by guest blogger Bobbi Peterson from Living Life Green
Composting toilets offer an eco-friendly alternative for human waste disposal compared to conventional wastewater treatment systems. Unlike normal toilets, which need to be flushed to transport waste through plumbing systems, composting toilets treat waste onsite.
The toilets deposit waste directly into a composting chamber, where aerobic bacteria begin to decompose the solid material. Liquids evaporate over time with the aid of a ventilation system, which also helps mitigate odors. Once bacteria finish processing the waste, the remaining material consists of a nutrient-rich compost that can improve both food and soil health.
High Nutrient Content
Human waste is high in nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, three of the essential elements plants need to grow efficiently. When bacteria break down waste material into compost, they leave behind these plant-friendly elements. Studies show using compost created from human waste material can increase crop yield and nutrient content.
Farmers and gardeners often use fertilizers to generate the highest crop yield possible. Many fertilizers contain inorganic chemical materials that wash off soil during rain events and contaminate lakes, rivers and streams. High levels of nutrients in waterways are linked to excessive algae blooms, which consume oxygen in water and lead to the death of marine life.
Compost material generated from human waste naturally adds nutrients back into the soil without the excess risk of contaminating waterways. Unlike chemical fertilizers, compost naturally holds moisture and reduces runoff, which helps keep nutrients in the ground and readily accessible to the plants that need them.
Reduced runoff also means higher levels of water infiltration over time. More water at the plant source means gardeners and farmers can reduce the amount of water and the number of times they water their plants.
Replace Soil Nutrients
Traditional agricultural practices, including raising cattle and growing crops, are leading to the depletion of nutrients and minerals naturally found in soil. The decrease in soil nutrients means smaller crop yields and less nutritious food.
For plants to grow most efficiently, they require optimal soil conditions, including a balanced pH level. If soil is too alkaline or too acidic, plants may have difficulty absorbing the nutrients they need from the earth. This can lead to decreased production or no production at all.
Compost has a pH level between 6 and 8, which is close to neutral. The addition of compost to soil can help balance pH levels naturally and create ideal conditions for plant growth. Although the optimum pH for plants varies, most require a neutral or near neutral pH for optimum growth.
Better for the Environment
Approximately 99 percent of human waste consists of water. In conventional wastewater treatment operations, fresh potable water is added to human waste to transport it via piping systems to a treatment facility, where chemicals and organic processes neutralize it. Many of the natural nutrients found in the waste never make it back to the environment after treatment.
Composting toilets require no additional water to be added to the system, and instead evaporate excess water, leaving behind all valuable nutrients. The composting process conserves water, and the nutrient content of the remaining material is much higher than in conventional wastewater treatment operations.
An Affordable Option
In developing countries and impoverished areas, manufactured fertilizers and composts may not be affordable for farmers and families. Additionally, they may not be accessible. Composting toilets offer a viable alternative for maximizing food availability, while also minimizing costs.
Composting toilets offer an eco-friendly method of improving food and soil health, as well as an efficient way of reusing waste material.
Bobbi Peterson is a green living and environmental writer. She regularly posts about sustainability and simple living on her blog, Living Life Green. You can find more from Bobbi on Twitter.
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How effective are composting toilets at removing drugs from the compost…it my understanding that they are not effective at drug breakdown ….do I really want that in my soil?
Where can I download the specs and plans on building these composting toilets ?