The Land Yacht is almost 50 years old and is lacking some features like a gray water tank. Modern RV’s have separate tanks for waste water (black tanks) and drain water (gray tanks). Back in the day people would just let their gray water flow onto the ground or in small hand dug holes called gopher holes. These days this is unacceptable.
Since we plan to do lots of extended boondocking (camping without hookups) we needed to address our waste and gray water storage. We had several options with the Airstream:
Add our gray water to our black tank.
Add a separate gray water tank.
Use our black tanks as a gray water tank and install a composting toilet.
I first learned of the composting toilet solution from the airforums. Several individual had reported good results from manufactured composting toilets made for sailboat applications. I was intrigued by this option. I am a gardener and all-about composting so I looked more into this option.
Basically a composting toilet collects your waste which is then covered with an organic material like sawdust. The waste is then cached for a period of time allowing it to break down (the number I see most often is 12-months) then it’s transformed into safe rich soil.
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In America we have an interesting relationship with our waste. We have neat and tidy ways of simply making our undesirables disappear. We are so isolated from our waste because we have engineered ways to haul or flush it away.
Even though we may be oblivious to what happens after we flush the toilet or the garbage truck hauls our bags away, the fact is the way we choose to handle our waste is irresponsible and poor for the environment.
When I talk about composting toilets I am entertained by peoples response. Most people don’t realize what happens to their digested meal afters it’s flushed down the bowl. The amount of water and chemicals involved is alarming. And what’s even more alarming is this, “treated” wastewater is then pumped back into our water sources.
If you are curious how wastewater is processed checkout this short video. I hope I am not the only one that is disturbed! I vote for keeping our clean water clean and using our waste to enrich the soil.
Our Waste Solution
The best option for our Airstream, and the most responsible, is a composting toilet. (As a side note I am happy we won’t be hauling around a tank of chemical laden smelly waste. I have yet to visit an RV that didn’t have that poop+chemical smell!) This option avoids adding a new tank and free’s up our existing tank to be used for gray water.
After pricing out manufactured units we have decided against buying a premade option. (The cheap version is over $800.) These units are bulky and would not flow with our bathroom layout and they are pretty simple so we are going to tailor make a composting potty. Basically all you need is a receptacle (5 gallon bucket) and a toilet seat.
There are two camps around composting toilets and making humanure. One says put all the waste in a single bucket then cover appropriately and the other says separate the #1 and #2 with a urine diverting toilet seat. Both sides make sense. Here are my thoughts on each:
Single Bucket Method
Super simple, no speciality seat required. The key to this method is adding the appropriate amount of covering (sawdust) to absorb the liquid and neutralize the smell. From what I have read this method, we properly managed, does not smell, attract flies and compost quicker (the urine aids this process).
I like the simplicity. Seems to work for Mr. Jenkins – his family has been doing it for years.
More covering is needed to balance the moisture content which means it will fill up quicker. Since we will be on the road much of the time we won’t have access to our compost bins.
Urine Diverting Method
Special toilet seat diverts the urine to a separate receptacle. Supporters of this method claim that when the urine is mixed with the feces you get smell, and flies. Makes sense to me.
Greater capacity. Potentially easier to keep smell and bugs out.
Costly seat required with very few options. More maintenance with emptying urine container.
To conclude we are going to initially try the Jenkins one bucket method over the summer. It’s simple, cheap and we will have access to compost bins all summer. At the end of the summer we will evaluate how this method is working. Come fall when it’s time to hit the road we may try the urine diverting method. We will keep you posted!
If you have any experience or feedback on composting toilets would love to hear your comments!
Interesting Time Article on Humanure & Composting Toilets [/accordion_item]