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Old 07-23-2019, 10:07 AM   #1
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Decisiontime: composting toilet or conventional method

I may need to replace the black tank on '68 Overlander and figured it was a good time to weigh the pros/cons between composting toilets and conventional black tank/sewer hookup.

Over 90% of our camping is at campgrounds that have full or partial hookups...not done any boondocking and would be very little, if any.

For folks that have gone the composting route what are you thoughts? Are you pleased wit it? Would you do it again?

I've read about how to maintain a composting toilet and it seems like quite a bit of trouble but maybe I'm missing all the advantages.

Thanks for any suggestions/advice.

Pete
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Old 07-23-2019, 11:30 AM   #2
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For me, no black tank sounds like heaven, but I will admit I was still nervous about "maintenance" on the composting part. Thus, I built my own custom toilet that is a sort of cartridge/composting hybrid. The urine diverter goes straight to the gray tank, so no emptying that part (which I think is a huge downfall of Nature's Head, etc.). For the "other stuff" there is a bin with a liner and a little bit of kitty litter (though we call it human litter). I thought I would need to use a lid on the bin, so I was surprised to find that with the exhaust fan constantly running (a small computer fan) there is NO smell whatsoever, even with the bin always open (there is still the toilet seat/lid that seals up pretty well). After a week or two of use (there are two of us), I simply cinch up the bag and toss it in a dumpster. Even with the Fantastic Fans running, *all* of the odor is taken care of by the exhaust fan. I will say though, if the exhaust fan goes off and the Fantastic Fan is running, you will quickly find out what you were missing!
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Old 07-23-2019, 08:04 PM   #3
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Hi Pete - If 90% of your Airstream Lifestyle is camping with hookups, I am not sure why you’re considering a composting toilet...I would think that replacing a blank tank might be easier than installing a composting toilet. That said, we have a Nature’s Head composting toilet in our 2019 Globetrotter.

We full-time travel, and it’s our desire (our Airstream Lifestyle) to be *off-grid* whenever possible. A composting toilet helps us conserve water and double our grey tank capacity.

For us, 275 days later, this has been a good decision. We are able to go places where we are not dependent on hook-ups. For instance, we just stayed with friends on their farm in Waitsburg, Washington. We were the *perfect* guests - we bring our house with us without needing to use their electricity or water.

For your consideration when thinking about installing a composting toilet:

A composting toilet is a considerable financial investment.
Depending on how you install the composting toilet, it may not be reversible to a regular RV toilet.
You need to vent the toilet to the outside of the coach and install a 12V fan that runs continuously.
The footprint of the composting toilet is significantly larger than a RV toilet.
You must have a supply of coconut coir on hand for the solids bin (#2).
You must empty the liquid bottle (#1) every other day, more often if you have multiple users.
All male users must pee sitting down - no standing up to pee due to the placement of the urine collection.
You must empty the solids bin every two/three weeks, depending on use.
You must educate your guests about how-to-use the toilet.

There is a learning curve to using and maintaining a composting toilet that is seldom talked about in the RV community. A composting toilet is NOT for everyone. I am glad to answer any questions you might have about composting toilets.
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Old 07-24-2019, 09:53 AM   #4
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The alternative to a composting toilet is the cassette or "portable-potty" toilet. After years of hassling with the black tank--and its smell-- in my '72 Safari I decided to ditch it altogether. The composting toilets are incredibly expensive, and, as somebody pointed out, there's still the issue of the pee. Before I ripped out the black tank I put a cheap portable toilet where the regular toilet was. I was skeptical about smell, the yuck factor of emptying it etc. It has absolutely no smell. And, emptying it was really no big deal. I mean anyone who has dealt with the kinds of "accidents" that happen with the stinky slinky and dumping knows that even the regular RV toilet has a yuck factor. The toilet I got has a manual pump that pumps water from a tank on the bottom for the flush. However, I used the water line for the original toilet and installed a sink sprayer head on it. A short squirt fills the bowl for "solids". After seeing how easy it was I did a total remodel of the bathroom including pulling the black tank on its stupid platform. The portable toilet is mounted to the floor. The only downside is that I need to remember to empty it long before it's full because it can be kind of heavy. Pouring it down a pit toilet is the easiest way but when I dump it in the toilet at home it's not a big deal either. The '72s didn't have a gray tank so I use a blue boy for that and usually drag it off to pour on trees. The best part of all is not worrying about finding a dump station and having to wait in line at the gas stations to dump.
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Old 07-24-2019, 10:15 AM   #5
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Yup! What she said. Used one for years in an avion. At a full hookup site we dumped the portopotty into the sewer drain.
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Old 07-24-2019, 11:20 AM   #6
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Regarding the camping (cassette) toilet... everything goes into one tank (inside your trailer), and then you have to empty that tank. Before building my custom "compost/cassette" toilet, I used one of those camping toilets for several months. I nearly threw up every time I had to empty it. It's also pretty cumbersome to have to carry a giant tank full of sloshing (gross) out of the trailer every time you need to empty it.



Also, when you go up and down in elevation, the toilet will pressurize and can splash out when you open the valve if you're not careful. Heat in the trailer will do the same thing to build pressure in the tank.



There is also quite a bit of cleaning the bowl every time you use it (not fun).



Separating the number 1 (and having it go straight to the gray tank) and then drying out the number 2 (with whatever media is in the bin plus the exhaust fan) makes emptying things infinitely easier, with no liquid mess and virtually no smell at all.
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Old 07-24-2019, 12:22 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by goswick View Post
For folks that have gone the composting route what are you thoughts? Are you pleased wit it? Would you do it again?
We have been using an AirHead composting toilet for about 9 months, and can't imagine going back to conventional. It's not difficult at all, and is significantly more sanitary and less smelly that dumping a black tank.

We rarely boondock, but have increasingly stayed places that are water/electric only. I installed a Valterra T-50 on the dump connection, so when our gray tank is full I can use the black tank as an overflow. It's nice being able to go a week before having to dump the gray tank.

I also purchased an additional 1 gallon liquids tank with a hose connection, which ultimately will be plumbed into the black tank. https://airheadtoilet.com/product/ho...welded-bottle/ For now, once a day I dump the liquids either down the shower drain, or directly into our Barker tote tank.

As for solids, as others have mentioned, there is no smell, and it's not that much trouble to empty. We can go 2 weeks or more, depending on how often we use it. And, we do use less water, since no water is required for the toilet.

If you want a detailed overview of use, there is a video by the Wynn's that cover their experience: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/com...-big-questions
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Old 07-24-2019, 01:08 PM   #8
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My SOB came with a composting toilet and, TG, the old toilet. I can understand going the composting route if there are no alternatives but why anyone would willingly deal with a composting toilet when there are options is beyond me. I gave it a go since it was there but they get a big no thank you from me. Pretty much all campgrounds are set up to dispose of holding tank based waste. Pretty much no campgrounds are set up to dispose of composting toilet waste. Personally I'd take a roll of toilet paper and a shovel over a composting toilet. Bad enough to have to clean my own caca out of the contraption but cleaning other peoples caca is a no go.
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Old 07-24-2019, 01:10 PM   #9
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Good info for our future consideration in our trailers. When I read these threads I think we could do composting but not sure. Either way there is maintenance and methods involved.

Aswel,
So you dump the urine in the (your) shower drain to allow it to get into the grey tank.

For some reason when I read that I made a scrunchy face. I guess plumbing it directly to grey would be favorable to me.
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Old 07-24-2019, 01:21 PM   #10
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Another vote for "stick with conventional"

A lot of people, myself included, have no interest in dealing with the extra hassle/cost/supplies of a RV composting toilet for many of the reasons mentioned above...especially if you are primarily "camping 90% in campgrounds" that are set up to deal quite nicely with conventional RV septic systems.

I would like to add that someday when you go to sell your Airstream (don't say "never", it happens!) your buyer-base will be a lot smaller than with a conventional set-up and you will not be able to re-coup your investment.

Shari

P.S. I too made a "scrunchy face" when I read about disposing of urine in the shower/grey tank...not to mention, "after a week or two of use (there are two of us), I simply cinch up the bag and toss it in a dumpster." Nope, not for me! And yes, I do deal with the tanks, not just Mr. InsideOut.
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Old 07-24-2019, 04:38 PM   #11
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All in all, in my view it's just better to let water and gravity do most of the dirty work.

In fact, my Airstream uses a conventional residential flush toilet. Eight flushes to a full tank.
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Old 07-25-2019, 03:03 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hittenstiehl View Post
So you dump the urine in the (your) shower drain to allow it to get into the grey tank.

For some reason when I read that I made a scrunchy face. I guess plumbing it directly to grey would be favorable to me.
I guess all of the years of picking up doggie poop have raised the bar on what causes me to get a scrunchy face. The smell of the black tank when dumping would do it for me, but pouring pee down the shower drain is no big deal by comparison...but then again, we drink lots of water so it's very diluted.

The shower is just the quickest route to the grey tank. And, I always turn on the exhaust fan and finish up with some Dr. Bronners peppermint soap and water to flush out the pipe. It's not all that bad really, and only takes a few minutes.

As mentioned I did buy a 1 gallon AirHead liquids tank with a fitting for a pipe, which can be plumbed into the black tank connection for a scrunchy face free experience, but I just haven't tackled that project yet.
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Old 07-25-2019, 03:35 AM   #13
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A lot of people, myself included, have no interest in dealing with the extra hassle/cost/supplies of a RV composting toilet for many of the reasons mentioned above...especially if you are primarily "camping 90% in campgrounds" that are set up to deal quite nicely with conventional RV septic systems.

I would like to add that someday when you go to sell your Airstream (don't say "never", it happens!) your buyer-base will be a lot smaller than with a conventional set-up and you will not be able to re-coup your investment.

Shari

P.S. I too made a "scrunchy face" when I read about disposing of urine in the shower/grey tank...not to mention, "after a week or two of use (there are two of us), I simply cinch up the bag and toss it in a dumpster." Nope, not for me! And yes, I do deal with the tanks, not just Mr. InsideOut.
When installing the toilet, I actually left everything in place, meaning the water pipe and toilet flange, so that we would have the option of going conventional later if desired.

And, for what it's worth, if you use the right coir material, the smell and appearance of the solids after a few weeks is similar to damp potting soil. To each their own, not trying to convince anyone of anything, just saying that it's much less nasty than messing with a black tank...in my opinion.
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Old 07-25-2019, 04:15 AM   #14
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Yea, no!
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Old 07-25-2019, 09:59 AM   #15
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Aswell
Thanks for your response.

You are correct different heights on the bar for all of us. Even though I made a scrunchy face about "pouring it down the shower drain" the putting it in the garbage didn't bother me in the least.

Changing babies, doing hospice work and cleaning up after dogs, that's where all those things go, in the garbage.

After thinking about it I think my scrunchy face was because, that's where I'll be standing in a little bit in the shower basin, but a rinse & cleaning will take care of that.

In our case (not the OP's) we like to boondock so anything that facilitates that would be okay once you get used to it. Think I'd like to try it first in some way before install.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:28 PM   #16
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Changing babies, doing hospice work and cleaning up after dogs, that's where all those things go, in the garbage.
Exactly right.

Quote:
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After thinking about it I think my scrunchy face was because, that's where I'll be standing in a little bit in the shower basin, but a rinse & cleaning will take care of that.
Yeah, at first I just poured it into the shower basin, but quickly started pouring slowly directly into the drain. I get on my knees outside the basin, lean over and much of the time, can get it all into the drain directly. Much less cleaning required, and much less smell. Just requires a little patience.

Really need to get the new liquids tank plumbed into the (currently plugged) black tank. It will probably be much easier that expected, and dumping into the shower drain for so long will seem silly...
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Old 08-10-2019, 04:24 PM   #17
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I'm developing an after-market Pee Diverter for the Nature's Head. I 3D printed the prototype, which will divert the pee from the bottle to the tank. You should see the looks that I get at the local Maker's Space when describing it! Evidently nerds don't do bodily waste well... who knew?

We typically use our Airstream for long weekends, which usually fill up the existing tank. Wow its gross pouring that out into a toilet! I'm no stranger to bad smells, having ripped up old septic lines and changed many a toilet, and this is far, far worse! And if you forget to do it when you get home, a week goes by, then it's July, and have to empty it before a trip... I shudder to think about it!

But then, wheeling around a Blue Boy, or sitting in line to dump the black tank, a composting head seems the "Least Objectionable Alternative" (LOA).

There's also a new player in the composting head arena, C-Head, in lovely Astor, FL (great camping and paddling nearby) that has a lower cost version. Or you can whip up your own! Basically, it's a vented bucket with a stirring mechanism and some peat moss, with a method to separate the pee into a jug, or divert into the tank. A clever person with a high tolerance for stench could figure out an inexpensive solution with easily available resources. If they weren't single before the project, they would probably be single thereafter, and remain that way!
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Old 08-11-2019, 07:33 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SuzyHomemakr View Post

There's also a new player in the composting head arena, C-Head, in lovely Astor, FL (great camping and paddling nearby) that has a lower cost version. Or you can whip up your own! Basically, it's a vented bucket with a stirring mechanism and some peat moss, with a method to separate the pee into a jug, or divert into the tank. A clever person with a high tolerance for stench could figure out an inexpensive solution with easily available resources. If they weren't single before the project, they would probably be single thereafter, and remain that way!
Thanks for mentioning this. I am interested in a CT but had not seen this one year. It looks like a winner to me.
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Old 08-11-2019, 07:49 AM   #19
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A lot of people, myself included, have no interest in dealing with the extra hassle/cost/supplies of a RV composting toilet for many of the reasons mentioned above...especially if you are primarily "camping 90% in campgrounds" that are set up to deal quite nicely with conventional RV septic systems.

I would like to add that someday when you go to sell your Airstream (don't say "never", it happens!) your buyer-base will be a lot smaller than with a conventional set-up and you will not be able to re-coup your investment.

Shari

P.S. I too made a "scrunchy face" when I read about disposing of urine in the shower/grey tank...not to mention, "after a week or two of use (there are two of us), I simply cinch up the bag and toss it in a dumpster." Nope, not for me! And yes, I do deal with the tanks, not just Mr. InsideOut.
^
YEP...

Do you really want to 'compost'?

Think of the age old question..."Does a Bear s**t in the woods?"
Do what they do.😂

Bob
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Old 08-16-2019, 03:08 PM   #20
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^

YEP...



Do you really want to 'compost'?



Think of the age old question..."Does a Bear s**t in the woods?"

Do what they do.



Bob



IMHO, the entire country is marvelously well set up to deal with human waste in a liquid format.

Who am I to rock the boat?
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