How to Manage One’s Poo

Perhaps at sometime in history it made sense to mix potable water with raw human waste; this would appear preferable to walking through filthy city streets, aware that one could be hit with the contents of a chamber pot at any moment. However, today, with the threat (and reality) of water shortages around the world, the time has come to explore waste management options that involve neither potable water nor flying poo.

The first time we emptied our composting toilet, Steve puked out the window (good thing we have 30 of them), so I am not suggesting that there is a simple solution to the waste issue. Our bus has the best possible set up for using a small, self-contained composting toilet. All we have to do is open the bus’s aptly named “emergency exit” door, unscrew the cleaning tray from the toilet, dump the contents into a garbage bag, rinse the tray down with a garden hose, and reinstall the tray. Most of this can be accomplished outside the bus.

The composted waste smells like an especially pungent swamp (the toilet’s venting system keeps odor from entering the bus), but according to composting toilet experts, it should have very little odor. Recent research has led us to believe that the strong odor is most likely the result of imbalance in our carbon to nitrogen ratios, so we now add our toilet paper to the mix instead of putting it in a separate garbage can. If anyone out there has experience with composting toilets, please let us know what else we can do to minimize odor. To be clear, the toilet’s venting system keeps it from making the bus stink most of the time, the issue arises only when we have to empty it.

Composted waste can be dug-in around non-food bearing trees or, in theory, finished in a compost pile and used around fruit trees. However, in the state of Washington, it is illegal to use composted human waste on food crops of any kind. Our toilet meets the WAC code for approved composting toilets in the state of Washington and can be purchased from Home Depot.

The Romans drained waste from their sewers directly into streams. Americans generally pump sewage to energy intensive treatment plants, often located in poor neighborhoods, or into septic systems, which studies have shown to be the primary source of ground water pollution in rural areas.

Do composting and incinerating toilets offer a viable alternative? What do you think?

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