HUMANURE – compostable sawdust toilets

HumanureToilet1“There isn’t enough fresh water in world for everyone to use a flush toilet”                           Joseph Jenkins, author of: The Humanure Handbook

Note: If you are become interested in using humanure toilets you are strongly advised to read The Humanure Handbook . Humanure can be a bio-hazardous material and may contain bacteria or parasites that can cause disease in humans.

This is what a humanure toilet looks like.  It is an easy-to-construct wooden box that is exactly the same height as a commercial porcelain toilet, and it fits nicely over a readily available 5 gallon plastic bucket. You can paint and decorate your toilet box to your liking and you can use in your home [odor free!], or you can set them up outdoors for events, like parties, concerts and weddings.

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Here is how it works: sawdust contains lots of carbon. Carbon absorbs odor, as in carbon air filters and carbon water filters. You pee or poo into the bucket, and then you cover it with sawdust! The carbon in the sawdust absorbs the odor. No odor means it doesn’t attract flies or vermin. It’s that simple. One bucket will last one person about one week. Keep an extra bucket or two on hand so you can swap buckets as needed.

Composting Humanure: when your bucket gets about 2/3 to 3/4 full, things begin to get too close for comfort. It’s time to empty the bucket into your carefully managed humanure compost bin.  Remember, humanure can be a bio-hazardous material containing disease causing bacteria or parasites , so your compost bin must be carefully managed to keep everyone safe. A typical humanure compost bin is an easy-to-construct bin that is usually 4’h x 4’l x 4’w. It can be a bit wider or longer, but keep the height 4 feet or less for easy dumping of your humanure buckets.

CompostSpongeHere is how composting humanure works: All plant material contains lots of carbon [not just sawdust] straw, hay, weeds, grass clippings, leaves, etc. Decide what plant material is most handy for you to use and gather a bunch of it near your compost bin.

To get started:

  1. Place about 18 inches of plant material on the bottom of your empty compost bin. This acts like a biological sponge holding the humanure  away from the soil to prevent contamination, or attracting flies or varmints.
  2. Likewise, arrange plant material around the sides of your compost bin to create a “nest”. This nest will prevent any humanure from leaking out the sides of your compost bin and prevent contamination, or attracting flies or varmints to your humanure compost bin. Now you are ready to dump the contents of your first humanure bucket into the nest in your compost bin.
  3. With one hand on the handle and one hand on the bottom of the bucket, dump the humanure into the middle of the nest inside the compost bin. Once dumped, your humanure will release a very strong odor. Use a barn fork to spread it evenly within its nest.
  4. Then cover it with more plant material until you can’t smell it any more [usually 3-5 inches of plant material is sufficient].

That’s it! Next time your humanure bucket is full and ready to be dumped, use your barn fork to pull back the plant material from the center nest to the sides of the bin until you can see the humanure pile in the bin. Then dump your fresh humanure in the middle of the nest on top of the existing pile and add more plant material to re-cover the nest. Repeat until the compost bin is too full to add any more [about 1 year], then build a second compost bin [bin #2] and start again. Allow bin #1 to cure for 1-2 years [the pile will shrink to about  half its size as it composts]. Then empty it and begin the process again while bin #2 cures.

Note: If you are become interested in using humanure toilets you are strongly advised to read The Humanure Handbook. Humanure can be a bio-hazardous material and may contain bacteria or parasites that can cause disease in humans.

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