Would you be brave enough to use a bucket loo?! Save precious water by setting up a composting toilet.
There are many great options for composting toilets, as you would have read in issue two of Pip Magazine. However, there is one that I would like to explore a little further…
… partly because it’s very cheap, and very simple, and partly because (scarily enough) it’s rather dear to my heart!
Let’s call it the ‘Bucket Loo’. You’re right, the name could be a bit catchier, but as it suggests, you don’t need much more than a 20 litre bucket to get going.
The gist of it is – you sit on the toilet seat and make a deposit as per usual (except that it’s unusual in that it’s collected in the bucket below). Then you throw on some cover material, which could be sawdust, rice hulls, grass clippings or something similar, and close the lid. When the bucket is full you take it outside to the compost pile and throw it on, adding more cover material.
I can guarantee you there will be no smell in either your toilet or your compost pile as long as you cover each deposit. Sweet as roses. Which you can’t always say about those flush loos, can you?!
The type of composting you’ll be doing with your humanure is thermophilic, or hot composting. So as your outdoor pile of poo grows, along with the sawdust, leaves, and other carbon-type material you throw on to absorb the liquids, it will be getting nice and hot inside. So you can, theoretically, given enough time, use this compost on your garden.
Making the bucket loo work for you
We started composting our humanure this way around five years ago, and I have to say that I love it; mostly because we are taking full responsibility for all of our own waste, and that’s empowering. And partly because we have moved houses a few times and we could cheaply and easily take our bucket loo with us and start again.
And don’t think you have to go outside in the cold and rain to sit on your new waterless throne. No way. The bucket can just sit beside your normal toilet (which your guests can still use if they are a bit freaked out about your compost loo).
You might want to hunt out a nice looking toilet seat from a second hand materials shop, or the hardware store (we’ve had the same seat for five years). And depending on your bathroom you may want to build a wooden frame to house the bucket and your cover material (see photo).
What you willl need
1. One 20-litre bucket with a lid (or two, so you have a spare) you can find these at wholefood stores (who sell them cheap once they are empty);
2. A regular supply of cover material (I used to sweep up bags of sawdust from the local sawmill for free, making sure it was untreated);
3. A compost bay (or two) for composting your humanure, one bay for current loo contents, which may take about a year to fill. When it’s full you can leave it to sit for a year and use the other bay to begin again.
- Thermophilic composting WILL kill pathogens if it reaches correct temperatures;
- If your compost reaches high enough temps you can use it after one year, if you’re not sure, let it age two years;
- You can add your food scraps, deceased animals etc to the same compost pile;
- Bucket loos do take a bit more management than other waterless compost loos, however you will get a different compost product at the end through the hot composting technique.
For an in-depth look at the techniques used for the bucket loo, the dos and don’ts, the answers to all your questions, and to quell your inner fecophobe, please look at your library or local bookstore for Joseph Jenkins wonderful guide to composting poo The Humanure Handbook (free PDF at link), 2005.
Read this book and you will not have any qualms about bucket loos. It’s highly recommended.