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Friday, 24 January 2020 16:10

Composting Toilets Eliminate Black Tank Mess Featured

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If you really hate emptying the black tank on your RV, consider switching to a composting toilet. Yes, you have to empty it, too, but it’s not as messy or as smelly.

The big difference between the composting toilet and a system that uses water is that urine and solid waste are collected separately in the composting toilet. That means the results are not as offensive.

You won’t have to use your black tank at all.

Composting toilets are safe—so safe that they are installed in many national parks. Solid waste in small quantities is treated much the same as disposable diapers, and urine, if disposed of properly, is not considered hazardous.

A good composting toilet costs about $950 and up.

Installing a Composting Toilet

No water hookup is needed for the toilet itself because it doesn’t use water. A composting toiler just sits on the floor, without the need to connect to water, waste outlets or even the floor. You will need an electrical outlet to run the toilet’s small fan, and you will need to drill through a surface of your camper for a small ventilation line.

The biggest question may be what to do with your old water-operated toilet. You can just leave it in place, but that may limit the space for the composting toilet. If you remove the old water-operated toilet, you’ll have to disconnect and properly seal off the plumbing—one line only, since a toilet uses only cold water—and you’ll have to cover and seal the opening to the black tank.

An RV center can supply the parts you’d need, or it can do the whole job for you. Store your water-operated toilet so you can reinstall it if you ever sell your RV.  

The composting typically requires partial assembly—unwrapping it from packing material, putting the tanks in place and possibly attaching a handle for the composting bin.

Using a Composting Toilet

You must set up the toilet for use by adding coconut fiber (sometimes called coco coir) or peat moss in the solid waste bin, hydrating the material before spreading it out at the bottom of the bin. This must be repeated after each dumping.

Using a composting toilet requires sitting. Men and boys will not be able to stand and urinate because doing so would mix liquid and solid waste, which would affect the neatness and purpose of composting. Mixing would create a stench, so children must be trained to use the composter properly.

A plastic bottle collects urine at the front of the toilet.

A larger composting bin collects solid waste beneath the bowl. Organic material, such as coconut fiber or peat moss, is placed in the composting bin to collect an mix with solid waste. For two people, a block of peat moss will probably last a year, or close to it.

Each time solid waste is put into the bin, you must turn the handle to mix it with the organic matter. That’s how odors remain in check.



  • You will eliminate black tank odors, since you won’t be using the tank.
  • You’ll have no need to empty a black tank—ever.
  • You are likely to need to dump solid waste less often—perhaps every 3-5 weeks—than you would a black tank.
  • You’ll use less water without a water-operated toilet, so your fresh-water supply will last longer.
  • Emptying both the urine bottle and composting bin are relatively easy.
  • Composting toilets are portable, so you can use place one outside—say, inside a small tent.


  • There’s that sitting regimen, which some men may not like. If you have bad knees, you may want to securely install a grab bar near the toilet.
  • You’ll have to empty the urine bottle more often than a black tank. Having extra urine bottles is advisable. They have screw-on tops, so they don’t leak. Solid waste and the composting material get dumped into a 13-gallon plastic trash bag, or better, a compostable trash bag, so you’ll need to keep plenty of the right size.
  • You’ll have to find places to properly dispose of the waste—not as difficult as it sounds, but still a requirement.

Where To Dispose of Waste

To be absolutely safe, you may want to contact the environmental agency in any state where you think you may have to dispose of waste. The federal EPA lists state agencies online. Regulations also may vary by park, and by municipality, so check with them.

Dumping Urine:

Here are some places you should be able to empty the urine bottle from your composting toilet:

  • At a dumping station. This is a sure place for safe disposal.
  • Anyplace you can urinate. So, a public toilet, such as those in a national park, or a toilet in a fast food or big box store, could take urine from a bottle. Carry your bottle in a backpack or tote so it’s not noticeable. Men, use a stall.
  • On the ground. Not just anywhere is acceptable, but many places are. Dirt roads in remote spots are good. Avoid paved surfaces, areas near other campers and ornamental vegetation. Think about where you’d urinate in the wilderness and use such an area for dumping urine. Pour over a wide area.
  • Away from waterways. Urine should be dumped at least 200 feet from waterways. One bottle may not hurt, but repeated dumping by many campers would. Just don’t do it.
  • Away from storm sewers. The pipes in storm sewers dump into rivers or lakes without treatment. Storm sewers should never be receptacles for urine or other human waste. Again, one bottle may not be harmful, but if everyone dumped this way, it would be.
  • Never on private property without permission.

Dumping Solid Waste:

Solid waste as it comes from a composting toilet is not yet truly compost. That takes time. But it is not considered hazardous by the EPA. Your bag of waste and fiber is the same classification as solid waste or municipal waste. It’s actually not as bad as a disposable diaper, which mixes solid waste with urine and contains more non-biodegradable plastic.

If you buy a vented, extra base (about $300), you can set it aside an allow it to completely compost before dumping. That’s the ideal method.

Here are places for dumping solid waste:

  • In the compost pile at a park or campground. One is typically available.
  • In a trash receptacle. Place the waste inside a plastic or compostable bag before placing in a trashcan or dumpster. Landfills accept this as a type of municipal waste. It is not against the law, or else millions of moms and dads would be picked up for using disposable diapers.
  • Burying. Some parks may bar this, but generally speaking if you’re in a wilderness area, you may dig a cat hole a least 8 inches deep and bury solid human waste, the same as you would if defecating outdoors while camping. The smaller the amount, the better. The bigger the amount, the deeper the hole should be. For multiple burials, use different spots.

Always read the instructions that come with your toilet. Not all models are the same. And check with EPA regulations before you dispose of waste.

Photo Credits: natureshead.net

Read 208 times Last modified on Friday, 24 January 2020 16:28
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