Making the change to using a composting toilet system is to take a very different approach to the ‘flush and forget’ one that we have all been used to, so there are bound to be moments when it doesn’t all work as well as you thought it would.
Here are some of the common things new users have encountered and some suggested solutions (with thanks to the Facebook community who have shared their early trials, tribulations and solutions so freely).
It does smell, it definitely does smell…
If it’s the bucket, the cure is to add cover material and, if necessary, spend some time with a stick doing some mixing to make sure it’s well worked in. If you really can’t face that or the bucket is quite full and it isn’t working, then take a new bucket, put a thick layer (2+ ins) of cover material in the bottom and tip the soggy bucket contents into it, adding extra cover as you go. You can even add chopped kitchen waste at this stage to provide more air spaces and carbon material.
If there is a urine smell…
When you empty and rinse your urine container, leave it upside down to dry out completely. This helps because it is bacteria getting into that cause any smell and they like moist conditions so they won’t last very well if you dry it out every few days. The level of smell depends on how long it takes to fill between empties – clearly, whilst urine leaves your bladder sterile it picks up bugs along the way and gets them from the bottle. The longer the urine stays in the bottle, the greater the chance of bacteria resulting in smell.
- Use an appropriate-sized bottle so that it needs emptying no longer than every few days.
- Use the Kildwick Delta 10 bottle which is made from anti-bacterial plastic which slows down the process that makes the smell.
- Add a little Napisan after you’ve emptied the bottle.
- Add a little sugar – this seems to neutralise the smell and/or make it a little sweeter!
The bucket seems to be very wet…
To deal with the initial problem – add more cover (the composters cure for most problems!); however, what is probably happening is that urine is getting into the bucket so you need to find out why. To find out if this is happening try putting some dry cover in the bucket and then post wee use check to see if it has got wet.
- It takes a little practice to get used to sitting in a way that ensures your wee is going into the separator
- Check any men in your life really are sitting down to use it, not just saying they are…
- If you are in a boat and it’s trim make the loo tip at the back – put a wedge under the back edge to bring it level.
There doesn’t seem to be much composting going on…
The problem here is usually that the balance is wrong – in a nutshell, too much poo, not enough carbon material. It can be tempting to be a bit mean with cover and other material to make the bucket last longer but this is a false economy as the balance is then wrong so it takes longer to compost. It’s also more likely to smell because there is more scope for the anaerobic bacteria to get multiplying.
Or it might simply be that you are expecting too much too soon. If you are cool-composting in small containers (buckets or boxes 20-40l) then it will take longer than adding it all to a bigger pile where the temperature will be higher and more will happen quicker.
If you are finding unbroken down poo if you poke it after 3-4 mths then either turn it into a new container adding more carbon material (if it’s turning size) or fork more material into it.