The New Humanure Composting System

This is the most amazing compost-making machine I’ve built yet:

For the last four years, we’ve been renting. I composted quite a bit, but not nearly as much as I wanted to. And I certainly didn’t get to set up a humanure composting system.

Now that we’re on our own land, that has changed. Quite a few people have asked what we’re doing for a septic system or where our septic tank is going. Nowhere! I think flush toilets are a big waste of resources, both in water and potential soil fertility.

There are 11 members in my family and we’re sharing this outhouse without difficulty. It’s a sawdust and bucket system, as Joseph Jenkins outlines in The Humanure Handbook. It’s the same system I write about in Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting.

It starts with a little bucket toilet, which is quite comfortable to use:

Every time you use the toilet, you cover with some sawdust. When the bucket is full, put on a lid and set it aside.

Once I have seven or eight, it’s time to compost. I dump them in my big compost bin.

After dumping, I cover the deposit with a pile of dry grass and leaves, which eliminates all odors and keeps the flies off. Then I wash the buckets with a toilet brush and some dish soap and dump that water on top. The buckets then lay out in the sun to dry and sterilize them the rest of the way.

So far, we fill about a bucket per day. That adds up to 1,825 gallons of compostable material a year. Once that rots down, I’m going to have a huge amount of compost to feed my food forest, bananas and the coffee plantation.

The toughest part so far is getting enough sawdust. I have a small supply for now at a friend’s sawmill, but he’s not cutting much wood and the pile is shrinking. He either needs to cut more trees or I need to find a better supply! I’ve tried other cover materials, such as wood chips, straw and even shredded paper, but sawdust really works the best.

If you’re building off-grid or are not hampered by restrictive codes, this humanure system is a very inexpensive alternative to getting a septic tank and plumbing in toilets.

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