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Feminine hygiene products and composting toilets  RSS feed

 
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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How do you handle "feminine hygiene" products with your composting toilets? If the product is "all natural" - can it be composted inside the barrel?
 
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Location: West Michigan Zone 5
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why not a diva cup or similar?
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Good option. However, I regularly have tours, etc here and may run into all kinds of products that people use. For some items, I'll provide a separate receptacle but for others, perhaps they can be composted within the barrel?
 
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Add everything and compost everything. If it doesn't completely break down, and some things like the plastic pad liners won't, you will have to remove those from the finished compost. A bit more work at the very end but it simplifies your life and maximizes the environmental good. To me this is one of the strong points of the all in compost system, simplicity for the average user.
 
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Thanks for asking this question - it is topic that gets very little attention in composting toilet resources. In fact, having looked for information on this topic, I haven't found any significant resources. So I will share my personal experience:

For the 55 gallon barrel composting toilet batch system at my home, I have a separate trash can for feminine hygiene products. I would like to start experimenting with adding cotton tampons and pads, to see if they will break down in a 4 month composting cycle. But I have not tried this yet. I would not add any products that have plastic parts.

For the 55 gallon barrel composting toilet at Watershed Management Group's office, we ask that all feminine hygiene products are put in a separate trash can. I would not encourage composting these products in a public setting because people will likely throw in unwanted materials such as plastic. Our staff also take turns cleaning the composting toilet and aerating the composting toilets, so I think its more comfortable for everyone to keep feminine hygiene products out of the toilet.

I would like to hear if anyone has experience composting cotton feminine hygiene products where they completely break-down in the composting cycle.
 
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Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Wyatt Barnes wrote:Add everything and compost everything. If it doesn't completely break down, and some things like the plastic pad liners won't, you will have to remove those from the finished compost. A bit more work at the very end but it simplifies your life and maximizes the environmental good. To me this is one of the strong points of the all in compost system, simplicity for the average user.


This is absolutely in line with my personal experience.

Our compost toilets are a double chamber system, where we use a chamber for a year, then let it stand unused for year, then empty it. The cover material varies from soil to sawdust to dry silt powder to leaves.

I can tell you I've dropped a bazillion tampons down it over the past 20 years and never found so much as a string when removing compost. We do remove lots of plastic pad liners (we've got lots of teenagers and young women staying here), and as Wyatt says above, I guess that's not so bad considering we really don't have any better alternative for them. The cotton part of the pads decomposes and just the plastic side remains. Some girls wrap their used goods in plastic and bury them in the garbage pits, but you don't want to know what some of the feral dog shit around here looks like. Oops, sorry, TMI.

However, as somebody pointed out when I said this on another thread, most commercial brands such as o.b. (which I was using for most of those 20 years) actually have random non-cotton elements such as rayon or polyester. So it would be better to use brands that are 100% cotton, like natracare or veeda. And of course use applicator free tampons, so you don't have the stupid plastic applicator to dispose of!

When traveling in the plains of India, where only water toilets are available, I use a keeper cup. But that's no good here in dry Ladakh where our toilets are dry composters, and the bathing rooms are elsewhere, and their greywater goes right out on the surface Nope, I don't use those cups here.

I have considered installing a cheapo woodstove in one of the girls' toilet rooms, with a request to pull chunks of wood out of the sawdust and put them in the bottom, and to burn your pads yourself. But then there would be plastic smoke and ashes, and would it require some liquid fossil fuel to make wet pads burn? Yick. So we just keep pulling the liners out of the compost.
 
Wyatt Barnes
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Rebecca, I need a clarification on your thoughts about the diva cup style system. If you had access to sink facilities in the toilet room that didn't drain to the surface would you use the cup type and empty it into the compost toilet?
 
Rebecca Norman
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Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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*** WARNING *** TMI ALERT *** SKIP TO ANY DIFFERENT POST IF YOU'RE A SQUEAMISH MALE ***

Sure, yes, I might. The keeper cups I have can be a little messy though in a nice clean dry white bathroom. Frankly, here's my choice:

For a composting toilet I love the "drop and cover" ease of tampons. Reminds me of chop and drop mulch (Edited to add: for years I brought o.b. tampons and dropped them down our schools compost toilets, and they composted completely. The last few years, though there seems to be a small square of synthetic fiber fabric wrapped around them, that shows up in the compost two years later. So now I buy all-cotton brands like natracare instead of o.b.)

For a squat-style water toilet (eg Indian), it's easy and convenient to wash the cup and your hand right there in front of you over the bowl without wetting your lap, so the cup works great. I bought one box of a dozen several years ago at CVS and despite the packet's strict warnings not to reuse them, I've only opened about six and reused each one for ages, so the waste ratio is wonderful. But woe betide you if you're stuck without water when it's time to change it! Does a bear shit in the woods? Of course. But a modest bear does not change her cup in the woods without a copious supply of water. Leaves do not help! Not even comfrey. When you've got a cup in you, you worry about this possibility.

For a common seat-style water toilet, there's really no comfortable solution. If you're in somebody else's house, you're like, rolling of a third of a roll of TP around a tampon to hide the blood inside the random reused plastic packaging you found in your bag. Or you're sheepishly flushing a tampon and hoping it doesn't get stuck? (Been there done that, and I can't believe that long-suffering handyman housemate is still my friend 25 years later!) Or you're cautiously transporting the cup to the sink in the opposite corner of the bathroom -- wow, what a beautiful colour on that porcelain tile floor! Now if I could just sluice it all down without soaking everything in the room and discoloring the soap, and getting all my clothes wet in the process. Oh, and taking less than ten minutes.

Oh wow, maybe I should get a little bit older just a little bit faster, please! Or not move back to the US till then.

*** ALERT FINISHED. YOU CAN OPEN YOUR EYES NOW ***

 
Wyatt Barnes
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Thanks Jennifer, I thought it was a water issue. No problem for me with the squeamish issue I have lived for 20 years in a house full of females, one wife. two daughters plus all their visiting friends reading Cosmopolitan letters out loud, a cat and a dog. Plus the idea of saying woman troubles doesn't exist in my house and young women's normal conversations would make a stevedore blush.
 
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Jennifer Wadsworth wrote:How do you handle "feminine hygiene" products with your composting toilets?  If the product is "all natural" - can it be composted inside the barrel?


I usually use coupe menstruelle pas cher for my menstrual cycles which gives protection for longer period and have no fear of leakages and unpleasant odours. These cups  can be stored easily for longer time as these cups are reusable. 
 
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Location: Swanton, MD
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I am not a Jenkins fan, so this might not be applicable to you.   I have 1 bucket for urine & washing.   I use peat moss for cover in the poop bucket.   Since family does not use Toilet Paper, and wash ourselves with a bidet & pat dry with a cloth, we handle all non-human waste in the same way.   Those who use Toilet Paper, and those who use disposable sanitary products, are asked to place these in a 3rd bucket - which is a 5-gallon bucket with a gamma seal lid.   We call that our dump bucket, because we used to take it to the dump.  The bottom 2" of the bucket has cedar gerbil litter in it and there is cedar chips available so visitors can cover their waste.

We treat the dump bucket like it was napalm.   We no longer take it to the dump though.  I have a small fire pit near the outhouse, and whenever necessary, we dump the bucket into the pit and burn it.   I do not try to compost it as blood can attract unwanted visitors - of the bear variety.   The toilet paper & cedar serves as kindling for the sanitary products, however I also add sticks as needed to make sure of a clean burn.   I wash the dump bucket with acetic acid before returning it to the outhouse.   Because of this, the bucket has an odor of vinegar & cedar.

The outhouse is the only place with toilet paper.  Inside our home, the "earth room" has a 2-gallon bucket with a gamma seal lid with gerbil litter lining the bottom 2".   I discourage disposable products, but do not demand the girls use them.   They place their disposables in the 2-gallon bucket and cover it with the cedar litter.   Whenever it is full, it is also treated like napalm and burnt rather than composted.   Again, I want nothing to attract bears.

I realize Toilet Paper will compost eventually, but I do not trust the manufacturer of the toilet paper.   I do not even want trace chemicals in my compost pile.

 
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I use organic cotton products, both sanitary and toilet paper. They compost down very quickly. Seeing as it's only me and so infrequent, there is no problem with that.

I would not wish to add other users products to my compost due to the chemical bleaches and very nasty chemicals in most sanitary products. Would you really want to grow your veggies in that mix? Not I.
I have no desire to put them in my body in any manner!
 
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