The Crapper

World Toilet Day — November 19, 2021

by Tom McKeon

My friend and colleague, Tom McKeon has written this lovely post about a composting toilet known as “The Crapper.” If you live in a tiny house, have an RV, or just want to learn more about composting toilets, read on.

Friday, November 19th is World Toilet Day and what better way to celebrate than with a visit to The Crapper!  If you live in the Philly area, we hope to see you there. Details on the event are as follows: 

photo courtesy of Temple Tiny House

Friday, November 19th 3 to 5 p.m.
Where: Tiny House, Temple University Campus at Diamond & Carlisle Streets, Philadelphia, PA
What: The Global Water Alliance  (GWA) in partnership with Temple University’s Office of Sustainability, the Fox Entrepreneurship Academy and Engineers Without Borders plan to display a compostable toilet at Temple University’s Tiny House, Diamond and Carlisle Streets, in observation of World Toilet Day.  The U.N. estimates that 3.6 billion people don’t have access to a working toilet and proper, improved sanitation. That’s almost half the world!  To celebrate this global holiday and raise awareness by engaging the community around water access, sanitation and hygiene, or WASH, issues The Crapper will be on display.  GWA hopes the event will also serve as a networking opportunity, connecting students and the community to upcoming GWA events, conferences, and research opportunities. 

 The Compostable Toilet is designed by Toilets for People: 

Although we will display The Crapper for demonstration purposes only, it is functional. It uses urine diversion and the natural processes of decomposition and evaporation to breakdown and reduce the volume of human waste, transforming it into a soil-like compost material.

It starts with a horizontally mounted rotating drum, much like a garden composter, that sits inside a box. This proven technology has been the industry standard since the 1970s in the USA and Canada.

To use, start by filling the drum with 1 gallon of damp and loose compost material — coconut coir is popular. Then you pee and poop as you do. No need to cover it with saw dust, dry leaves, or ash afterwards, you just spin it once after every use. The urine diversion system routes the urine (which is generally sterile) either into a container for later disposal or is discharged directly into a soak pit.

There is no need to clean the drum and the bin – it is actually better if some material carries over to start the composting process with the next batch. You would clean the seat as you would a seat on a flush toilet, and the same goes for the interior interface under the seat. The exterior can also be wiped down. Any cleaning product can be used. 

The toilet only needs to be cleaned once every two months. The waste entering the toilets is over 90% water, which is evaporated and carried back to the atmosphere through the vent system. The urine diversion system carries sterile urine to storage containers to be diluted and used as fertilizer or discharged directly into the ground via a shallow soak pit.

The natural decomposition process, which is essentially the same as in your standard backyard garden composter, is enhanced in waterless composting toilets by manipulating the environment in the composting chamber.

The correct balance between oxygen, moisture, heat and organic material is needed to ensure a rich environment for the aerobic bacteria that decomposes the waste. This ensures odor-free operation and complete decomposition of waste.

Natural aerobic decomposition eliminates dangerous pathogens and foul odors. It also reduces the volume of the waste by 80% so the user only needs to empty the drum into the secondary storage container once every 2 weeks.

After you empty it into the secondary container, the composting solid waste will continue to break down underneath the drum. After emptying the drum a few times over 2 months you can take out the composting bin to bury.

To do so, you dig a hole a foot deep, put the compost in the hole, cover it with wood ash, charcoal ash or agricultural lime (this is to dry it out & raise the pH which kills the pathogens thereby disinfecting the waste) and finally cover it all over with dirt and you’re done!

The compost from the toilet is safe to be used as a fertilizer. When human waste is properly composted, levels of pathogens or viruses in the waste are dramatically reduced. The pathogens and viruses are further destroyed by desiccation (drying out).

It is recommended that the soil-like compost material coming out of a composting toilet be buried nearby with an ash/lime cover as a final disinfectant. This will raise the pH of the waste – further destroying any remaining pathogens and viruses that thrive in an acidic environment and die in a basic one. 

Under certain circumstances, it can be used as a nutrient-rich fertilizer for growing trees. However it is not recommended for surface crops since there is the possibility that some pathogens remain in the waste, which can be harmful if exposed to. As long as the compost is in the ground, then the exposure route is not present.

Tom McKeon holds a master’s in public health from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently a Ph.D. student at Temple University studying geography where he uses statistics, GIS, and epidemiological concepts to analyze place-based interventions to improve community health by maintaining and improving water quality through community education, biological sampling, chemical sampling, and designing restoration proposals. 

About Pam Lazos

writer, blogger, environmentally hopeful
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20 Responses to The Crapper

  1. cheriewhite says:

    Wow! I had no idea there was such a holiday nor such a toilet! LOLOL And I agree with you and some of the other posters. The fat cats who are so busy pushing the climate change, carbon footprint garbage are a bunch of over-inflated, stuffed shirt hypocrites. They think they can make rules for us that they’re exempt from. It’s sickening. They’re even trying to phase out beef because they claim that when a cow farts, it’s bad for the air. What a load of crap!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hilarymb says:

    Hi Pam – certainly interesting to read about … especially the rotating drum. I remember a compost toilet in the very early 1950s at my grandfather’s house in the Lake District … and now (today) – there’s a compost toilet out at a village church – in situ for a few years, but they will be installing one in the church, now they’ve updated the historic church. Fascinating to read this – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  3. TanGental says:

    I love a good toilet story.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, you learn something new every day. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pam Lazos says:

      Would be wonderful if some good news comes out of Glasgow, too!♥️

      Liked by 2 people

      • It would but I seriously have my doubts. There’s been a ton of flack here re the way they are all flying here in their private jets, using more carbon in one flight than the whole of Scotland does in a year. The fancy buffets have all been burger based. I won’t go on and on but from where the average person here is standing it has simply been a glut of the wealthy. Indeed one journo summed it up. It was in its way quite funny in terms of payback when the police shut folks out their homes here cos of some fancy dinner. So this woman coming home from work gets stopped a yard from her door and told to walk the other way in the dark through this park. The deputy ed of a pretty big Scottish paper… And she just said in her write and she was spot on, that if this was a terrorist incident she could understand it but it wasn’t, It was a bunch of fat cats, stuffing their faces while lecturing the poor on saving the planet. And quite honestly that is how it seems to most of us. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Pam Lazos says:

        Oh gosh, Shey, that is worse than what I feared. I don’t know how we get to the next century, truly. If they can’t even decide to phase out coal — and our Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee makes half a mil a year on coal subsidies which is why the renewable market in the U.S. has still not gotten a true leg up — and coal seems to me to be the lightest lift of them all, then what chance do we have?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Honestly, it all just disgusts me. They make all these self righteous noises and go and do what they like cos it is money. They are baning on here in the papers about phasing out log burners which many use and need to heat their homes. But my understanding is it is coal that is the worst. And they are spewing out stuff here in Scotland from places like Mossmoran that would make your hair stand on end and then go to us the plebs about saving the planet. xxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Pam Lazos says:

        Same thing happening here. The little guy has to give things up while the big cheeses suck up what has been given up. So so sad and it makes me mad as a hatter … or a hamster!

        Liked by 1 person

      • LOL….. Yeah, they get mad they will eat them alive!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s good to know that these toilets exist.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting! I always wondered how they work. This could be a solution for a lot of problems.

    Liked by 2 people

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