A composting toilet treats human waste using biological processes, changing it into organic compost that can be used as soil fertiliser. It is in fact a complete waste processing system on a small scale. Bacteria and other macro and micro-organisms thrive in the aerobic conditions provided by a composting toilet, getting rid of harmful pathogens, removing the risk to human health and environment and converting the waste nutrients into fertile soil. Waste material is reduced to a small fraction of its original volume.

But why exactly would you choose one for your narrowboat or canal boat?

1) To save money installing a toilet

Composting toilets can save on expensive holding tanks and pump-outs on boats.

2) To save on running costs

The Eco Toilets website claims, “Flushing a normal WC will typically cost 3p in water rates in the UK. On a boat or a vehicle the cost can be as much as 10p a time!” If you are replacing a pump-out toilet you will no longer have to pay pump-out costs. From a convenience point of view you also will not have to visit a sanitation station for emptying.

Some composting toilets use electricity to operate the fan, but this is only a few watts so it could even be created for free if you have a solar panel on board.

3) To turn ‘waste’ into nutrients

Creating useful material from our human waste is good for the environment, and good for the land that receives the fertiliser and compost!

4) It doesn’t smell!

Sewage treatment plants, chemical toilets and ‘deep drop’ composting toilets (found at festivals) are smelly, wet environments because the ‘good’ aerobic bugs are drowned; leaving the anaerobic bugs, which don’t need oxygen to make a smell whilst breaking down the waste. In a ‘dry’ toilet the aerobic bugs (which need oxygen to survive) break down the waste without creating a smell. Dry conditions with a fan providing oxygen means that composting happens quickly with virtually no smell. Dry toilets also tend to remain cleaner than domestic toilets as it is almost impossible to soil the surrounds of the bowl if used correctly.

The eastern world has been using composting toilets for hundreds of years, but in recent years they have gained popularity in the west.

Join the conversation: If you want to know more about compost toilets there’s a friendly Facebook discussion group here: Compost Toilets for Boats and Off-Grid Living

Here’s a great video made by a boater who has one on board: How Does the Toilet work On a Narrow Boat? Part 3: Composting Toilet

Here’s a great Boatshed article about the other options for on-board toilets: Feeling Flush? Don’t invest in a Toilet until You’ve Read This!

Boatshed does not endorse or promote any particular type of toilet: That choice is entirely your own! This article is for general interest only - please seek professional advice before installing an alternative toilet! :-)


Image Credit: Villa 9010 Toilet available from eco-toilets.co.uk

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