Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Building a compost toilet on a dime

     We have been working on a composting toilet system here on the farm these past few weeks. After consulting several designs we decided on a system that drops solids to a 55 gallon barrel in the basement and diverts urine to another barrel in the basement which we can pump out as necessary. 
Composting toilets are very popular in many places around the world. Surprisingly, they see little use here in Canada where the preference is to use expensive septic systems which dump raw sewage directly  into the ground contaminating precious ground water (i.e drinking water). 

     In our situation, the existing septic system is poorly constructed and situated about 20 metres from our well; not a sustainable arrangement. Moreover, the cost of installing a new septic system is high, upwards of ten thousand dollars; this composting system cost us less then one hundred and does not pollute our drinking water. The main obstacles are mental and cultural; we in Canada are used to flushing away our wastes leaving someone else to deal with it and paying high taxes to maintain municipal sewage treatment systems.

A tube made from folded and glued counter top laminate is used for the poop chute.   The indentation at the front is for the urinal to sit into where it drains to a separate tank. 

This tube sits over a 55 gallon plastic barrel in the basement.  The urinal is not installed yet but the drain hole is visible at the bottom of the photo. 

A box covers the tube. 

     We wanted something that was cheap, NOT smelly, aesthetically pleasing and easy to maintain. So far it has met these criteria. I think separating urine is an essential part of keeping the system non-smelly and easy to maintain. It means less dry organic material is needed to absorb the extra water. The urine can be used directly on the garden as fertilizer when diluted and need not take up space in the composting barrels. This is our first experience with this design so we will see how it holds up over time.

Stay tuned.


  1. our helper Jordan used to live off-grid in Arizona! used one of these things day-in and day-out, with two other people! worked like a charm;) no worries and a lot of support for low-tech toilets!

  2. ours used a five-gallon bucket however!

  3. Hi, I'm curious about bylaw issues, have you had to deal with any in deciding on a waste composting system, or do you have a septic field in place? I've often wondered whether building outside of Charlottetown, Summerside, Montague etc. jurisdictions allows for no septic field.