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Composting Toilets

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Composting Toilet

What Are Composting Toilets

Composting toilets use little or no water and treat toilet wastes on-site for reuse as valuable compost. Composting toilet systems contain and control the composting of excrement and toilet paper using the natural processes of decomposition and evaporation to recycle human waste. Unlike a septic system, composting toilets rely on unsaturated conditions. Waste entering the toilet is over 90% water, which is evaporated and carried back to the atmosphere through the vent system. The small amount of remaining solid material is converted to useful fertilizing soil by natural decomposition.

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How Do Composting Toilets Work?

The natural process used by composting toilets is essentially the same as in a garden composter. Inside the composting toilet, aerobic bacteria and fungi break down waste, creating a fertilizing soil. The correct balance between oxygen, moisture, heat and organic material is needed to ensure a rich environment for the aerobic and to ensure an odor-free operation and complete decomposition of waste.

Composting ToiletsWhen human waste is properly composted, the end product results in a soil-like material called "humus", and does not contain any pathogens or viruses, which are destroyed by bacterial breakdown. This nutrient-rich fertilizer can then be used on plants or around the base of trees, as part of the natural cycling of nutrients, reducing your need for commercial fertilizers and preserving local water quality.

The primary objective of composting toilets is to contain, immobilize or destroy organisms that cause human disease, thereby reducing the risk of human infection to acceptable levels without contaminating the immediate or distant environment and harming its inhabitants.

Advantages of Composting Toilets

Composting toilets greatly reduced water storage and water supply costs. The average American uses 74 gallons (280 liters) of water per day, one-third of which splashes down a flushing toilet. An older toilet may use up to 7 gallons per flush, though federal law now calls for 1.6 gallon low-flow models in new homes. The use of composting toilets may save more than 6,600 gallons (24,984 liters) of water per person a year. Not using water to flush a toilet also cuts out all the energy expended down the line, from the septic system to the treatment plant. Also depending on the community that you live in, you may be eligible to receive a rebate for community sewage charges.

Composting toilets can also save you thousands of dollars if you live in a rural area and need a septic system. Septic systems will cost thousands of dollars to install and you also have the expenses of maintaining the system. A composting toilet system is anywhere from 25-75% less expensive depending on your location. The true cost savings come in the long term, with the reduced water use costs, non-existent sewage costs, and the ability to produce valuable nutrient humus.

Composting toilets also have many positive advantages for the environment, since they reduce water use would, they minimize storage and piping impacts on the environment and they eliminate the sewage the flows into river and oceans.

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Types of Composting Toilets

There are two types of composting toilets, they are self-contained and central. These toilets don't look that different from your standard toilet but there impact on the environment is much different. Both have the same goal, though which is to destroy the pathogens and recycle our excrement without using water. Instead of flushing, the waste drops down a pipe to the composter, which is hidden from view with a trap door or screen.

Composting Toilets Self-Contained Composting Toilets
Self-contained composting toilets means the toilet seat and a small composting reactor are one unit, these are usually typical for use as small cottage models. A self-contained unit should not be used year-round if more than two people are using it. As the name implies, the toilet and the composter are combined in one unit, so composting is taking place just under your toilet. For a self-contained composting toilet to work properly, ventilation is needed that can both keep the smell out of your bathroom while providing enough oxygen for the compost to break down. Some toilets use fans and a heater powered by electricity to accomplish this, while others do not require any electricity.

Centralized or Remote Composting Toilets
In a central system, the toilet is connected to a separate composter, which may be in the basement or on the side of the building. Central composting toilets have a bit more capacity for year-round homes but are more expensive than self-contained composting toilets.

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