DIY : Composting Toilet

Updated February 21, 2017

Remote areas without running water and electricity offer privacy and beauty, but it's difficult to enjoy all the modern conveniences, such as indoor plumping. You could always resort to an outhouse, but simply depositing waste in a hole in the ground risks contaminating the water table, not to mention it can be uncomfortable. A composting toilet system allows human waste to decompose to the point where it can be safely incorporated into the soil. While you can purchase many different commercial composting toilet systems, you can also make your own.

Sawdust Toilet

Sawdust toilets are very simple, inexpensive collection boxes for human waste that is then composted. To make a sawdust toilet, fit a toilet seat to the top of a 5-gallon bucket. Use a round, rather than an oval seat. Be sure the seat fits snugly onto the top of the bucket. If you can't find the right size seat at your local building materials store, try a camping store.

If you're going to use the toilet indoors, you'll want to dress it up with a wood box to camouflage the bucket and to make it more comfortable to sit on. You'll also need a covered container such as a small garbage pail to hold sawdust. After using the toilet, you must cover the waste with a layer of sawdust. The sawdust seals the waste and keeps out odour.

The Compost Pile

The second critical component of a sawdust toilet system is the compost pile. The compost bin can be anything from a pit dug in the ground to a bin constructed of pallets, wire, or cement blocks. When the bucket is full, exchange it for a clean one,and carry the full one to a compost bin established for this purpose. Empty your bucket of sawdust and waste, cover with a layer of sawdust, wash out the bucket and repeat. Depending on the climate where you live, the waste will break down to usable compost in 3 months to a year. You don't need to stir the pile or do anything but add to it. It shouldn't smell, but if you notice an odour, add more organic material such as leaves and grass.

You can use the finished compost in your yard and garden. When completely broken down, it should resemble rich dirt.

The advantages of this system is that it's cheap and can be used almost anywhere. The disadvantages are that it requires frequent emptying, a separate compost pile and access to a large quantity of sawdust.

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About the Author

Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.