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How do I explain why a composting toilet is necessary?

 
Mother Tree
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OK guys, I have a rather unusual and delicate problem to address, and I need to brainstorm.

How to you explain to a large family that has always been somewhat nomadic and pooped outside wherever they are that if they are going to settle in one place then it's going to be necessary to compost the poop?

I have a language barrier to overcome, plus culture, literacy, and education barriers to contend with.

Hit me with your ideas!
 
pollinator
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Point out that it is a resource and you want their contributions to help the garden. Ask them to help you out rather than tell them they can't do something.
 
pollinator
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* If the stuff is all over, you're going to step in it.
* It's cheaper than paying for water (presumably).
* It's like what grandpa used, only with some sawdust to prevent stink.
* It's fun.
 
Posts: 826
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Burra, the nicest thing is what michael said, it's perfect for the garden, please contribute.

The bad and annoying reasons are:

1. It's almost always accompanied with paper, which looks atrocious if it's everywhere you look.
2. Flies and gnats will fill the air, fill the house, fill the kitchen, die in cups of fruit juice, tea, milk, any food that is not in the refrigerator. working/sitting outside in a sea of flies is miserable
3. Flies with poop on their feet, even if it's animal (dog) poop, can track it around the kitchen.
4. It can pollute the ground water you drink -- that probably enters into wells that you drink from, maybe neighbor's wells, too.
5. It has the potential to grow the strain of e. coli that makes you sick. If you are that sick you'll have to go to the doctor, doctors often report things like that, the health department could show up and then they get to point to everything there that is illegal and/or dangerous
6. It gets tracked inside, even if feet are wiped and you can't really see it.
7. If neighbors are near it affects them in the same ways.
8. If neighbors are close enough to find out, or someone mentions it to a neighbor, they might call the health department. Once one government agency shows up, they all tend to show up.
9. It smells for longer than you think.
10. If solids get rained on, they turn into little rivers of *&^% and travel, that's how ground water gets contaminated, and it gets walked on more than anyone realizes.

Are there really that many private places for several people to do that without stepping on what's already been put there?
 
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Location: Otago, New Zealand
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In addition to the humanure as garden resource angle, I think there are two options re hygiene.

One is education about illness that can be spread when there is too much poo around. Would they already know what e coli etc are? I have a feeling that resources like Where There is No Doctor, that is used in undevelopped countries, have simple explanations and diagrams for explaining about human waste and hygiene (you can probably find a copy online). You might be able to use that or adapt it to your situation.

Ah, here it is, try chapter 12. It's basic, but gives you an idea of communicating where there are language or education barriers.

http://hesperian.org/books-and-resources/

The other is to address the staying in one place aspect and demonstrate how this is different to pooing in different places over time. Maybe compare to animals and what happens to animal manure if it's all in one place and not taken care of properly (smell, animals getting dirty, disease etc).


Another issue is going to be standards. Irrespective of health issues, not everyone has the same degree of discomfit about poo as many of us raised in homes with flushing toilets have. There's a balance to be found.
 
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I would keep it simple, you are changing your lifestyle, this is one of the changes.
 
pollinator
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The footprint changes when nomadic motion slows or stops. It's the carrying capacity of impact.

I would use the analogy of a free roaming farm dog on large acreage who never knew a leash vs a dog at neighborhood house in a small kennel fence or on a chain/cable.

 
steward
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Fred was just telling me about hookworms. They evolved with humans and hatch out of human feces. Humans become a host when they step barefooted near the poo because the hookworms can travel four feet from their hatching ground to find a new host. Or, that's close to what I recall that Fred told me. Too many hookworms can make a person anemic or sick.

This might not be as convincing for your neighbors or location, though I thought it was compelling to many here in the States and it might have more info on why contaminating ground water is bad: Septic tanks aren't keeping poo out of rivers and lakes.



 
Posts: 129
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What language/culture are you dealing with?
 
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Hello Burra, Portugal is such a beautiful country, what part do you live in? A friend & I lived in So. Spain in Malaga province in a village called Mijas. We went to the Algarve once when we had to renew our visas, usually we went to Gib. because it was close. 2 replies to your question. 1) a woman I know has a composting toilet, it is a small outhouse building, she puts a 5 gallon plastic bucket below the seat and when used she covers the poop with sawdust because it absorbs moisture. I've read that absorbing the moisture prevents bad odors. The bucket was 1-1.5 m. below the seat. She has a door on the other side of the building that she can open to remove the bucket. She created a compost pile, but said that she would not use the compost for one year, so it would be free of pathogens. I have heard of using wood ash, but I don't think it works as well as sawdust. We have lots of sawmills around so it is easy to get sawdust. If you cannot get sawdust, I would maybe try soil that is easy to get, or maybe even sand, dry leaves, shredded paper (?). Important to have different compost piles and keep track of dates when last added to. 2) I cannot poop on top of some else's poop, can't do it. When in the country without toilet or without privy (outdoor compost toilet) I try to dig as deep as I can with a stick or rock, poop there and cover with lots of leaves and rocks, maybe you did this when you were nomadic. I think it could work if you have plenty of land and a system to identify where someone has pooped, crossed sticks, rocks in a circle, piece of cloth, etc. Please give Portugal a kiss from me. Cheers, Clayton
 
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I have friends who have combined a red wrigglers vermiculture composting system into their washroom. They have 10 rubbermaid bins per person (approximately 6 inches wide by 12 inches long by 5 inches deep) They have dirt and red wrigglers in each bin. Each poop goes into a bin and then they rotate to the next one the next time they poop. By the time the get through all 10, the poop is perfectly composted. Their bathroom smells like healthy dirt. The only issue with this is that they have to pee separately. They have a drain set up. Hope this helps.

I plan on setting this up as my system when I finally get land of my own. Seeing it in action has been really interesting and they put the content back into the garden each summer to help improve the soil.
 
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I wonder what Roma (Gypsies) and Irish Travelers do with it. They must have some protocol.

Being nomadic, shouldn't necessarily include pooping all around the encampment.
 
gardener
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here is the podcast i was telling Jocelyn about: Radiolab - Parasites

It tells how hookworms were behind the myth of lazy southerners.
 
Posts: 47
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Hey Burra, If they want a very easy way to compost humanure and has a little cash they could get one of the Airhead composting toilets. I've just ordered one for the caravan I live in after months of research, this one is hands down the best of it's kind. But it costs $1030.00 USD plus shipping, so it's pricey. It was developed for RV's and boats and is really nice.

Here's the site - http://airheadtoilet.com/us-order/

Here's the Amazon review page, even tough it's not for sale there anymore. The reviews are all 4 or 5 star. http://www.amazon.com/Airhead-Household-Head-Composting-Toilet/product-reviews/B00GXIODVK

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eux2Qi8rLEs The Social Aspect of using a Composting Toilet.

It works by Mesophilic composting, in other words, not hot, just warm like cheese is cultured in. Most composting is Thermophilic, meaning that it gets hot, like 55C in order to kill the microbes. Below are a few good links for doing thermophilic humanure composting that I found in my research. I was going to do this method, but my situation won't allow it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gd4UDTOSm8g Check out this guy, Joe Jenkins' site and youtube channel for more, he's got one of the best systems I've seen yet. He's the author of The Humanure Handbook.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BWc-RjuWbs Another with Joe Jenkins.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOOUxa4_K1g This is a local guy here in Tucson, AZ who developed a really nice two barrel rotating system that's easy and odorless for the most part. He's endorsed by the Watershed Management Group run by Brad Lancaster the author of "Rainwater Harvesting For Drylands and Beyond and one of the world's authorities on water catchment and sustainable systems.

http://www.omick.net/composting_toilets/barrel_toilet.htm Here's another link on the system above.

There are a million composting toilet videos on youtube is you search for them. Probably some in Espanol or Portugueso too. I would also see if you can get a copy of "The Humanure Handbook" Good Luck!
 
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Clayton Tharp wrote:1) a woman I know has a composting toilet, it is a small outhouse building, she puts a 5 gallon plastic bucket below the seat and when used she covers the poop with sawdust because it absorbs moisture. I've read that absorbing the moisture prevents bad odors. The bucket was 1-1.5 m. below the seat. She has a door on the other side of the building that she can open to remove the bucket. She created a compost pile, but said that she would not use the compost for one year, so it would be free of pathogens. I have heard of using wood ash, but I don't think it works as well as sawdust. We have lots of sawmills around so it is easy to get sawdust. If you cannot get sawdust, I would maybe try soil that is easy to get, or maybe even sand, dry leaves, shredded paper (?). Important to have different compost piles and keep track of dates when last added to. 2) I cannot poop on top of some else's poop, can't do it. When in the country without toilet or without privy (outdoor compost toilet) I try to dig as deep as I can with a stick or rock, poop there and cover with lots of leaves and rocks, maybe you did this when you were nomadic. I think it could work if you have plenty of land and a system to identify where someone has pooped, crossed sticks, rocks in a circle, piece of cloth, etc. Please give Portugal a kiss from me. Cheers, Clayton



Sawdust absorbs moisture, it is also carbon rich so it composts well with nitrogen rich stuff such as faeces and urine (I find it isn't usually necessary to separate urine), but some people disagree. I think it might depend on your climate. 1 year is a little short. Nothing really nasty (cholera, typhoid, salmonella) will survive that length of time in hot compost, but threadworm eggs can live up to 18 months. I wait 18 months to two years to be on the safe side. We are all pioneering and promoting these kinds of technologies, so that other people will adopt them in future, if we make mistakes we will give the technology a bad name, so IMO a little extra caution isn't a bad thing.

A friend of mine experimented and found straw was the best thing (probably because of the air in it), followed by sawdust (no treated wood and if you can get vegetable based oil for your chainsaw so much the better). Autumn leaf litter will do. Avoid using hay, it's generally too nitrogen rich unless cut very late. I guess shredded paper could work. I get cheap recycled, unbleached toilet paper and it seems to compost fine. Jewel beetles seem to do most of the breakdown, they thrive in our toilet! Redworms or earthworms might help too. Watch out for coloured paper. In Europe newsprint is supposed to only use biodegradeable vegetable dyes, but the ingredients in glossy paper apparently remain a trade secret. I don't want to reopen the debate about toxicity of cardboard. You can find that elsewhere on permies. Sand or soil would keep flies away but it wouldn't encourage the kind of hot composting you want.

I would strongly advise against using wood ash in a composting toilet. Someone will sooner or later try to pursuade you to use it, often on the grounds that "it's what they do in India" (no comment ). Ash sterilises, and stops the composting process. The mixture becomes anaerobic. I don't know how long it would take for ash-poo mixture to break down and become safe to handle, probably a very long time. It's almost like a way to preserve faeces. Not nice. Also, consider that fire ash is rarely just wood ash. I try very hard to ensure that fires at my place are untreated wood only, or at least to keep suspect stuff to one stove only so the ash can be disposed of separately, but many people are accustomed to burning all kinds of rubbish, plastics, vulcanised rubber, lead wicked candles etc. and extremely reluctant to change the habits of a lifetime (or incapable of lighting a fire without toxic stuff). One guy I met wanted to burn an old smoke detector on the grounds that one of the components was slightly radioactive (true), and burning it would make the radioactivity go away (not true).

Anyway back to the original question. Cultural issues are the hardest thing about compost toilets. I agree with Cristo's arguments. I'm guessing is that these people aren't particularly fecophobic, and aren't going to be getting a flushing lavatory any time soon, so that's half the battle won (although after a year or two of treading in faeces, they may resort to such desperate innovations. The voices calling for composting toilets are quiet compared to those of the flushing toilet lobby). Compost toilets done properly are both hygienic and cheap, and I would emphasise that side of the argument. Also consider the children who are going to be at risk of hookworms, threadworms and worse things. I would ignore the $1030 dollar option. I doubt it's appropriate in this situation.

I went to a rainbow gathering where some of the people believed in pooping anywhere they liked in little holes in the ground because "it would break down in a week or so". They were a small minority, but I blame them for the typhoid which I caught. One thing when you are travelling around, but too many people and it's a no no.

A few people in one place for a long time with no toilet will find the most accessible places get used first and then you have to walk through these places to get somewhere new....This means walking through big patches of vigorously growing stinging nettles and thistles with faeces hidden in them to find somewhere new to squat down because stinging nettles are nitrophiles which love growing on human urine and faeces. A contained toilet reduces these problems considerably. Wonderful multipurpose plants nettles may be, harvesting them is a lot easier and more hygienic if they aren't surrounded by fresh bodily wastes. I don't know if they plan on gardening or growing anything, but here again a bit or order would help.

In China and much of the far east babies mostly don't wear nappies and are allowed to poop anywhere. The solution in this instance is little dogs which eat the poo and later get eaten themselves. Some anthropologists think this is one of the reasons why humans domesticated dogs in the first place. It's not my preferred solution....yuk
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