Time to talk toilets

We spend a lot of time here talking about toilets. and the correct way to use them. In fact, with three school groups in this week, each divided into two groups, we’ve talked about toilets three times and demonstrated six. They are plastic toilets at the centre, which always make it seem a bit like camping; they are variously known as separator, waterless or composting toilets.

The first two are true, as they do separate liquid from solids and they do not use water. I think that sums it up – it can be difficult to get the point across without dumbing down to nursery level, or making it sound like a Latin lesson. They don’t let me do it as my vocabulary tends to slip…

Composting? Not really. The liquids are piped away and used when we fill a barrel and the solids are removed in biodegradable bags on a regular basis and composted on a separate site. The products are composted but the toilet doesn’t actually do the composting.

The trouble we have is that we are in a village, and a village that isn’t 100% sure that they want us here. Adding to this uncertainty by adding piles of humanure to the landscape would be a step too far. I’m committed to using humanure after reading an eBook about it but I have to keep reminding myself that the author was living in an isolated house in the American woods.

The truth is that the humanure isn’t theonly important part of the process. We live on a small, densely populated island and lack space to store water: we can’t keep using drinking water to dispose of our waste. I can’t find figures for the UK but in USA toilet flushing accounts for 27% of water use. I have no reason to think we would be much different in our water wasting habits, particularly in view of the car washing habits of my neighbours, and when you think what people in Africa go through to get clean water this just seems wrong.


4 thoughts on “Time to talk toilets

  1. Eddy Winko

    Good to hear someone else is helping to save a dwindling resource. I have actually read that a third of all water use is flushed down the loo, but on a far bigger scale is the water then used to deal with the ‘waste’. Every tonne of manure takes two to three thousand tonnes of water to get it back to a state that can re-enter the environment. Not to mention the chemicals that are used in the process which then remain in the eco system.
    Interesting that you separate the urine, what is the thinking behind this? http://www.humanurehandbook.com has some great resources available and the book Humanure Handbook is available free to view.

    1. quercuscommunity

      We use the urine on the compost heaps as a source of nitrates and water. At home I’ve used my own urine to deter foxes who were making a mess of my garden (though I applied it in a watering can out of consideration for my neighbours).

      Seperating also keeps the humanure fairly solid and easier to handle. We use biodegradable bags and if anyone does decide to urinate standing (as some do despite the notices) it makes the bags more difficult to handle. It’s also bad to mix the two in out system from a smell and fly point of view.

      1. Eddy Winko

        Now you mention that you use biodegradable bags separating makes sense, I know how heavy the buckets can get and the last think you want is a bursting bag 🙂 Thankfully we don’t suffer from a smell or fly problem

      2. quercuscommunity

        We are only about 15 yards from the nearest neighbour so we have to be careful. We’ve had no complaints about the toilets so far, but we want to keep it that way.+

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