What is a composting toilet?

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A roll of toilet paper
Composting toilets break down human waste into a soily substance that is can be used in a garden
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A composting toilet is a great way to help the environment and save water.

Have you gone green? It seems everything has gone green lately including the Oscars. With Al Gore's environmental Nobel prize and more and more celebrities jumping on the green bandwagon, we're going to hear about ways we can make our lives more environmentally reponsible. In new home construction, installing a composting toilet is one way to have less negative impact on the environment.


How a Composting Toilet Works


Composting toilets are also knows as waterless, dry or biological toilets. A composting toilet breaks down human waste into humus, a soil-like substance kind of like what you find on the forest floor. Aerobic bacteria breaks down the waste. After the waste has been properly composted, it can be used as a soil additive around fruit trees and other garden areas.


Composting toilets are not connected to a septic or sewer system; they are completely contained. Now, if you've never heard of a composting toilet before, you're probably thinking that it sounds pretty disgusting and smelly. But actually, a composting toilet that is properly installed will not emit an odor, and it is very sanitary.


The Parts of the Composting Toilet


The composting toilet consists of three parts: a place to sit like a normal toilet, a composting chamber where waste is broken down and sanitized, and a drying chamber which reduces the amount of sewage by allowing moisture to evaporate. Some composting toilets are completely automatic with an electric crank that turns the composting material after the toilet has been used. Other models are manual, requiring the person to turn a crank a few times to stir the compost after use. This aerates the material, adding oxygen which is needed by the aerobic bacteria to break down the waste.


Removing the Compost


After the composting chamber becomes full usually every six months or so, it is removed and replaced with an empty one. The full composting chamber is left to continue the composting process. After a year the material inside is fully composted and ready to be used for a soil additive. Some models have rotating chambers, thus eliminating the need to manually remove chambers as often.


Why Use One


Every time we flush an ordinary toilet, we flush away gallons of usable water. Composting toilets use little or no water, thus preserving our natural water resources. Since the waste composts into a usable material, it is not run through a sewer treatment plant, which requires the addition of chemicals into our water systems. And, for those people who wish to live off the grid and are not dependent on the government for their sewer and septic, a composting toilet is a way of becoming more self-sufficient.


A composting toilet is a different way of thinking about sewage and a way to make your home more environmentally friendly.


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