I really want to set up a compostingbucket toilet system but I am seeing some pushback about having a compost pile with humanure on our land. I was watching Rob Greenfields house tour and he says that he just shuts his humanure up in a barrel and leaves it to age for a year, then spreads it out on the fruittrees. Can this work? I have seen a similar thing in India where public toilets have dual chambers. One is used for a year then covered and the other is used. At the end of the year the aged humanure is emptied to be used as fertilizer and the filled chamber is sealed. Would this cause any issues with anaerobic bacteria? I could even leave it closed up for two or three years, but this seems the simplest, cleanest way to do things if it actually works. Does anyone know of any issues?
I have seen the dual chamber toilet work quite well, I helped empty the year old pile one time and it had no offensive odor and looked like nice compost. Those folks spread it out in the woodlot out of an abundance of caution.
The one major difference between that system and what you are describing is that the pile wasn't sealed up in a barrel for a year, it was sitting in a pile in a concrete chamber that had vents near the top between the poo chamber and the wooden bathroom structure on top. Not sure what difference the totally anaerobic situation would make but you could innoculate with beneficial bacteria that can work anaerobically, like bokashi, before sealing
My experience is very small scale - I'm not living full-time yet on my land, and it's just me, for the most part. I store inside in 5 gallon buckets with a soft flexible seal lid, and then transfer to a trash barrel with a tight lid. Not sure I'd call it anaerobic. It doesn't slime, give off methane or produce liquid leachate. The tight lid is mostly to prevent spills if knocked over, and to keep nosey neighbors ignorant. It grows normal fungi inside the barrel.
The material starts out pretty dry, most urine diverted to another bucket, and enough sawdust to eliminate any odor.
I've emptied the barrel several times. First time into a compost pile, but several more times directly into garden beds or start holes for trees.
At the end of a year, it's pretty much just cooked compost.
A local friend placed his barrel inside a transparent box, which acts as a solaroven of sorts, and cooks it down faster.
We've done the closed barrel humanure compost for 2 years and just moved to open compost bins this past fall. I thought it was great! It didn't smell and didn't attract animals or our dogs.
Our barrel set up used 55 gallon plastic olive barrels. We located them in an area 200' from our cabin.
We prepared the area by, 1) flattening the land and clearing out underbrush, 2) ensuring the barrels were in a spot that got some sun and shade, 3) preparing an easy path to them, wide enough for a wheelbarrow and able to be easily cleared of snow in the winter. Prepared enough space for 24 barrels, assuming filling one per month on average(family of 2 with frequent visitors) and allowing then to sit a full year. 4) we made a leeching base for each barrel with 12" of leaves, hay, straw, grass clippings and wood chips. 5) we made sure we had an area we could get shovels full of top soil to add to the barrels as we went along. 6) we dedicated a little covered shelter to keep extra clippings/leaves/hay dry while it also acted as a catchment for rainwater. 7) we set up a rain barrel for water to wash out buckets I'm the warm months and in the winter we cleaned ok it with snow. 8) we dedicated a garden fork, shovel, gloves and toilet brush to be kept at the site for humanure use only to ensure cleanliness.
Preparing the Barrels. 1) We drilled holes in the bottom, 2) almost all barrels had a screw top. We saved those for when we capped them and while a barrel was being filled we had a metal window screening over the opening with a bungee cord holding it taught and then placed a small piece of tin and a large rock to hold it from blowing off and kept the rain and snow out.
3) place a 2" layer of soil in the bottom to start
Using the system
1) empty buckets into the barrel 2) wash the toilet buckets out with some water and the toilet brush and pour that water into barrel. 3) cover with a few handfuls of dry leaves/hay/clippings and a thin layer of topsoil(this adds microbes to your compost and reduces smell...make sure it's soil, not sand or clay). 4) you can and should include humanure, urine and anything you would normally compost including animal scraps and bones(we farm meat animals for personal use and compost the entrails after harvesting) I have heard of people composting sanitary napkins in this way too and just picking out the plastics after it's all done. I am sure this would work, but it wasn't a need for us. 5) when the barrel is full, cap with a solid, tight fitting lid . Label each full barrel with month and year so you know when it is ready. We used spray paint pens. Sharpies wear off after a few months.
1) 24 barrels takes up alot of space and looks rather unsightly. This is the main reason we went to large bins. 2) after a full year, the barrels were about 1/2 to 1/3 full of beautiful, black compost. The only things that didn't break down after that time were some onion skins and some eggshells. We no longer compost eggshells and use them for other things. 3) a barrel is tall when lifting a full bucket. I dug a few a foot into the ground which worked for filling but was horrible for emptying. Plus they got covered in deep snow over winter and I would say took longer to thaw out and get working again. I kept a milk crate nearby to stand on as my ultimate solution. 4) you won't have soil to cover each deposit in winter. Leaves, etc work fine and since it all freezes, there is no real odour. In the spring I did reopen those I had capped in winter and added a few shovels of soil and then closed up again. 5) make sure you prepare your barrels and site all together at first and clear it of snow as winter progresses. Nothing sucks more than trying to setup barrels on snow and then when the snow melts having the barrels topple over. 6) make sure you have enough barrels!
My PEP Badge Tracker: An easier way to track your PEP Badge Progress