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Composting Toilets

 
gardener
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Excellent idea - using a cooler.

So when you opened the lid the smell was eliminated by your fan?
 
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Jami McBride wrote:
So when you opened the lid the smell was eliminated by your fan?



Less smell that a conventional toilet (even with a room exhaust fan running). 

Bob
 
                        
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paul wheaton wrote:
I seem to recall reading somewhere that adding ash or lime is not a good idea.  It cuts the smell but also stops the microbes from working.

I think peat might not be a good idea either.  Too acidic.

I think that some varieties of sawdust are going to work much better than others.  I think cottonwood or poplar would work five times better than any conifer.



Just a thought:  There is a flushable kitty litter called "Swheat Scoop" that is made from wheat chaff and wheat that is "not suitable for human consumption" (not sure what they mean, but...)  I can attest that this stuff really keeps the smells from cat pee and poop down to non-existent levels.  The thing is, although you keep adding fresh litter to keep the level up, after two or three months, you're supposed to dump out the old litter, rinse the litter box, and start with a fresh box of litter.  They are adamant that you should NOT FLUSH THE OLD LITTER because you might clog the drains.  I've been pouring it around my apartment building's garbage bin to keep away the critters, but if I had a composting toilet, the old litter is what I would be using to toss in after every use.
 
Jami McBride
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The problem I see with kitty litter is that it is you have to purchase it   
But it is good to know how well wheat chaff can control odors.

If I'm going to all the trouble to collect and compost my waste I want no-smell but I want it using something I can find around my own property (shredded leaves?).  I want the whole shebang to be contained to my property - that's the point for me, not the water issue so much.

This is why I asked my question to Bob, I noticed he separated the urine and I know this can really smell in no time.
 
                                  
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Hey there.  One of my best friends actually works for Sun-Mar.  I have used one of thier toilets at another friend's cottage.  They've had it for about 4 years without issue.  I've personally seen the compost and it's quite remarkable soil.  No smell from the toilet, as they are vented and no smell from the compost.  I've heard that you could expect to grow tomato plants and perhaps strawberry plants where you choose to throw the composted soil, that is if you eat tomatos and strawberries!
 
                        
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Has anyone seen or used any of these? supposedly they are in use all over the place..would seem to get away from having to cart stuff around while it is still yucky but would appear to be still an outside structure which is unappealing for old bones in cold winter climate.      http://www.swsloo.com/

 
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Muzhik wrote:wheat that is "not suitable for human consumption" (not sure what they mean



Often, too much protein. 

Lots of gluten means hard, nutritious bread.

If nobles eat fluffy cakes, middle classes eat bread of various descriptions, and proles eat glutinous pasta, it stands to reason that extremely hard wheat would be suitable only for swine...at least, that's what the dominant systems of thought teach me.





 
                                    
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Not a composting toilet in the true sense of the word - it dries out the pooh enabling one to cart it off for further treatment.

Big plus is the 'no water' required (exept for cleaning the drop chute once a day/as required) Invasive plant shavings are used to cover wet waste (currently a huge drive in South Africa to clear the land from invasive plants)  - no smell, no flies - option of gravity/wind/solar/grid powered fan is used to ensure one way draft.

http://www.ecosan.co.za/

I came upon these/operated while vacting in George/Western Cape/ (drought stricken)

http://www.teniquatreetops.co.za/

Found kids younger than 5years will have trouble operating - the barrel is rotated by means of a lever system when opening the lid and a bit of effort requierd.

The benefit is that +20Litre of water used to flush/use is reduced tremendously.

Enjoy!

 
                              
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Paul,

Failing to separate pee and poop does not result in the imagined problems you predict. In fact I have very good evidence that the idea of addition smell is... well.. malarky.. In a rush to head out of state for some work, I left a compost bucket, or both pee and poo, in an enclosed space which would get quite hot while I was gone. I will admit to the same fear mongering you mention, but when I returned two months later, there was no terrible odor at all! In fact there simply was no odor. I confirmed this result with a second trip under even worse circumstances but this time with the waste intentionally eft in these conditions with an identical result. Add to this the day to day experiences of no odor and I contend that this is conclusive proof that separating the two is not only unnecessary but with the need for N and acid to break down the cover material, irresponsible.

It looks like others have also addressed this and other  "problems" with using simple and effective composting systems, though the one caveat I will grant is that if you use a trivial amount of cover material (either in the toilet bucket or in the compost pile) you may get an odor, but as any gardener knows this is true of any compost pile regardless of content..

Just my friendly two cents..
 
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their are many how to make a composting toilet on youtube check it out

the cheap guy
 
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The only thing stopping me from turning my compost bin into a humanure compost bin is the fact that I frequently find a possum sitting on top of it!  Jenkins insists it is important to exclude animals in the Humanure Handbook, but he doesn't elaborate much.  I would be happy simply to surround it by chicken wire, but it's a roofed pile by the wooden property line fence and I don't know that the animal wouldn't simply get in from the fence or by climbing off the overhanging roof.  I hate to move the entire two bin edifice (soon to be three bin), and build a whole new roofing structure, and there may not be anywhere else more suitable on my 1/4 acre lot anyway. Am I overreacting, am I overlooking something, or am I out of luck?
 
Jami McBride
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Just thinking out-loud -  Opossums prefer old fruit, and some old foods, so I can see why they might be attracted to your compost.  However, if you turned it into a humanure pile I would think that would stop their visits    Their food source mixed with humanure should do the trick, but maybe you could experiment.  Start a little pile to the side and hide your old food scrapes under your humanure, then wait....
 
                                  
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Hi all, well we had a Sun Mar for ten years and did not like it, first of it NEVER composted-why it must be at least 70 degrees or more- 24/7/365, then the gnats take over in the summer, must use diazinon to get rid of them, so forget about putting in your garden.
  Then it takes about 20 minutes to unload -crank back and forth etc..-hassle. not to mention it costs about $1200~
  So finally we found these at http://www.lodge-tech.net/products1.html
  It works real good and it diverts the urine unlike most big name brands, takes five minutes to unload, and the gnats are reduced by about 95%
  Good fortune~

 
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Woodsman wrote:
Hi all, well we had a Sun Mar for ten years and did not like it, first of it NEVER composted-why it must be at least 70 degrees or more- 24/7/365, then the gnats take over in the summer, must use diazinon to get rid of them, so forget about putting in your garden.
  Then it takes about 20 minutes to unload -crank back and forth etc..-hassle. not to mention it costs about $1200~
  So finally we found these at http://www.lodge-tech.net/products1.html
  It works real good and it diverts the urine unlike most big name brands, takes five minutes to unload, and the gnats are reduced by about 95%
  Good fortune~



I see nothing about that barrel that makes it worth $180.00. Save the money and use a bucket with a seat on it like "Campy" shows in his post or with a little carpenter skills make a wooden box Loo).  I would be interested in the urine diverting system you mention. Can you post pics of it?
 
                                  
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WOWsers!;
you all sure do know a lot and are fired up on a topic!! Awesome.

Now here's simple  (serving community of 30 in Ca. with 50 inches of rain.

                                 We use plastic buckets, sawdust(which is perpetual in California,we avoid plywood or  particle board or painted wood) pee there if you must...
  then into big free 50 gallon buckets with lids from the local apple-juice co.  I think the sweetener comes in these!

                         then to a WORM WINDROW made of woodchips(Perpetual,from tree service cutting up winter windfall)
   the windrow is on a densely packed logging road of pure clay,with a small trench surrounding to prevent ground water from running through.  the whole pile,about three feet deep, and twenty feet long has handled 7 fifty gallon drums, and the entrails and bones and heads of four large dead sheep at once. 
                                 The entire windrow is covered with old roofing tin to prevent rain water run through and leachate.
In six months I can dig to the bottom with gloved hands, bring up a big handful and sniff it and it smells and looks like good soil.
   Although most pathogens cannot survive more than six weeks outside a host,and worms are well known for  killing unfriendly bacteria,,
we still only use this product on our fruit and olive trees.

                            all started with one handful of worms  there are at least fifty pounds in there now,not bad at $25.00
a lb.  least effort for greatest return.
      I forgot to mention we have a tractor to help with moving the extremely heavy barrels.
next is to figure a way for the tractor to invert the barrels so we don't have to..  a smelly moment not for the feint at heart.

   even easier!(for you tiny home and trailer dwellers,  one handful of worms in a plastic laundry tub with a few hols poked in the side.

  POO in a paper bag(keep a large coffee can with sawdust available nearby for those who cannot desperate streams.)
roll up bags and toss in container with a burlap bag on top,and a light plastic sheet over that. months later when its getting heavy
take it and bury it all near a tree with plenty of mulch on top, you will have MILLIONS of worms! start over.

   Probably NONE of this could work where the ground freezes sorry folks ,you need a hot system, bit more maintenance.

                                            Make the TOY Let,into a TOY,Let's NOT
                                                                                                                                     Blessings ,happy pooping!
                                                                                                                                  Nico

 
                                  
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PS

I forgot to mention two things

1  the compost in woodchips include mycorrhizal fungi
and 2 just because someone writes a book, does not mean they necessarily know what they are talking about!

there is more urban myth and misinformation,including from university sources and "waste management"
in composting, than any other art I have studied.
people will give you lists of things you"Can't compost"  tell it to nature,is all I can say to them.
                                                            N
 
                                  
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  The cost of the materials is at least $100 plus about 2-3 hrs labor, and there are two interior buckets,  if you just use a bucket with seat, its going to smell real bad unless vented~
  And the urine divert system is not even on most big name brands! and then you could put this in your garden as well~ all this is where the cost comes in I suppose, its well worth it, a wooden box will get moldy as well unless varnished or something>
 
Mother Tree
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It won't smell if you cover everything with sawdust or somesuch after you've used it. 

I do appreciate, however, that not everyone wants to poop in a bucket.  Even I have a wooden 'lovable loo' style cabinet built around my bucket!  I never bothered with the seat though - my butt's too big to fall in so I never bothered.  

Woodsman - I hope you don't mind, but I took the liberty of posting up a photo of your system and the 'blurb'.  Maybe $180 is steep for some people, but I'm sure there are others who would welcome not having to make a toilet from scratch. 

COMPOST TOILET $180, "Blue Swan" No odors, uses peat moss, wood ash, dry dirt, saw dust etc. Has urine diverter at point of entry, minor plumbing possible but not necessary, uses dual rotatable reloadable bucket system, front door and rake. (4" vent pipe not included)
  Not certified by NSF for residential use, great for domes, cabins, back woods hunting lodges, at a fraction of the cost of leading brands- Photo below



 
ronie dee
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Woodsman wrote:
  The cost of the materials is at least $100 plus about 2-3 hrs labor, and there are two interior buckets,  if you just use a bucket with seat, its going to smell real bad unless vented~
  And the urine divert system is not even on most big name brands! and then you could put this in your garden as well~ all this is where the cost comes in I suppose, its well worth it, a wooden box will get moldy as well unless varnished or something>



Sorry guess i didn't make the wooden box method clear, sometimes i think everyone already knows  The Humanure Handbook by Dave Jenkins.  The wood box would have a bucket inside.

I don't need a urine divert system, but I would like to have one for the lady. Jenkins doesn't bother to divert urine, but I divert as much as i can. I still would like to see some divert systems to see if i can copy it.

As for smell - my bucket smells better than a water closet.  I use whatever organic material that i can get my hands on...
I use leaves and peat moss for convenience. The leaves give the bucket a good smell. There is no vent system needed - a bathroom vent or window would be nice for the same reason you like to have one with a regular water stool.

If I didn't work so many hours in the rat race, I'd use leaves and other local materials instead of the peat moss.
 
                            
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I have done some  experimenting with the 5 gallon pail method and it seems to work fine. I made a box out of plywood with a toilet seat and lid on it. Was a bit worried it would smell so I set it up in the garage and went out there to do my business for about a month. It didn't smell much at all. I could not smell it upon entering the garage and usually had to open the lid and pretty much put my face right over the bucket before I could smell much of anything. The trick was to cover it with enough carbon material to soak up any excess liquid and lightly cover the waste. A bucket would probably last one person 2 weeks (maybe longer)if they were mostly urinating outside.

Really the only drawback I see to this method is changing and cleaning the buckets. Not particularly a pleasant job and it does take up a bit of time. Unfortunately a lot of the other methods I have looked into seem to have even more problems. The systems that separate fluids seem like a major hassle and would need to be cleaned on a regular basis to avoid smelling like a dirty urinal. The systems that have larger containers usually are outhouse style systems that use machinery to move the barrels around or something similar. that isn't going to work for me with the brutally cold winters we have in Alberta. Tonight is supposed to be -30'C I don't think I would want to go outside to do my business in this weather and my girlfriend would kill me. The commercial systems are overly expensive and often don't work as well as claimed.

So far the best solution to the bucket problem I can think of is to just get a whole bunch of 5 gallon pails and have a shed where you could store them up and let them dry out a bit with lids off and then every few months you could deal with emptying and cleaning them all at once. This shed could be used for other things as well and the buckets could be stacked lids off in a staggered manner if floor space was an issue. I guess with our winters you would need enough buckets and room to store 5-6 months worth cause they would freeze solid in the winter unless you had a greenhouse to set them in. Seems if I am going to do that sort of work and put on rubber gloves and sterilize waste buckets I would prefer to to it all at once rather then 10-15 minutes worth every 1-2 weeks. Plus if you did it all at once you could build a compost pile and then not have to mess with it again until it was time to use it.

I don't see a problem with using humanure compost on stuff like fruit trees, and around shrubs and berry bushes. I also don't think groundwater contamination would be a problem at all. If you are spreading this stuff out on ground that is warm in the late spring or early summer and there is plenty of organic material in the soil and plants around to absorb everything I don't see how excess nitrogen or whatever could end up in the ground water. Compare this to the standard procedure around here on farms and acreages around here were the septic tank pumps off the excess water containing human waste and all the chemicals flushed down the drain into a slew behind the house and I don't really see a problem.

Run off from the compost piles themselves can be mitigated by building the pile on a thick layer of straw or covering the piles with a roof.

Anyone have any thoughts or comments on storing the buckets before emptying them?
 
Jami McBride
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Great discussion 

I love your ideas Thorgrim - temp storage, especially in your area where they would freeze, and you could stack them.
Ideas for storage - seems like yours is the best.  I couldn't store like that where I live, unless they were covered the whole time.
--------------------------------------

I've seen one pee divert system posted long ago at HouseAlive.com  (strawbale down in Ashland Or) it was just a funnel tacked on the side of their bucket with a tube leading away.  Only the two guys of the house used it at the time.

For a project I was doing I saved pee in a bucket - yikes does that smell starting about 24 hours after saving.

My distrust of diverting setups is that I believe (not tested yet) that the pee on the sides of the tube/tunnel will stink even after dumping.  So to my way of thinking one would need a flush to clean pee tubes and prevent stinking.
--------------------------------------

Anyone have ideas for easier bucket clean up?  Does paper lining help?

And in the photo of the blue barrel for $180 it says to clean use a rake - OMGosh do they mean you rake the sh*% out the front?  Then what.....?



 
                        
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Use compostable cornstarch based plastic bags to line the buckets..as long as you are almost entirely separating the  urine from the feces. Put the bag into the bucket and line the bottom with a little sawdust or some paper towel and proceed as usual, covering deposits each time. When the bag is getting to the full stage or seems as though it is likely to be getting heavy, tie it off and put into the compost pile and cover with straw or dirt or whatever. No fuss no muss and no smell.  No idea how long it will take to compost but eventually it will get there.

Urine needs its own bucket  though, & bags need to be changed out  frequently..you sure don't want the bag bursting  (once the bag is tied off just dump the contents of the bucket into the compost heap as usual so as to avoid any possibility of accidents).

I'd be very surprised if anyone using buckets can get by without emptying them in some fashion at least once a week, especially if more than one person in the household.  It seems easier to me to take care of this on an ongoing basis once a week rather than have a huge pile of feces, frozen in buckets or not, accumulating in a building...once the weather warmed up you would have a a really really really nasty job to tackle.
 
Burra Maluca
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I 'save' all the buckets for about a month before emptying them.  Mine are a bit smaller than the ones everyone else seems to use because we just can't find them here so I have to buy what's available.  I use the same buckets for humanure, collecting scraps from the kitchen, putting chicken feathers and guts in when I'm preparing meat for the kitchen, and also for putting little newspaper wrapped bundles of poop in that I collect from the old bedridden man who can't use any kind of toilet, not even a humanure one!  I end up, after a month, with about ten plastic buckets with lids.

As for cleaning, so long as there is a good layer of sawdust on the bottom of the bucket and no-one has managed to leave streaks of poop down the side (and lets face it, they do that in a normal toilet too and expect mum to clean it up!) then it's really just a matter of emptying the buckets on top of the heap, covering the yukky stuff with straw or donkey bedding or whatever you use, and then rinsing sawdust out of the bucket and dumping the water on top of the heap.  I also throw a canvas or plastic cover on top to deter critters and conserve moisture, but so long as everything is buried it's not a problem.

I *do* separate urine as much as possible from the humanure - the buckets just get too heavy otherwise!  Also, as I have to transport the buckets to the farm, I find it easier to carry the urine in 5 litre/1gallon sealed containers to prevent leaks. 

I've never had problems with storing the buckets.  If you put a layer of sawdust on top of them all (including kitchen waste ones) and keep the lid on, there's no smell.  Just occasionally in mid-summer you get flies trying to lay eggs around the rim of the buckets so it's as well to keep an eye out for them when you're cleaning them out and make sure you don't leave any behind.  We do have frosts, but no hard freezes so we've had no problems with buckets splitting in cold weather.  Also, as we store pee separately, the relatively dry sawdust might just prevent the whole lot freezing solid.  We've had no problems with critters trying to raid the full buckets, even ones with chicken innards in, so long as we've covered them well with sawdust.  Your mileage may vary on that though!

For anyone thinking of collecting urine, here's a few observations.  Men can easily pee in a small, unlidded bucket that they can hold at a suitable height, but get them to tip it into a larger, lidded bucket when they're done else it will stink.  Women are happier peeing straight into the larger lidded bucket, but if you have something like a she-wee or whiz freedom you can practice peeing in the men's bucket.  It's easier not to bother though, unless you need the practice.  All buckets will need rinsing out every day or two, and you do tend to get deposits settling out on the sides of the bucket - I think it's salts of potassium but I'm not certain about that.  Tubes *do* get deposits along them - the old man uses a sheath catheter and a narrow, clear tube that drains into a 5l container and I have to rinse it out weekly and occasionally clear out with a solution of caustic soda.  They still discolour after a couple of months though, and I have to change them as I need to be able to check that the pee is still flowing though freely.  I guess not many people would have to worry about discolouration in the tubes but for me it's important.

I also find that, as the humanure heap is already pretty rich in nitrogen, the urine is better used on other compost piles as I'm very short of 'greens' to get my carbon rich piles going, and I need all the compost I can get. 
 
Jami McBride
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Burra, wonderful information - I have a question for you.

I have the humanure hand book and have always wondered about the dumping part.  You say "emptying the buckets on top of the heap" - so it doesn't make a cone, and the stuff doesn't roll down the sides of the heap?  In the book he says he digs out a space in the center and dumps into that, but I would want to dig into the center so I could never wrap my brain around how this could work.

Thanks for enlightening me 
 
Burra Maluca
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I always cover the top of the heap with a load of donkey bedding and poop so it's pretty level on top, then when it's time to dump more stuff I use a long handled hoe to push the cover material (NOT the poopy part underneath!!) towards the edges so I have a shallow kind of 'well' in the middle.  Then I tip all the buckets in and aim at a level sort of mound in the central area of the heap.  I don't allow any poopy stuff to get anywhere near the edge as the edges don't heap up enough to kill any pathogens and I like a system I can assure people is safe.  Then I go clean out the donkey's stable using a big black tub so I can tip it out on top of the heap.  I tip it all on so there is a good thick layer over the poopy area in the middle and when I think it's thick enough I keep adding used bedding to the edges so that the whole area is level. 

While I'm building a heap I usually keep the surface pretty level, as most of the time we have a problem with keeping the heap moist enough to work properly and a level surface is easier to keep watered.  I usually throw a black plastic sheet on top and hold it in place with bricks, too.  When I've finished building the heap, which is usually at the turn of the year, I add a thick insulating layer of straw and dome the top, covering it all with a canvas sheet.  This will deflect the heavy rains we tend to have at that time of year.  By the time the hot, dry summers have set in, this heap has finished any 'hot' composting and is just ticking away curing.  At that point I usually level of the mound of straw a bit and water it every now and then, replacing the canvas sheet with black plastic and bricks. 

With the 'active' heap I end up juggling flat and domed, canvas and plastic, to try to keep the moisture level right without risking heavy rains leaching out anything I'd rather stay in the heap. 

This is what it looks like after it's cured for about 9 months...



The strawy covering doesn't rot down, but the rest of it has rotted down completely.  It's also 'collapsed' a bit in the middle, which has had all the high-nitrogen poop and kitchen waste.  And then there's in infamous pink bucket for ladies to use to add their own nitrogen boost.   
 
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Wonder if anyone has considererd using black soldier flies.  Check out slide #81 in this presentation.  Apparently these flies are almost everywhere... up to BC.  And as they generate heat, insulation can enable them to process effectively in colder areas and winter.  And these containers, with the prepupae exit ramps built into the side, can be made of ... tufa!  Pupae are excellent chicken food, and residue is semi-sanitary.  Sounds too good (and easy) to be true - especially if one doesn't have the land, material or energy to do compost piles.  What's wrong with this picture?
 
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The humanure system is better than any outhouse or composting toilet.  I have used it and had no problems.




http://humanurehandbook.com/
 
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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This topic is covered a bit in podcast 017

This podcast covers a LOT of different topics!

As mentioned at the beginning of the podcast: email signup.

We start off reviewing the movie "Food Matters".  The premise is that many diseases can be resolved by food choices.  And this has been discussed several times at the forums.  A good start is my thread on eliminating medication with polyculture; and the thread about beating  cancer

We talk about raw food; local food; the missoula urban demonstration project; composting toilets; outhouse; urine diversion; women peeing outdoors; hugelkultur; rain barrels; greywater; commercial compost; art ludwig; pee powered cars; jean pain technique; poop beasts.
 
                              
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Does anyone have plans for building a composting toilet ? Instead of using sawdust as I read on the forum ,why not use paper ? it is absorbant,will break down, is free .
 
                                      
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I haven't been on this forum in a while so you may have already seen this YT vid about Hamish Skermish and his goal of changing the world with composting toilets.  They call him 'Master Poo' and the vid is part of a future documentary about composting toilets.  How cool is that? 

 
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I have been using Sun mar NE's (I have 2) for over ten years now. They do require much maintinence to keep them functioning properly and many people have a hard time using such a crazy contraption. In our new house I am going to use the Solviva, biocarbon filter system using worms. This in my opinion is the most effective, easiest way to put poo at the bottom of the list of things to worry about. It is mega easy to build, it uses a reg flush toilet and you hardly ever have to empty it. Keep the system in a insulated box outside and it will work yearound. Oh and my new house build is being posted in the green building section as My Underground House build. When I get to the bathroom section I will post in full detail the building of the biocarbon filter system.
Information overload! Thanks Permies! This sight is bad ace!
 
paul wheaton
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Here is a short video with a cold smoker and, oddly enough, a composting toilet.



 
pollinator
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There's a good article in permaculture magazine (Winter 2011) on a couple who put a composting pit toilet in their home. There is a urine diversion plate (goes to greywater), and a chamber with beneficial bugs (including rove beetles to combat fly larvae) and buckwheat hay. They do a great job explaining the how to's and reasons why they made each move. They also discuss other composting toilet alternatives.
 
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Poop scooter idea: outhouse on wheels tethered to a stake... when you sit on the toilet your weight pushes a ratcheting lever which moves the house a few inches, there is an old plough blade below which makes a trench several inches deep, the poo drops into the trench, and then when the next person uses the outhouse a smoothing blade behind the plough blade covers up the poop. No buckets, or anything to deal with; if the outhouse makes a large enough circuit, then by the time it comes back around the old poop has been decomposed. Good idea? Bad? Wishful thinking? It's just something that came to me one day when reading about all the handling involved with composting toilets.
 
paul wheaton
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Discovered this excellent pic today:



(source)
 
paul wheaton
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A tour of four outhouses. The last one is a piece of art and is a fully water tight system.



 
master pollinator
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I'm sure that this product could be made at home. This ad is all over YouTube. Funny, and it generates sales. http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWks4qtrESbtEvrTy0Qt9mQ?v=ZKLnhuzh9uY
 
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Paul...I love the last toilet in the 4 Outhouses video, and I've asked before, no one's answered yet....any idea on how he built it ? Any designs online ? Has he ever said how he built it ? The outside composting piece, specifically.
 
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Here's a video of one I did awhile back. It seems to work well. Its called a privy kit 500. I used to use peat moss for the cover material. but it is expensive and a non renewable resource. I recently am trying compost that I purchased for $20 a yard.

http://youtu.be/LbNMmosKmXA
 
Beware the other head of science - it bites! Nibble on this message:
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http://permaculture-design-course.com/
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