switch, and it vents and circulates air thereby speeding up the composting time frame. Downside, it is quite costly. I think the cheapest unit is about 900$ or so.. I'm still looking for something that might work just a quickly for cheaper. We'll see.. thanks FM for devoting an entire 'topic post' for this err..BS
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Old 08-07-2009, 04:35 PM   #8
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Re: Composting Toilets

If anyone is having trouble with the bagging & disposing of one's solid waste into the municipal garbage system, consider the millions of diapers from very young and very old humans that are disposed of in such a manner every day without a second thought.

Solid waste is mostly water & air, so dehydration is one way to quickly decrease the mass without the benefit of having the time & space available for proper composting. There are incinerating toilets too.
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Old 09-17-2009, 07:31 PM   #9
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Re: Composting Toilets

The black soldier flies are fascinating! Much better than vermiculture for waste disposal, and much more efficient in both time and space than composting. Excellent links

<edit>
Looking at the various links beyond this one, I wonder what type of odor the process would produce? Without some kind of odor control this system would be find for a boondock where the "BioPod" could be placed away from the skoolie, but traveling would require the container be kept outside, making travel miserable for anyone following the bus

Betcha it would deter most tailgaters, though!
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Old 09-17-2009, 11:31 PM   #10
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Re: Composting Toilets

What a bargin, & for ten more bucks they'll even sell you the bucket!
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