Yesterday we toddled along to a talk and discussion about composting loos. As any boater knows, discussing toilets is what we do best, well that and batteries I suppose, so we all had a jolly time. Those who find talking about such matters repulsive might be best advised not to read this page any further. Suffice it to say that some talk of the effect of different diets came close to the ”too much information” threshold.
The event was organised and led by Kate Saffin, who some of you will know and attracted about a dozen people, most of whom were thinking about going into loo composting, so having had our Airhead toilet for nearly four years, we were contributing as much as learning. Kate started off controversially by saying that composting loos by themselves do not make compost, they store the “donations” and perhaps start off the composting, which then continues when you bin or bag the stuff later. In essence she is right, but certainly with our Airhead in the summer, the contents come out very dry and composty when we do the emptying. We tend to bag it then and often take it home let it finish off in a corner of the garden.
Kate showed us that making your own composting loo is a realistic aim and there are suppliers of bits and pieces to help you in this endeavour. Such a loo could range from something not much more than a bucket with a lid to a fancy built in affair, looking quite posh. One thing nearly all of them have in common is some means of separating the collection of solids and liquids and ingenious diverters have been invented to enable this. I dare say that many in the shiny boat brigade would eschew some of the more heath Robinson solutions involving funnels and devices reminiscent of hospital bed pans. Also stirrers made out of dog lead anchors raised the odd eyebrow.
One of the main differences between designs is that of airflow. Whilst many simpler devices merely keep a lid on the contents,. This seems to be Kate’s preferred option. Alternatively, devices like our Airhead use a fan to draw air from the bin and pipe it to the outside of the boat. This, it seems to us, has a number of advantages. Firstly, It has a drying effect, thus producing a much more pleasant product at emptying time, often looking quite like peat. According to Kate you can get an amount of condensation in the sealed type. Also the fan produces a gentle negative air pressure in the bin, so that even with the trap door open, nasty niffs do not escape into the bathroom. For us, these two factors are what we like about the Airhead, which admittedly is at the top end of the price bracket, now costing nigh on a thousand pounds. What I can say is that we wouldn’t go back to cassette toilets if we could at all avoid it. For those who might imagine that dealing with composting loos is unpleasant, we would say that it is nowhere near as unpleasant as emptying cassettes, not to mention far, far less frequent, and of course requires no chemical additives.
The final point that seems to be agreed on is that it takes a while to learn about how your loo works best, in terms of adding extra materials such as coir fibre or sawdust or whatever, and how much to use and whether to dampen it etc. Kath has now got it to a fine art. After recommendations by others, we’re about to try out wooden cat litter pellets, although we have been pleased with broken up blocks of coir fibre from pet stores.
I think I’d better stop now before I spoil your dinner. Come back soon for a safety warning I learned about earlier this week.