Why a Composting Toilet?

A Bus Called Home

As I have been looking at examples of really well done school bus conversions, I’ve started to notice a common trend in the bathrooms I’ve seen: nearly all of them have composting toilets. This came as a surprise to me and there were a lot of questions I needed answered in order to convince me to go with a composting toilet. Many of theses were finally answered in the video below, but a few I had to figure out on my own.

Here are my particular questions:

Q: Isn’t it more smelly/unsanitary/gross than a conventional toilet?

A: No. Just the opposite in fact (see video). Next question.

Q: Isn’t it cheaper and simpler to just install a conventional RV toilet with a black tank?

A: No, and NO! Even a high-end composting toilet like Nature’s Head, at about $900 (+/-)  is cheaper than buying an RV toilet, black tank, and plumbing, and spending the time to cut the necessary holes, mount your black tank, buy chemicals, etc. It is also WAAAAAY easier to install and maintain a unit like Nature’s Head (see video). In addition, a conventional RV toilet should really be installed directly above the black tank so solids have a straight uninterrupted path down to the tank; this limits where you can put the bathroom in your floor plan (i.e. not over the wheel wells, fuel tank, battery box, etc.) Compare that to a fully self contained composting toilet that you can put ANYWHERE. You literally just set it down somewhere (optionally securing it with a couple screws for comfort & convenience). So in summary, you don’t save any money by going conventional, and you DEFINITELY don’t save any time or effort.

Q: Isn’t it simpler to maintain a conventional RV toilet?

A: No. Definitely not. Watch some YouTube videos on the Nature’s Head toilet and compare with videos on dumping, cleaning, and maintaining ANY conventional RV toilet / black water tank system. Not to mention installation. Don’t even get me started on installation.

Q: What’s the difference between a composting toilet and a regular old (and much much cheaper) camping toilet?

A: A lot actually:

  1. Camping toilets usually ARE more  smelly/unsanitary/gross than a conventional toilet.
  2. You can only legally (and safely) “dump” waste from a camping toilet at specific facilities. Camp toilet manufacturers claim you can just dump the contents in any toilet, but have you ever tried dumping several gallons of waste into a toilet? Compare that to compost from a composting toilet which can safely and legally (and non-grossly) be disposed of anywhere from your local dumpster to on/around non-edible plants or trees.
  3. Camp toilets still need to be cleaned and maintained (if you don’t want them to be completely disgusting) using (often toxic) chemicals and deodorizers. A composting toilet like Nature’s Head simply has a crank on the side that you turn a couple times with every use, and when it gets hard to turn, you dump the contents. You don’t even have to clean it out. Anything toxic is dead and sterile within a few hours of your last use. Also did I mention it’s not smelly and gross? (see video)
  4. All that said camp toilets are way cheaper. You can get a top of the line camp toilet for about $100 vs something like the aforementioned Nature’s Head which runs around $900.

Conclusion:

A camp toilet is a temporary solution at best for a bus I plan on living in full time, so my choice is really between conventional and composting. Considering there is no cost advantage to getting a conventional unit and a lot of convenience advantages to getting a composting toilet (for instance no need for a black tank whatsoever) not to mention health safety and environmental advantages (zero water & power usage, cleaner safer disposal, less pollution, etc) this has become a no brainer for me, but I think the most compelling fact is that as of this posting I have never heard of anyone who switched to a composting toilet and regretted it. Definitely let me know if you have!

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