Compost, Incinerating and Flush Toilets: A Compendium

After reading recent comments in the Walmart RVing Yahoo Group I told you of a few days ago, (you can find the link on this blog if want to join), today I am thinking about what kind of toilet I want in my tiny house. The topic was originally a general comment about some presumed RVer who opened up the black water tank in a residential neighborhood. This was apparently NOT done at the Walmart, (thank goodness), but in front of people’s homes who had to walk through the stuff on the street. The offender was not observed, so it may have been an accidental dumping by an unwilling party. Malfunctions of this type do occur, and I had the thought that it may even be more likely with tiny houses as they may handle a bit rougher on the road than an RV. I do not know that for a fact, as I have never driven an RV or a tiny house, (but want to)!

So for your consideration, dear reader I have compiled the following:

There are several choices that are commonly found in tiny houses, RV, compost and incinerating type that are commonly used on boats.

RV flush toilets use water and flush into a holding tank which is usually carried on the underside of the craft. This must be dumped in specific places only. Apparently there are private, public, RV park, non-park, municipal, state, provincial, truck stop, rest stop, campground, camping, resort, commercial, pay, donation, and free, and so on, according to http://www.sanidumps.com/, which see if you need to know this information. This site directory includes sites in the US, Canada, Mexico and even over seas locations. This site claims that there are dump sites most likely that are even in your own city now that you are unaware of. This is for sure in my case as, one, I live in a popular vacation spot near water that attracts thousands each year by RV and boat, and two, I have never had need for one. The drawback to this system, as we have seen, is that the latches can malfunction or accidentally be left in an open position, causing an unexpected ejection at inopportune times. Also, there could be other types of accidents which could be nasty, to say the least. Although, I like the RV toilet upon first flush, for its lower price, (RV toilets and holding tanks can be repurposed from defunct vehicles for little money making them by far the most economical), I find myself leaning away from this system. I think that this one would serve best in a situation where the tiny house was at least semi-permanent in location and not moved frequently. There could be the ongoing cost associated with this type toilet if your dump site charges for dumping as some do. There is also a need for water, obviously, and those interested in water conservation would want to avoid this type for that reason.

Composting toilets are boxes that collect excreta and turn it into compost for safe disposal. A Wikipedia article about this can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composting_toilet . They range from several hundred dollars to right around $2000 in price, making them the second less expensive option for tiny-ers.
The proponents of this type toilet claim that there is no smell associated with the system, and that the materials they use with it are low cost. Some people use ashes and others use sawdust or a variety of materials commercially available. I think that charcoal used for speeding up regular garden compost bins and available in garden centers may also work and cause the process to complete more quickly. This type toilet appears to me to be the most popular with tiny house owners because it is easy to install, and can be disposed of safely with little or no cost. I personally would not want to see anyone use this for your vegetable garden, (please don’t), but a flower garden would be appropriate. For those who are trying to reduce the carbon footprint, this is THE method as it uses none or little water, and no other type of fuels are necessary. There are types that also use/treat the grey water from the shower, as well.

A few links for purchase:
http://www.envirolet.com/
https://www.thenaturalhome.com/compost.html They have a variety of brands.
http://www.enviroalternatives.com/toilets.html

The third type of system that is available for tiny houses is the incinerating toilet. This toilet is by far the most expensive type to install and to use- ranging from just under two thousand dollars to a whopping 5K for the toilet alone, in addition to installation and operating costs. The toilet is found mainly on marine vessels and there is even a learning curve to the safe operation of it. Wikipedia has an article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incinerating_toilet
An informative article by the board of health in Barnstable county can be found here: http://www.barnstablecountyhealth.org/ia-systems/information-center/compendium-of-information-on-alternative-onsite-septic-system-technology/incinerating-toilets. These toilets are useful where there is no other option available for various reasons. They can be used in units that are unheated, and some require additional materials or catalysts and additives. They are not for those seeking to avoid pollutants and fuels. They may produce some pollutants and they need electricity or gas to operate. For that reason they require venting. The resultant ash is benign and can be safely disposed of without harm. Some types cannot be used during incineration, and some may incinerate with every use, and still other types collect wastes to be incinerated later.

Some links for purchase:
http://incinolet.com/aboutus_2.htm
http://www.propaneproducts.com/catalog/propane-toilets/ecojohn-sr.-propane-electric-incinerating-toilet-12v-110v-380.html

A short film is available from Amazon on the subject here:
http://www.amazon.com/ReInventors-Episode-6-Incinerating-Toilet/dp/B003HNNEQ4
More info on incinerating toilets by the EPA is here:
http://water.epa.gov/scitech/wastetech/upload/2002_06_28_mtb_incinera.pdf

So to recap, if you are seeking low cost of toilet and maintenance, the RV flush is the one to chose. If you seek low environmental impact and ease of installation, choose the composting toilet, and for those with money who are not trying to avoid fuel use, but do not want to tote your waste with you, the incinerating toilet is the one for you.

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