Our Fabulous Composting Toilets
We were warned off using composting toilets by many people, who said "They always smell really bad", it was too much trouble, and other such comments, but we must say that we are so glad that we didn't listen and persevered with getting them.
We did not have to get composting loos, as we are on town water and sewerage, but given that around 50% of the average household's water usage is from flushing the toilet, we opted for toilets that don't use any water - at all.
We have installed two toilets from a company called EcoFlo. They are based in Qld, and have toilets that can be used on a concrete slab kind of house, or one on stumps like ours. The model we are using is the Classic750. It needs 750mm clearance underneath the floor to be able to be used. For full details check out www.ecoflo.net.au.
Now for some answers to the Frequently Asked Questions we have had about our loos:
How does it work? We use the toilet in the same way (ie sit on it and do our thing!) and the stuff in it composts over time. This is from the Ecoflo website:
"The waste is collected in a small chamber directly beneath the toilet pedestal. A low powered 12 volt electric fan continually circulates air through the chamber, evaporating liquids, speeding the composting process and eliminating odours.
The batch process composting toilets come with at least two composting chambers. Fill one, put it aside to continue composting, and put the second chamber into use. When it's time to change chambers again, the contents of the first chamber should be well and truly composted. You then remove the compost, put it on your garden or bury it, and re-use the chamber."
It also has an absorption trench which takes any excess liquid. When we do a #2, we add a small handful of pea straw and a few squirts of a special liquid stuff (from ecoflo), down the toilet to help with the composting proces.
Was it hard to get it approved? Short version - YES.
Long version - with a little determination NO. We approached our local Council (Moorabool) and they told us they would not approve it, especially given we were in an area with reticulated sewerage. They also partly based their refusal on the fact that the local Water Authority, Western Water, would not approve it. Hmmmm, not much of an explanation. Not easily deterred, Peter called Western Water. The bloke he spoke to said that is was a great idea, but there is no way it would be allowed. This I could not stomach, after all, this toilet didn't use any water and was approved by the EPA, AND the nearby Merrimu reservoir was only 11% full! Crazy stuff!
So I did some investigating on the web and found that Moreland Council had a policy on installing composting loos in seweraged areas. So, I called Western Water and sent them the Moreland policy. I received an email back saying that yes, there should be no problem. What a turn around! Might I add, that when I called the man that Peter had spoken to at Western Water he said to me, "Yes, I was thinking about the conversation I had with Peter after I got off the phone, and I really shouldn't have shut him down like that". Moorabool Council were happy to approve the application after I sent them a copy of the policy and the email from Western Water.
Does it smell? Nope, not at all. Not even a little bit. In fact one of the things we love about our loos is that you don't get that terrible whiffy smell after someone has done a big ‘smelly’ in the toilet. There is a fan operating all the time, and this removes all odours. The fan can be electric or solar powered.
Does it look weird? Nope. It looks like a normal toilet, with a lid and seat. If you have a good look down it, yes you can see what had been deposited there.
Does it take a lot of maintenance? Peter: Well it is my job to look after the loos and it does require maintenance. As we've used it we've learnt some things and the two main issues have been the toilet filling too fast and vinegar flies. Both of which are easy fixes, and were caused by our ignorance. We now have them composting beautifully, and I remove the full chamber every 6 months or so, replacing it with an empty one. Once the full chamber has composted for another 4-5 months, I dig a hole and bury the composted material in the hole.
How do you clean it? We clean with hot water, and a toilet brush. No chemicals needed.