Updated: Mar 2, 2020
As hard as it may be to believe, if used correctly, compact composting toilets don’t stink.
There are basically three reasons that people who travel on boats or RVs use a compact composting toilet. First, they don’t consume valuable resources like water and electricity, second, there is no urgency to find a dump or pump-out station, and thirdly, they don’t smell. This is a big deal. The first two reasons are intuitive. That they don’t smell is more difficult to believe.
So let’s take a look at exactly what is happening and why they don’t smell, at least like sewage. I can’t speak for my competitors, but used correctly, a C-Head has no odor when closed up, even without ventilation which is usually not needed. When you open the lid you will get a mild smell of whatever medium you are using in its composting state. Pine smells different than coco coir and different than aspen bedding. None of them are particularly unpleasant but the owner may have a preference. I do. Add to that the fact that deodorizers can be added to the small basket in the collection bucket to give the toilet a desired smell. Mothballs will make it smell like a public restroom. Essential oils and air fresheners will give it another smell. A single spray of Febreze prior to sitting down will have you pooping in a bed of lilacs. My next experiment is sandalwood.
So how does it work? There are basically two functions at play. The first is the separation of pee from the poop. This is critical because urine is full of nutrients and poop is full of bacteria. When the two are mixed together, it creates a veritable food orgy for the bacteria – the result of which is the passing of gas by the bacteria into the surrounding atmosphere. Yes, this is what you know as the sewage smell. Poop has a smell of its own that is well known if you walk your dog. This is the evaporation of the moisture on the surface of the poop. As soon as the surface dries, the smell dissipates. This theory is easily tested from your experience. You don’t smell day-old dog poop until you step in it and crack through the dried out surface to expose the still hydrated material that is now clinging to the bottom of your flip flops and following you wherever you go. Urine has its own disgusting smell if left to age on its own, but that is from the creation of ammonia from the nitrogen in your urine and the harboring of whatever bacteria is present in the scale that builds up from storage of or continuous exposure to your urine.
Compact, urine-diverting composting toilets deal with this problem in two ways. First they separate the urine and the feces at the point of use, which is the toilet. This puts the Ka-bash on the bacterial food fest and as a result you get no sewage smell. Next, in the case of the C-Head, the outside of the solid waste is covered with a dry medium that wicks off the moisture and prevents it from escaping into the air. And that is why you get instantaneous odor relief from a C-Head composting toilet when you churn the mix. It is not due to the waste being composted. The greatest culprit that causes odor is pee getting into the poop. A small amount will not be noticeable but it will definitely be noticeable if it gets to be too much. The solution is simple. Empty out the bucket and recharge it with medium. This situation would normally occur near the time to empty the toilet anyway. If not, other measures can be taken. See this article Girl Stuff!! (click here). If for some reason a large amount of urine is mixed with the solid waste, say a visitor uses the toilet and well . . . whoops!, you can add medium to the mix (pine pellets are preferred) and churn until the mixture is dry enough to pour out. Rinse out the collection bucket afterward.
No toilet is a magic box and some concessions must be made if you want to take advantage of the good reasons for having a composting toilet.
Please feel free to make constructive comments or ask questions.
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