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Post Info TOPIC: Composting Toilets


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Composting Toilets


My hubby and I are considering putting in a composting toilet into our 5th-wheel before fulltiming.  We first were considering the sun-mar for RV's and boats, but heard from other RVers that there is a limit on the amount of urine it can handle.
http://www.sun-mar.com/products/mobilestraightback12volt.php

I recently came across another type of composting toilet called Nature's Head.  It has a separate trap for the urine - so every couple days you can take out the canister of urine and dump it in a toilet somewhere. 
http://www.natureshead.net/store/

I was wondering if anyone has any experience with composting toilets for RVs and what your overall impression is. 

Best wishes for a happy new year!
Colleen

-- Edited by pierreandcolleen at 14:37, 2007-12-29

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Composting?? How long is the process? Do you carry around an extra 200-300 pounds while the compost process works? I must say in 30 years of camping and RVing, I have never heard of a composting toilet in an RV.






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To be honest, I have no idea how long the composting process takes.  I know the longer you wait for the composting to do its thing, the better.  I'm not sure how practical it will be for full-time use, unless there was a period of time we used campground restrooms.  It would probably work best for the occasional RVer.

-Colleen

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Hi, Maybe you would like to look at the Pett toilet :
http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.asp?pfid=2736&deptid=1004
It makes everything biodegradable in a short while. Penny, TX

-- Edited by LakeConroePenny at 13:47, 2008-01-01

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Penny,  thanks for the info on the PETT toilet.  Seems much more convenient than the composting toilet (and I like the price tag). 

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I'm curious about what you ended up doing, toilet-wise.  We are also looking at the Nature's Head, and would love to find someone who has some experience RVing with them.

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Composting toilets, awesome idea. However when you say composting toilet to me I am thinking of the time we have spent off trail hiking.
When hiking off trail for a few days or so (Backpacking), our toilet is a hole no more than 6 inches deep. Why? 
 1/  It hides the unsightly toilet paper.
2/  99% of the bugs, worms and bacteria that feed on "poopie" live in the first 6 inches or so and will de-stink the "doo-doo" .

To add some credibility to this opinion. When hiking the appalachian trail. We have seen compost toilets along the trail in Georgia. I guess the green movement has influenced the forest service. The old pit toilets stink for years (see point 2). The compost toilets put up along the appalachian trail did not stink.

Personally I can not see a compost toilet working well in an RV. Although I am not against the idea, I just can't see it.



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We've been using our Nature's Head composting toilet exclusively for over a year now. We live in our motorhome, and find that we need to change the peat or coconut fiber just about every two weeks. We mounted the solar vent shed on the now-unused black tank vent, and with a few mods it's working well. Because we started out in the Northeast US, where we occasionally Google "solar" to refresh our memories, we supplemented the solar fan with a computer fan mounted in the vault outlet.

Fully-composted or not, we empty the vault of its treasures and dump the contents into a garbage bag. We don't throw toilet paper into the vault, only because it filled too quickly and made us change peat more often. It smells only very slightly poopish, and mostly earthy at that point.

For two people, urine dumping (I first typed "dumpling," and "urine dumpling" is not something I can recommend) has to happen just about every two days, if not more often. Less if you're underhydrated.

We started out using peat, which works very well, but is bulky and hard to work with and store, especially in limited spaces. We switched over to bricks of coconut fiber, which is more expensive, but stores nicely and is more sustainable than peat.

We approached this idea originally, because we wanted to boondock in remote locations for longish periods of time, and didn't want to be worried about finding dump stations. Overall, we've been pretty happy with our choice, and feel like we made the right decision for us.

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I have a Sunmar Mobile composting toilet in my RV.  I have mine in a 24"x41" bathroom and the large size of the toilet barely leaves enough room to stand in the bathroom.  Ideal would be a 24x63" bathroom, which is quite large for an RV (my shower is in another room).   You go through a large bag of peat moss every month, and the toilet seems pretty cheaply made.   I have only had my toilet a for two months so I will give an update on how it works.  Weight wise it is much lighter to have a composting toilet since you don't have the weight of a holding tank and the compost is much lighter than black water is.



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ONE person in the EVERGREEN Owners Group on the web has a composting toilet. I think a Nature's Head.
See link in my signature box.
CCC

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Charles,

Perhaps I'm doing something wrong, but when I clicked on your link, I get to a site where I can't read any messages unless I am a member of the "group" on Yahoo.  If that is the case, perhaps you might need to provide a link directly to the forum thread that you were referring to.

The original poster may not be a Yahoo group member, plus anyone else interested in the compost toilet may not be able to see the information either.

Terry



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I know I am not doing something right! I am still reading this strange thread about using peat moss or coconut fiber to poop in when I have a very nice holding tank and a well defined public sewer system designed to accept the contents.

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And it's been 4 years too! :)

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Gotta say I'm with Bill on this one, but then I'm not much of a boondocker unless I'm at a NASCAR race, and there someone with a big truck comes around, I give them $30 and my tank is miraculously empty again... lol Guess I'm a full hook ups kind of girl...

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LOL, y'all! You can't say you weren't warned by the title "Composting Toilets." That's a full-disclosure kind of subject line.

You do know your poop doesn't cease to exist after the honey wagon visits, right? To each, his own (poop). We've been happy with our set-up and the freedom it gives us to be off-grid longer, besides the reality that we're not pooping into drinking water. It's not for everyone, but three years ago we swore it wasn't for us, either.

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I have been studiously avoiding this one, but I just can't now. My sewage goes from the honey wagon to a certified sewage treatment plant, not into the drinking water anywhere.
The statement, "Fully-composted or not, we empty the vault of its treasures and dump the contents into a garbage bag". Now it is put into garbage bags to do what? Let the garbagemen of some city handle it? Or worse, let it go to a recycling plant where the bag will be opened and whatever is recyclable will be removed. Thank you, I will let the honeywagon haul it away for disposal and not be handled by anyone.
If I were a garbageman and I opened a bag of poop, I would be after the people that thought so little of me as to do this. At least fully compost before discarding.



-- Edited by 53 Merc on Monday 29th of August 2011 02:04:57 PM

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At the sewage treatment plant the sewage (already now mixed with heavy metals and other non-treatable contaminants) is heavily and expensively treated to the point where it is legally dumped back into a stream or lake. I wasn't suggesting that you dump your manure directly into drinking water, just that you do the deed into drinking water, which then is many times removed from being drinkable again. And, be assured, we drink it again.

Why would manure be sent to a recycling center? If a person wanted to recycle on their property, turning it into a resource a couple of years down the road, that's great. In most communities I have experience with, a body has to fight to clean and sanitize his recyclables just to get them taken. No one rummages around in garbage bags for reclaimable materials, and if they do, they are most certainly prepared for what they might find. Once diapers are fully composted before disposal, I'll feel compelled to rethink the process.

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Fully-composted or not, we empty the vault of its treasures and dump the contents into a garbage bag. We don't throw toilet paper into the vault, only because it filled too quickly and made us change peat more often. It smells only very slightly poopish, and mostly earthy at that point.
A: That's disgusting.
B: What do you do with that garbage bag? I (and at least one other poster) assume you put a garbage bag in the garbage. Those garbage bags go the recycling centers and the rookie gets the privilege of opening that bag!
C: Poop is safely treated, solids removed (and in most cases reused) and the liquids treated, sifted, treated and released. It's been working pretty well for, well, forever, and I have no issues with my waste being treated vs. having my waste piled up in some peat. If you can ensure that everyone using this method takes this "compost" and uses it in their back yard then I am fully onboard. If even one person takes their garbage bag to the dump them "I AM OUT!".

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So, if one is "off the grid" for a while, what does one do with the filled bags until you get to an "appropriate" place?  I just don't think I care for the idea of carrying around bags of poo for any length of time.  I'm sure that there are a lot of folks who don't mind the idea of using a compost toilet.  Hey, more power to you.

Sorry.  While I can be without hookups, I will choose camping sites where there are some facilities for disposing of wastes.  While I've been in a lot of places where one was definitely "off the grid," I'm getting too old to mess with that.  Besides, all that time handling bags of poo is better spent seeing and photographing nature.

Now, where do you suppose the bears, deer, elk and cattle go?  I've worked around cattle, and believe me, they produce some poo....

Terry



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Honestly, Bill, were you seriously considering a composting toilet until you read about putting poop into the garbage?  I suspect you were "out" before the conversation began.  Am I wrong?

I'm still scratching my head over the rookie tucking into a bag of poop at the recycling center.  Is this truly how your local recycling works?  People throw recyclable materials into the garbage and challenge municipal employees to find it?  Are you sure this isn't a story your mom told you so you'd go to college?  Yes, I'm being flip, but this whole concept baffles me, being a long-time fan of the recyclling center and having to learn a whole list of do's and don'ts about recycling: 

Plastics 1-7, except for wide-mouth #5, steel cans, glass bottles (not light bulbs or cooking utensils), poop ...

Being confused still, I'm wondering if the rookies have to sift through cat litter and dog manure, too?  My cats will eat aluminum foil if given the chance, and that's recyclable. And, what about the diapers?  There's no telling what kind of recyclables might be hiding in there.

My feeling is that we've all been maneuvered into a mindset where non-human manure is holy and natural, while humanure is vile and abhorrent.  Cats, dogs and wildlife harbor intestinal parasites and other pathogens.  Cattle are the main reservoir for EHEC and anthrax.  Beavers disseminate Giardia.  Birds carry Salmonella, encepalitis viruses, histoplasmosis, EHEC, flu viruses, and mycoplasmas.  It's a germy world out there.

If you don't want to compost your manure, don't compost your manure.   This was simply a discussion of the possiblilites available for doing so, and it's my impression that some people are interested, while many are not.  That's probably why there are so few people here commenting and reading, while the threads called "I pay people to make my poop vanish!" are well-populated.



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Speaking for myself I think it comes down to those that embrace the whole recycle culture(not a bad thing) and those of us who still just"take out the trash"(has worked for century's).

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Everybody please, Can we stay on topic? The topic was started by somebody who wanted advice on composting toilets and the different models available and how well they work. We know many people like there holding tanks, you can find this info out anywhere.

Back on topic to the info/experience that is hard to find...
I just came back from a 6 week trip and just dumped my Sunmar composting toilet for the first time. It was 1/2 full, which is when you are supposed to dump it. The nice thing about it, if you have no where to dump it, you can always wait a week, and over fill it a bit. The screws that hold the finishing drawer were a bit tough to remove, (they are thumb screws, but I needed Vice grips, even after oiling them) the compost had no smell and looked like fluffy peat moss. I put it in my garden mixed it in the soil with my shrubs.
I am impressed on how little the toilet smells, even when we were camped in 105 degrees. I often had problems with a smelly toilet tank. Glad I switched! I admit that this process isn't for everyone, the toilet is pricy and it requires maintenance and needs custom installation. I would like to hear about some of the other models and peoples experience. There are quite a few marine/rv models available...Natures Head, Air Head, Sun-Mar, I saw a couple other Marine models that I can't seem to locate on google.

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I agree that we have gotten misdirected, it's certainly not off topic. As to recycling, yes, many localities take a majority of the trash and sort it before it goes to the landfill to reduce the amount of waste that goes into the landfill as well as generating additional income, which pays for the sorting, by reclaiming and selling recyclable items.
This will be my last post here so no need for a snappy come-back! I never claimed I ever had any interest in a composting toilet (and I certainly don't) but I was curious why anyone would want to use such a thing with the other options that area available. Again, no need to respond. I think I have more information than I need already.

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I have no idea why, but for some reason reading this thread amuses me. Poop is  natural, and ever since pooping creatures have appeared on the Earth the planet has been recycling this material into organic matter that has replenished the soil, providing food for us all.

The rich farmlands of the midwest exist because of millions of bison pooping their way across the plains.

I can remember when I was a kid our family driving from Detroit to my grandmother's cottage on Lake Erie in Ontario, passing through many farmlands on the way. The farmers plowed manure into their fields as a natural fertilizer. It did stink in an earthy way, but when harvest season came around that was some of the best fresh corn I ever had.

Maybe it's only an issue now because in Star Trek parlance there are too many 'carbon units' on the planet now...  



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My last post was definitely off-topic and I'm sorry.

I do have some questions though:

1. Why would you consider a composting toilet in an RV when there are other sanitary waste disposal options available?

    I don't know how long the composting process takes, but you would have to haul all that along with you until it's done. Weight is an issue with RVs. Where do you put it until that's done? Hauling around extra weight increases fuel consumption, which in itself is not good for the environment.

2. Assuming the composting process has completed, where would you dispose of it? What good would it do in a landfill somewhere, and aren't landfills themselves a blight on the environment?

3. Why would a composting toilet be preferable  to a sanitary dump station?

I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I would think that a composting toilet would be more efficacious if you were fixed in place where you could use the results to fertilize a garden to grow food. 



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Hi Tim and Robyn,

I'm not positive you're asking me specifically, but I'll be glad to address your questions as best I can.

 

1)  There definitely are other options available, but I am far from convinced that they are superior (or even equal, but I'm not trying to impugn other people's motives).  The other options are conventional, and that's not always a compelling quality.

2)  "Completely composted" is hard for me to define.  Some people compost their manure to the point of using it on their vegetable gardens, and that process may be 2-3 years.  Composting in general begins within a week, and if you put your hand on the outside of the vault, you'll feel considerable heat being generated almost immediately, which is a sign of microbial action.  

To give you some perspective, two weeks' worth of continuously-composting manure from two people weighs about 15 pounds. How much would that much manure weigh mixed with water?  Urine is a consideration in the holding tank scenario, and so a conventional black tank's contents would likely weigh 15 pounds inside a day.  Most conventional RVers wouldn't travel to a dump site every day (and pay $5-10) to rid themselves of that weight, so overall, composting in an RV weighs much less than the conventional option.

[Let me say here that we look at this from an extreme boondocking perspective.  We don't camp in campgrounds generally.  We are also fans of an off-grid stationary life, although we aren't there yet.  This may help to explain why we find this a superior process.]

But, if we can reach some agreement on what "fully composted" is, and we can draw that arbitrary line,  I would put it on/in the ground.  There is no longer any reason to separate it in any way.  This is great for a homesteader, or anyone who is living stationary, as you said.  Because I am not going to carry our manure around for a couple of months, I settle for the less-perfect option of separating it to continue its composting in a landfill.  I  agree that landfills are a blight, but we all like to think that our household waste in general is going to biodegrade (rot) and go back to the Earth.  Not necessarily true ... except maybe for my lone bag of already-composting manure.

My poop is not doing any good in a landfill.  It will be a resource when we stop traveling, assuming we are in a place where we can "resource" it.  Now, my concern is "where will my poop cause the least impact?"  In a conventional (house) scenario, I might use the toilet six times a day (more if beer is involved).  Pooping and peeing into and flushing away about 10 gallons of drinking water.  After that, it is no longer really a resource (although farmers buy the heavy-metal-contaminated sludge as fertilizer for open fields).  For two of us, that's about 280 gallons of fresh water in a two week period.  As a couple, we have effectively created 1.1 tons of waste that must be dealt with, as opposed to 15 pounds of composting manure.

3)  When you gotta dump, you gotta dump.  A conventional RVer will have to travel to a dump station, and a boondocker will have to travel further.  This is not something that can be delayed for long.  When they get there, they'll have to pay a fee, understandably.  This fee feels small and totally worth it when the tank is dangerously full!  A composting toilet says "Relax!  Empty me tomorrow, or the next day, or on Thursday if you get a chance."

3a)  In our Nature's Head, the urine is separated from the manure mechanically, and we dump the urine onto the ground.  Under duress, we will dump it into a flush toilet.  This amounts to about 1.5 gallons every two days, with two people using it.  See above for beer disclaimer.

My re-disclaimer:  I'm not trying to knock conventional poop flushers.  Since you were interested enough, and so kind as to ask polite questions, I've tried to give you a sense of why we compost.  I'll admit to being strongly influenced by Joseph Jenkins' book Humanure (which you can download chapter by chapter here for free:  http://humanurehandbook.com/contents.html)



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While you are saving money by avoiding the dump station fee, isn't there a cost associated with the peat or other material you must buy? How does that work out compared to paying...say $20/month to stay on BLM land and use their dump and water at no additional charge.

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Interesting CR, It is interesting to hear about other options, while it may not be for everyone, you have demonstrated some advantages Composting has over the traditional and more common approach to RV waste management.....

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Hi Bill,

Yes, definitely.  For example, the coconut fiber costs us about $2.67/brick when we buy it in a bundle.  That's a 2-week brick for us.  Peat moss is vanishingly cheap, maybe even an order of magnitude cheaper per use,  but non-sustainable, bulky and fairly inconvenient, in our experience.  Coconut is very compact and stores like a dream.

I'm very interested in this $20, free-water BLM land you're talking about.  Would you be willing to share details?  Dumping wouldn't be an issue, but staying someplace beautiful with good, free water makes my ears stand up pointy.

Like I hope I've expressed, money isn't the whole ball of wax here, although it factors in. There's also a capital outlay up-front, unless a person uses something like a Loveable Loo, and the volume may be greater in that set-up.  That was our first choice, until we really thought through what we wanted and needed.

 



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Thanks, Gene.  No, it certainly won't be for everyone.  But, three years ago we were absolutely certain it wasn't for us, either.  I just like the idea that it might get caught in someone's brain, somewhere along the line.



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For anyone who is interested, there is a nice, non-technical explanation of composting on a larger scale here:

http://www.clivusmultrum.com/science-technology.php



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Depending upon how long you want to stay, you can start looking at this site for camping in the Quartsite/Yuma, AZ area.
http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/recreation/camping/LTVA/laposa.html


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Bill Adams



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After rereading this entire thread and doing a little more research on my own, my thinking has come around to the point where I believe a composting toilet might be a pretty good idea.

No more blueboys to have to deal with; no more messes at dump stations that the last guy left behind for you to have to deal with (or at your own RV if there is a leak somewhere); no more waiting in line at a dump station... you get the idea.



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WOOHOO!  That's great!



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Thanks, Bill.  I'll bookmark this for later reference.



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I'm glad someone shared the PETT toilet on nrsweb.com. I've seen these in the RV store and camping section of Walmart, but I had some concerns which have now been addressed:

1. How would I take my little bags of poop to public trash cans?
2. Wouldn't they stink? (I can just see carrying it around in my purse and waiting till no one is looking before placing it in a trash receptacle outside of walmart.)
3. Wouldn't the plastic bags leak if it was not solid? (I can pee in a jug and smuggle it into the Walmart to dump down the toilet, but let's face it, poop doesn't always come out nice and solid.)
4. It seems disturbingly un-eco-friendly to use a plastic bag every time you poop.

After watching the video at this link www.nrs.com/product/2736/cleanwaste-portable-toilet-system
I now have some answers.

1. Well, I still have to find public trash cans, but it seems easier to me to dispose of small bags often rather than big 15 lb bags every couple of weeks.
2. They make "poo powder" which uses deodorizers (not perfumes) to reduce the smell.
3. The poo powder turns liquids into a solid gel very quickly for easier transport and safer disposal. I guess it contains the pathogens in a gel instead of letting your stuff leak out and bathe the whole garbage can with it. (But they still suggest you transport the bags in a rigid water tight container.)
4. The bags are quick degrading. The poo powder starts the breakdown process quickly. This solution is actually preferred by government agencies than pooping in a hole. (See quotes below)

"WAG BAG waste bags are landfill approved and can be disposed of in trash with regular garbage
Permitted by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for use on rivers and in Wilderness Areas where toilets are required
Cleanwaste PETT portable environmental toilet is recommended by the Leave No Trace program in conjunction with the National Forest Service"

For some reason I feel weird or wrong about putting bags of poop into public garbage cans, but people put diapers in them all the time. And people put kitty litter, baby and adult diapers, in home garbage cans all the time. Not to mention rotting meat scraps. Garbage is not clean. That's just the way it is. I would rather live on a farm and compost my waste to be used to grow food, but since I plan to live in an RV, I'd rather put my waste in biodegradable bags with a biodegrading agent, then waste so much water.

Also, since I plan to live in a small home-made van-sized RV, the compact size is perfect.
My purpose for living in a vehicle is to travel as a musician, not so much to see wilderness areas. So, I will be city camping a lot. This means that I will hopefully borrow public toilets the vast majority of the time. This is even more reason to love the compact size of this toilet. It's just for logistical "emergencies".



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Oh. One more thing. I hate to "poo poo" the composting toilet idea. I love it. But I have to say, the three or four composting toilets I've met did smell. At least enough that I wouldn't want one in my van. It may have been that the users weren't skilled or didn't use the best materials. I wouldn't give up on it, but I would want to test it out first. Maybe try a cheaper option like a five gallon bucket with just solids and see. I know the fancy composting toilets have cranks to turn the material, but you could certainly find out if sawdust on poop was a no-way-I-want-this-in-my-camper-for-even-a-day-until-it-starts-breaking-down kind of thing.

Composting is awesome...and a learning curve. Find a coach. Find people doing it successfully and see if YOU think it doesn't stink.

Side note: you can also try a worm composting system where worms eat your poop. (Just to gross out the compost squeamish a little more.)

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Smell

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The only time our airhead toilet smells is when its too full and is overdue on being dumped. Or maybe a lack of added coir or sawdust. There is a small fan that needs to run 24/7 that sends any odours through a vent on the roof. I do not consider smell to be a problem. We prefer this over a holding tank anyday. I would convert any future rv without hesitation.

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Interesting that this topic revived after three years!

I encourage anyone considering a composting toilet to watch the video on gonewiththewynns.com  It answers all the usual questions plus some you may not have thought of.  We are definitely considering it.

 

Jodee



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Bill and Jodee Gravel "Gonna Be's" in 2015

http://www.ontheroadabode.blogspot.com

 



RV-Dreams Community Member

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For those wanting more information, the Gone With the Wynn's website (Google it) has a whole section dedicated to the composting toilet that they use. It's a good read.

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