Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Loo tech

Stored like nice wine: My friend K. separates number one from number two, and stores the solids while they slowly turn into something useful.

Having spent most of my adult life in various decrepit cabins, I have actually lived without a wc for almost fifteen years. This is what I've learned:

Keep it simple: Any moving parts, anything that involves electricity, heating, freezing, wrapping or tumbling will break down, and you will have to fix it. And those chemicals you can buy are absolute madness. A bucket needs only very, very limited maintenance.

Use non-recycled paper: This is counter-intuitive. If you're grooving to that nice, green vibe, why would you want to buy that luxurious white paper? Because it composts.

Expose your stuff: The smell we associate with human waste is actually the smell of human waste in water. Exposed to air, the smell disappears almost instantly. The way to expose it to air is to...

... add carbon: Grass clippings are perhaps the best thing you can use. I use wood shavings, which has a poor reputation since it doesn't make wonderful compost. But I let the compost alone for years and years.

Improving on my system: Swedish Separett have a thingamajig you can put into your loo to separate the solids from the liquids. This has a lot going for it, the golden drops can be diluted into water and used for adding nitrogen to those crops that like that stuff, and the composting of the rest is even less smelly or scary than it would be otherwise. Using this, you could keep your compost anywhere and nobody would ever know, so I would absolutely have gone this route if I had neighbors close by.
Another thing I would do if I had better control over my life would be to build insulated composting bins instead of that log-cabin themed frame I use now. In my experience, only insulated bins will create good enough conditions in this climate for the thermophilic bacteria that really mean business when it comes to composting. The illustration below gives the idea. For insulation, use polystyrene. The polystyrene can be wrapped in cloth, not as disgusting as it sounds. Building the compost bins like an insulated house with double walls is just overkill. An important detail here is the inner lid, which rests on the compost so the heat is not wasted in empty space.

A good source of information for stuff like this is the book Humanure by Joseph Jenkins.


Oldfool said...

I took the holding tank out of the bus some years ago. The bucket worked well in my 15 foot camper and works well here. Unlike the holding tank there is no smell. A little piss doesn't hurt (the word urine did not exist before the 14th century, it was officially piss and that works for me) but too much creates the smell problem. You have to adjust your recipe to taste (not the best choice of words probably). Most pee is not associated with a dump so easy to separate. Eight to one is a good ratio with water for the garden. My tomato plants love it. Did you know that "pee" in healthy humans is virtually sterile?
Good post. Education of this kind is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks! This one will be printed off for reference, and to confuse and horrify anyone going through our stuff. The thing wih the bicket not being smelly is very hand information as well.