The poop is still flying in the composting toilet discussion. Really, the poop is now just being gently tossed in civil and genteel ways to avoid spatter. Here's a commenter's honest questions, and my response.
[Please don't feel that you must defend poop-flushing to me. It's what most of us do in the developed world. It's what I have done all my life. It's what I taught my son to do. Bye-bye, Poopie! It's fast, it's easy, and it's fun.]
My last post was definitely off-topic and I'm sorry.
I do have some questions though:
1. Why would you consider a composting toilet in an RV when there are other sanitary waste disposal options available?
I don't know how long the composting process takes, but you would have to haul all that along with you until it's done. Weight is an issue with RVs. Where do you put it until that's done? Hauling around extra weight increases fuel consumption, which in itself is not good for the environment.
2. Assuming the composting process has completed, where would you dispose of it? What good would it do in a landfill somewhere, and aren't landfills themselves a blight on the environment?
3. Why would a composting toilet be preferable to a sanitary dump station?
I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I would think that a composting toilet would be more efficacious if you were fixed in place where you could use the results to fertilize a garden to grow food.
Hi T__ & R__,
I'm not positive you're asking me specifically, but I'll be glad to address your questions as best I can.
1) There definitely are other options available, but I am far from convinced that they are superior (or even equal, but I'm not trying to impugn other people's motives). The other options are conventional, and that's not always a compelling quality.
2) "Completely composted" is hard for me to define. Some people compost their manure to the point of using it on their vegetable gardens, and that process may be 2-3 years. Composting in general begins within a week, and if you put your hand on the outside of the vault, you'll feel considerable heat being generated almost immediately, which is a sign of microbial action.
To give you some perspective, two weeks' worth of continuously-composting manure from two people weighs about 15 pounds. How much would that much manure weigh mixed with water? Urine is a consideration in the holding tank scenario, and so a conventional black tank's contents would likely weigh 15 pounds inside a day. Most conventional RVers wouldn't travel to a dump site every day (and pay $5-10) to rid themselves of that weight, so overall, composting in an RV weighs much less than the conventional option.
[Let me say here that we look at this from an extreme boondocking perspective. We don't camp in campgrounds generally. We are also fans of an off-grid stationary life, although we aren't there yet. This may help to explain why we find this a superior process.]
But, if we can reach some agreement on what "fully composted" is, and we can draw that arbitrary line, I would put it on/in the ground. There is no longer any reason to separate it in any way. This is great for a homesteader, or anyone who is living stationary, as you said. Because I am not going to carry our manure around for a couple of months, I settle for the less-perfect option of separating it to continue its composting in a landfill. I agree that landfills are a blight, but we all like to think that our household waste in general is going to biodegrade (rot) and go back to the Earth. Not necessarily true ... except maybe for my lone bag of already-composting manure.
My poop is not doing any good in a landfill. It will be a resource when we stop traveling, assuming we are in a place where we can "resource" it. Now, my concern is "where will my poop cause the least impact?" In a conventional (house) scenario, I might use the toilet six times a day (more if beer is involved). Pooping and peeing into and flushing away about 10 gallons of drinking water. After that, it is no longer really a resource (although farmers buy the heavy-metal-contaminated sludge as fertilizer for open fields). For two of us, that's about 280 gallons of fresh water in a two week period. As a couple, we have effectively created 1.1 tons of waste that must be dealt with, as opposed to 15 pounds of composting manure.
3) When you gotta dump, you gotta dump. A conventional RVer will have to travel to a dump station, and a boondocker will have to travel further. This is not something that can be delayed for long. When they get there, they'll have to pay a fee, understandably. This fee feels small and totally worth it when the tank is dangerously full! A composting toilet says "Relax! Empty me tomorrow, or the next day, or on Thursday if you get a chance."
3a) In our Nature's Head, the urine is separated from the manure mechanically, and we dump the urine onto the ground. Under duress, we will dump it into a flush toilet. This amounts to about 1.5 gallons every two days, with two people using it. See above for beer disclaimer.
My re-disclaimer: I'm not trying to knock conventional poop flushers. Since you were interested enough, and so kind as to ask polite questions, I've tried to give you a sense of why we compost. I'll admit to being strongly influenced by Joseph Jenkins' book Humanure (which you can download chapter by chapter here for free: http://humanurehandbook.com/contents.html)