Permaculture VII: The Compost Toilet

The optimum use of resources is a recurring concept in Permaculture designs. In all living systems a part of the natural process is that nothing is lost, and even waste matter is identified as a nutrient that will eventually be used again. These days, however, most people close this natural cycle of their digestive waste by using a hydraulic, flushing water toilet. Lucho Iglesias explores the alternatives and introduces the ever-practical compost toilet. 

Compost loo
Up to 40 % of water used in our houses is in toilet cisterns, and as the water cycle of the planet is closed, sooner or later we will drink the water into which we have first defecated. But once more the problem can be the solution and we can transform our waste into a worthy compost that we can then reuse on the trees and in gardening. Nowadays there are many models available to buy ‘off the shelf’ that can be used in the home, but if you have the space, why not build your own.
Before starting your compost toilet there are some important considerations:
– The process in the chamber should be aerobic, and so the pile of organic material needs to be in contact with the air by making sure the ventilation system is through-flowing.
– The chamber should also be well closed so that flying insects cannot get in. And preferably the chamber should be in contact with the soil for the microorganisms and worms to do their  job.
– It is important not to overload the chamber with urine. Some designs include a separator that takes the urine away.
– After each deposit it is important to add material with lots of carbon such as sawdust, this also keeps the chamber dry and reduces odours.
– If the natural process is working well the smell should be mild like forest humus, but if you prefer no smell at all then add ash from time to time.
– If there are strong smells pay attention to the ventilation in the chamber – always place a wide base of straw, branches, canes, etc on the base of the chamber.
 – You can add red Californian worms – they are the most active ones!
– Place the compost toilet at least 1m above the floor to make plenty of room for the chamber – you may use the slope of the land to create the drop.
– Use an easy access trapdoor to empty the chamber once it is full, but do not use it for 2 weeks on the land. Mix it with other kind of organic material to make compost.
– For basic hygiene security reasons we do not use the compost on vegetable crops. 
Sit back and simply enjoy the pleasure of recycling a little bit more… 
To go deeper into Permaculture come along to a workshop at Caña Dulce in Coín, Málaga
Tel: 951 16 50 37 – 607 63 29 37
To read more articles in this series, click here

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