Author Topic: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet  (Read 26842 times)

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Offline CapnK

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The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« on: June 05, 2010, 11:26:15 AM »
Two Edits after a few years:
1) I recommend using coconut coir instead of peat moss - it's renewable and does a better job, too! And...
2), WRT 'stirring' - you can just sprinkle a thin layer of dry coir over 'new contributions', if you'd rather not stir. It cuts down on the 'holding capacity' a bit to do this, but still works.


 I've been trying different head solutions for a while, nothing has struck me as being a really good solution. I've stopped short of installing a wet head, although I have the fittings and was ready to do so. Before that, I wanted to try the composting idea, because so many people seemed to love it, especially if they came from a 'wet head' background.

But I didn't want to pay $800 or lots more just to try out something I was going to poop on, ;D and might not like.

The key to odor-free composting heads is to easily be able to separate the pee from the poo. There is an outfit out there which sells a thin plastic and styrofoam bowl-only that would do the trick, but even they are selling it for way over $100 - and I'll bet it is less than $2.00 in material cost.

Why does poo disposal have to be *so* expensive?  ???

So I put on my inventors hat, and came up with the following solution, which is working really well, for me at least. I have yet to trick a comely young lass into trying it out, but I think it would work for them as well.

The pics are pretty self-explanatory; all you need is a 5 gallon bucket, a funnel, a coffee can, toilet seat, and 2 lbs of peat moss a block of coconut coir. Buy all this stuff new, and you might be out $20. Scrounge it, and you could do this for free.

Very simply, here's what to do: cut a notch in the rim of the 5 gallon bucket, sized to fit the wide end of your funnel, then cut a hole in the lid of the coffee can, sized to fit the skinny end of the funnel. Put peat moss coconut coir in the bucket, get a stick or other long skinny thing to use as a stirrer. When using, make sure your pee goes into the funnel, and afterward, stir your poo into the peat moss coconut coir. I recommend emptying your pee at least every 2 days. The peat moss coconut coir should last 1 person a couple of months/~80 uses, according to the ex$pen$ive composting head websites.

Slightly more complex, I used a heat gun to soften the plastic of the funnel and bend it downward, then trimmed off a few unneeded inches. I also cut 2 small notches in the lip of the funnel so that it kind of 'grips' the plastic of the bucket, and is thus less likely to move.

Future mods will include a stirrer of some sort which won't make you so 'intimate' with the stirring operation. ;)

FWIW, originally I "installed" this head under my companionway. Good fit, the only part protruding into the cabin was a roughly 15" cube that is 12" tall made of wood which the seat sits on. I've since moved it forward, after changing my cabin layout.


« Last Edit: January 20, 2021, 09:08:32 AM by CapnK »
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Offline CapnK

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2010, 11:28:24 AM »
Couple more pics, w/seat
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Offline skylark

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2010, 12:37:53 PM »
Grog, great invention

How long have you been using it?  Is it stanky? Is there ventilation?

Maybe you could grow worms in there for fishing.
Paul

Southern Lake Michigan

Offline CapnK

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2010, 12:45:39 PM »
LOL, Paul - I too thought of the worm possibility. ;D Digging them out would not be so much fun, methinks...  :o

No stinky, at all - so long as you keep the pee container cleaned out regular-like. The peat moss smells, but only a very very little, and then the smell is that of peat moss, *not* of poo. I don't even have a vent tube to outside, like the commercial units. With that, you'd have to put your nose in the seat area to even smell the peat, I bet...

WRT usage: been using the peat itself for a month or more, initially just in a plain ol' bucket. Then I made this contraption about 2 weeks ago, for increased comfort. :) It could be much nicer, no gaps and prettier, but I literally slapped it together from scrap wood in an hour or so, with as little actual woodworking as possible.

CharlieJ I ain't...  ;D :D
« Last Edit: June 05, 2010, 12:48:44 PM by CapnK »
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Offline Capt. Tony

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2010, 01:20:58 PM »
Outstanding, Kurt!  

I think we must have been on the same website researching composters because I saw the Hundred Dollar Styro option too.  Now I believe everyone has a right to carve out a livin' but they will be hard pressed to get a hondo out of me :o

Ever since Craig posted photos or Faith's new head I've been thinking about gluing up a block of styrofoam and shaping out a form that we could vacuum mold a bowl and funnel over.  An added collar that fits a standard 5 gal. bucket that would have a space for a fan, a spot for a stirrer and a flange that would accept the bolts for a standard toilet seat.  And that, my friend, is where I start to depart from the KISS principle.

Thanks for the post and update on KM.

Hey! I just noticed you went for the padded seat option!  Nice ;D  
« Last Edit: June 05, 2010, 01:25:32 PM by Capt. Tony »

Offline SV Wind Dancer

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2010, 02:07:15 PM »
I can't remember if it was Slocum or who...declared the best solution was a cedarwood bucket and cedarwood lid, with a few inches of seawater inside  :^)

Offline Zen

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2010, 02:41:25 PM »
Hmmm Looks interesting enough to try.

One question where do you empty the full peat moss?

At sea it's all organic...

On land, bury it?
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Offline Oldrig

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2010, 03:00:15 PM »
Windancer:

Actually, it was the legendary Nathanael Greene Herreshoff who preferred a cedar bucket. ;D

Kurt:

Grog for this posting! I've been mulling over possible composting heads for several years. Last season I even measured the pedestal that my current head stands on--it's too small for either of the leading composting heads.

For the past two years I've used a bottle to separate the liquids from the solids, and flushed with fresh water. It helps -- but doesn't work at all when the Admiral deigns to step aboard. Those occasions are, alas, too rare!

One question: Have you taken this contraption to sea? How does it perform when your rail is in the water? Does the peat scatter, along with the you-know-what?

--Joe
"What a greate matter it is to saile a shyppe or goe to sea"
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Offline SV Wind Dancer

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2010, 03:06:41 PM »
Do you thereafter use the peatmoss to feed a secret psychoactive mushroom garden in the helmsman's berth?  ;^)

Offline Oldrig

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2010, 03:21:21 PM »
If there are flower beds at your marina, you could discreetly add the peat moss to them, AFTER the season has ended. (Oh, I guess the season doesn't really end down there, does it?)

CORRECTION: It was L. Francis Herreshoff who describes the cedar-bucket head in his classic The Compleat Cruiser: The Art, Practice and Enjoyment of Boating.

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Offline SV Wind Dancer

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2010, 04:52:41 PM »
I did a google search some time ago for such a cedar bucket...only place that made something suitable was an OR company, they weren't giving them away $150^

Offline CapnK

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2010, 11:43:52 AM »
Tony - Although not quite so 'KISS', that wouldn't be a bad idea... What are your licensing terms and fees? ;) Re: padded seat - great for winter, not so much for summer... Might be converting to a "hardtop" before long. :D

Zen - Common wisdom has it that you should wait ~2 years to use "humanure"-containing compost (from any source - w/maybe less time than that if you actively break it down faster) for edible gardens. But the compost from a 'toilet' like this can be used just fine on flowers, grass, plants, etc etc...

Joe - I haven't yet taken it to sea, but I don't think heeling would be a problem at all. There is a good 12" from the top of the compost to the lip of the bucket, and the material isn't even a bit 'sloshy'. It's just like 8-10" of  slightly moist dirt. In a severe broach/knockdown/roll some might get out of this contraption as it sits right now because it is pretty much an experiment, & the top isn't sealed off, but of course that is something I will take care of before getting to a point where that could happen, and it won't be a hard thing to do. :) In fact, the funnel is recessed from the lip of the bucket, so I could actually just put on a normal lid for one of the buckets and that would take care of it.

Wind Dancer - Re; "magic" 'shrooms - No, there is not enough room for cows in the v-berth. ;D
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Offline marujo_sortudo

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2010, 09:38:36 PM »
Before using compost from a composting head on an edible garden, I'd read Joe Jenkins book, The Humanure Handbook.  I don't really think any thermophilic composting is going to be possible on a boat, so personally, I'd suggest using boat compost purely for non-edible gardening or "seasoning" it longer than 2 years.  Humanure makes lovely compost, but composting toilets on boats are light on the composting and heavy on the desiccating.

Offline CapnK

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2010, 12:25:58 PM »
Haidan - I have no doubt that there are better ways to make this! lol  :D My intent was a sort of "proof of concept"; I wanted to see if the actuality of these toilets could live up to the claims I have heard WRT the smell (or lack thereof) from these types of toilets. See below.

Marujo - Right on, just as I've read about these toilets and the 'end-product' (no pun intended ;D )...

Regarding further experience:

Yesterday a friend brought me her laptop to fix, and she waited around while I did so. The job took all day, pretty much, and it was rainy, so she hung out in the vberth and read books while I sat working at the setee. At the end of the day, I asked her if she had ever noticed any smell from the bucket, and her response was an unequivocal "No".

I'm sold on this as the way to go for a marine head...
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Offline Capt. Tony

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2010, 12:49:10 PM »
That is proof enough for me!  Hook, line and sinker-lock, stock and (Belizean One)barrel, etc..

You did mention that the main sliding hatch is pretty much always open.  Do you think if you moved the stinker to the v-berth a fan would be a necessity?  You did state your main hatch is pretty much always open, I;m going to make the mother of all mistakes and assume that has been exhausting the fragrance.

Hey how about this, Kurt, what has the local temperature been like since you switched-uh-facilities?

Offline CapnK

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #15 on: July 10, 2010, 01:26:49 PM »
There just isn't much in the way of 'fragrance', period. Even if when you put your nose over the bucket, as you have to do with this setup when mixing up the compost.  ::)

One caveat: The peat must have some moisture in it, for this to work. I am on my second "recharge" of peat. After dumping the first and replacing the peat with fresh, I did notice some smell for a couple of days, and looking at the peat realized it might be dry. The bag of peat had been sitting in my car for a month, and then on the dock for a week or so. So I added a small amount of water - maybe a cup or so - into the bucket to re-moisten the peat, and the smell went away within a day.

If you look at the pics, you can see that there is probably a 2" space between top o' bucket, and top o' toilet/seat, so any odor is going to have a great chance at coming out. I do leave the boat open 95%+ of the time, but yesterday was fairly windless, and the forehatch had 2 layers of no-see-um netting over it, which pretty much stops airflow. That a woman (and a non-smoker, at that) did not detect any odor whatsoever, well, pretty much sums it up. :) I think I can say that the fairer sex is much more capable of detection of those sort of things, without being a prig. ;D

Local temp has been Hot. ;D Day before yesterday, around 11:30AM I looked at the thermo, and it was just below triple-digits. Right now it is 94, and June here was one of the hottest ever.

Another note, regarding flies. I see probably 2-5 flies per day onboard (and swat a similar number; I hate the buggers, they can ruin a good nap... ;) ). Initially I was worried they might breed in the compost, what with the gap at the top, but I don't think this is happening at all. These numbers are not any higher than in the previous 6 or so years I have been at this marina. I think these are just travelers who stop by, or there would be lots more of them.

Last - when I made up this second bucket with fresh peat, I changed my 'poo stirrer' :) from a stiff metal wire to a more efficient design. I took a short length of electrical conduit pipe, cut it vertically for about 5" up from one end, then at the top of that cut about 3/4 of the way through the pipe at 90 degrees to the first cut (making a 'T' shaped cut), then bent out the pipe where possible due to these cuts. This created a sort of a long-handled mini trowel, and it is a much better stirrer.

What a topic... ;D
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Offline Tim

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #16 on: July 10, 2010, 01:42:08 PM »
Never let it be said that SailFar members don't like to "stir it up"  ;D
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Offline s/v Faith

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #17 on: July 10, 2010, 03:37:19 PM »
Just to be clear here Kurt...

... you ARE indeed trying to persuade the membership here that your excrement has no odor....

  Do I understand this correctly?
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Offline CapnK

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #18 on: July 10, 2010, 06:51:56 PM »
L-O-L Craig! Double Grog fer ya!  ;D

My rebuttal, because I really should 'clear the air' for posterity, regarding Craigs assertion:

 8)

It is not that my poo don't stink, it's just that it *stops* doing so, for Peats sake...

::)

:P

;D
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Offline s/v Faith

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Re: The $10-20 (or even free) composting toilet
« Reply #19 on: July 10, 2010, 11:42:14 PM »
There is healing.

  Good first step Kurt, we shall contine this later.....







 ;)
Satisfaction is wanting what you already have.