Composting toilets are still a relatively new and misunderstood waste disposal system that is slowly gaining in popularity around the world. Unlike pit latrines and outhouses, a composting toilet is designed to work with nature to turn human waste into usable humus without creating health hazards or horrible smells.
Composting toilets can be as simple as a collection of buckets that use organic materials such as sawdust or hay and are emptied into a larger outdoor composting pile regularly. Or they can be an elaborate commercial toilet and basement container system that uses electric fans and special chemicals to speed up the composting process. Whether simple or elaborate, composting toilets have many benefits in the home, community and environment.
The most immediate benefit homeowners notice when using a composting toilet is the reduction in water used. Modern flush toilets use 3 to 5 gallons of fresh water each time the toilet is flushed, whereas most composting toilets use no water at all. Most households notice at least 20 percent water use reduction, and some use as much as 50 percent less water when they convert to a composting toilet.
The fully composted toilet material is safe to use in all types of garden beds--including vegetable gardens. Standard compost made with plant-based organic material helps improve the condition of poor soils, fight off diseases and pests, provide natural organic fertilizer and help retain moisture to create healthier plants.
When used properly, composting toilets also create rich, fertile humus that can be used for enriching poor soils and fertilizing flowers, shrubs, trees and food crops. The composting process itself kills any potential pathogens and diseases, creating an end product that is extremely beneficial to the soil.
Composting toilets can save a standard household as much as $500 per year in metered sewer and water costs, because there is no longer fresh water being added to the toilet tank with each flush, and there is no longer 3 to 5 gallons of water being flushed into the sewage system with each flush.
For households that use septic tank systems, using a composting toilet can virtually eliminate the need for general annual upkeep on pipes, tanks, inspection fees and costs associated with treating or emptying the septic tank regularly.
Conventional sewage and water treatment plant processes use dangerous chemicals such as chlorine to kill bacteria. The end result of the treatment usually creates a sewage sludge which requires additional treatment with harsh chemicals or needs to be incinerated--both options which add more pollution to the environment.
Using composting toilets also reduces or eliminates the possibility of cross-contamination of water lines and sewer lines, and there's greatly reduced potential of ground and surface water contamination as well.