The Night Soil Man

“Night Soil Man” from Dunston, Lincolnshire. He took away human waste to be used as fertiliser (1872). Photo credit: Professor Frank McDonough “Night Soil”, which is untreated, …
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The Night Soil Man

“Night Soil”, which is untreated, uncomposted human waste (aka poo) was commonly used as a fertiliser in the United Kingdom until around 60 years ago. It’s still used in China and some other countries, but comes with risks as faeces can be a vector of human disease transmission. Today, science has shown us that composting human manure will render it safe in addition to compost being generally better for the soil than manure (better structure, less nutrient run-off etc). Using a compost toilet is not taking us backwards hundreds of years, because we apply modern scientific rigour and know that…

Reducing Nitrates from urine with a Woodchip Bioreactor

Allowing small amounts of urine to be discharged into the ground, through a soak-away pit, is the usual way of dealing with the urine output from urine-diverting compost toilets. In the UK, specifically England and Wales, the Environment Agency, permits discharges to ground of up to 10 litres per day (with certain provisos) as part of an exception clause or what’s known as ‘de mimimis’. In other words, the amount of discharge is so small (in relative terms), that the ground can ‘cope’ with this discharge with no adverse effects, so you don’t need a specific permit. Please be aware…

Can you pour urine into a canal?

In a word, no! Let’s expand on this a little bit. The context here is for people in the UK who have a urine-diverting waterless/compost toilet on a narrowboat or wide-beam, and therefore will need to regularly empty the urine container. In the UK, regulations prohibit the discharge of urine into the canal network. The CRT (Canals and Rivers Trust) have expanded this prohibition to cover many rivers too, with more areas planned. The reason behind this is that canals in particular, are slow flowing and prone to nutrient build up, which in turn can lead to algal blooms and…

Compost Toilet ‘Waste’ Collection Service for London Boaters

Compost toilets are an excellent option for people living on or using a narrowboat. Getting away from the chemical toilet reduces the horrible chemical smells, dependence on finding a suitable pump out station to get rid of the contents, plus many people just dislike the whole chemical approach. However, unless you have some access to land, or sufficient space on board to compost ‘on-the-go’ (which is possible and something we’ll cover in more detail in the future), the big question is how do you deal with the solid matter from your waterless toilet (in most cases, we’re referring to urine-separating…

The simplest, cheapest and easiest compost toilet

Maybe you’re thinking about buying or building a compost toilet, but you’re not sure if you’re ready to make the leap and part with a lump of cash or spend a lot of time making something. What if you want to dip your toe in the waterless world of compost toilets and humanure to see if it will work for you, or simply don’t have the budget just yet for that lovely, shiny, all-singing compost toilet. Is There A Way To Get Started, To Get Some Experience Of The Process Under Your Belt At Really Low Cost? Yes, I think…

The flush toilet – a metaphor for the civilisation we are living in.

Paul Kingsnorth is a Booker prize-nominated writer, co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project and a ‘recovering environmentalist’. In a very interesting and detailed documentary about his life and work, that takes a long-form look at his ideas about collapse, spiritual ecology and emptying compost toilets, he made the following comment: The flush toilet is a good metaphor for the civilisation we are living in. You crap into a pipe, you flush it away, and you never see it. You never have to deal with your own shit. And then you end up deep in it. Paul Kingsnorth Following from the…

Choosing the right size solar panel and battery

I was often asked to help choose the most appropriate size of solar panel and battery to run the fan in an off-grid compost toilet. Where fitted, the fan in a compost toilet is used to extract odours and to assist in moisture control (an important and often overlooked aspect where toilets are used in smaller spaces). The use of a fan reduces or eliminates the need for a cover material in the toilet, and in most instances, the fan can be run from a 12-volt DC electricity source. But what size solar panel and battery will be right for…

What’s the best cover material for a compost toilet?

Updated 27th March 2021 In a basic, simple compost toilet the perfect cover material does several things: adds carbon, which will work with the nitrogen in the faeces (and urine) to create a balanced mixture for subsequent composting in your compost pile/bin/heap. acts as a visual cover so people aren’t staring at poo! acts as a bio filter that will stop your loo smelling Some compost toilets, typically urine-separating models, don’t need any cover material at all according to the manufacturers (for example Separett Tiny, Villa & Weekend, and the Simploo). This is because they use a fan to actively…