Composting Toilets: How They Work and the Benefits of Having One in Your RV

How Do RV Composting Toilets Work

RVs allow for many of the creature comforts of home to follow you into the great outdoors, and the exact amenities you can find in any one vehicle will vary. For many, having some form of a restroom can make a huge difference in their experience, and many RVs have risen to the occasion, bringing showers, sinks, and toilets into the game.

While many toilets use the RV's water tanks to operate, they aren't the only option available. RV composting toilets are also available, providing an alternative to the traditional idea of what a restroom is. So how do RV composting toilets work?

What Is an RV Composting Toilet?

If you're unfamiliar with the term, it doesn't take much to guess what an RV composting toilet is. As the name suggests, the bathroom works through composting human waste, rather than using water and plumbing to flush it away into a tank that you have to reset. The result is an organic approach to waste handling that also creates a fertilizer—just like regular compost.

That's not to say that these toilets don't require any maintenance, but they don't rely on plumbing and running water as their counterparts do. Using one such bathroom and properly deposing the humus can also help the environment in the long run. Composting toilets don't necessarily have to go in RVs, but they're a useful addition.

So how do these appliances work?

How They Work

The first stage in how composting toilets work is in that they drop any waste down into the lower tank areas. When you "flush," instead of water, a trapdoor opens that drops what's in the bowl to where it will ultimately turn to compost. In some models, liquids go to the front of the tank, while solids head to the back end. When they don't mix, it helps prevent sewage smell that can happen with traditional setups.

While different manufacturers have different setups, most composting toilets have the same three primary functions in mind that make them work well:

●    They evaporate moisture. Liquids naturally evaporate over time, and these toilets provide enough aeration to escape outside without the compost pile coming completely dry. Newer systems can also include heating elements that make this process go by faster, while others have liquid tanks you can regularly empty.

●    They don't create odor while they compost. It wouldn't do much good to have a collection of waste that makes your bathroom stink, so composting toilets work to eliminate this problem. If you leave feces on its own, it takes a long time and produces odors. The use of bulking materials (such as sawdust or peat mix) help break down waste quickly to avoid smells.

●    They make it safe to handle compost. Since you'll ultimately need to empty the toilet, you want the product you're managing to be free of any potential health risks. Having the right bulking material helps with this, and the build of the system allows you to have a sage compost to handle.

Once the composting process has completed, you can then take the resulting materials and use it as fertilizer for a garden if you have one. Alternatively, you can dump the waste in a designated area, just as you would empty a dump tank, with the added benefit of knowing your waste will quickly disappear without any potentially toxic effects.

Emptying the solid and liquid chambers is a regular occurrence, though how often you'll need to do so will depend on how much use the restroom in your RVs sees and the size of your tanks. Generally, you'll need to dump things out every couple of weeks if your camping trailer is in constant use.

Single and Multi-Chamber Toilets

To accomplish these goals, you'll generally find two main types of composting toilets: single chamber and multi-chamber models. Ones with multiple chambers will separate the kinds of waste to handle each process; in two-chambers, you have solids and liquids separate, while a single chamber model may need you to remove the humus to dry.

Since oxygen is essential to quick composting, some toilets will also include ways to turn the waste regularly to help the process, which in turn helps eliminate the risk of odors and other potential issues.

Self-Contained and Central Compost Systems

The distinction between these two types is just as the names suggest. Self-contained units are all-in-one models, which have both the toilet and the composting areas all-in-one units. On the other hand, a central unit will appear like a traditional toilet with the storage chamber separate (generally stored below the bathroom).

Central systems generally can hold compost for much longer as they have more available space. However, because of their size and additional components, a central compost system toilet will be more suitable for a traditional home, rather than an RV. For people trying to get a composting toilet into their camping trailers, self-contained units are much more likely.

Recent Models

While the overall concept is simple, a poorly constructed composting toilet won't be as effective as it could be. Here are some options to consider when searching for the newest addition to your RV:

●    Nature's Head

●    Sun-Mar

●    EcoJohn

●    Dry Flush

●    Separett

Take note that these brands offer toilets with different sizes, prices, crank systems, and more to consider. You'll want to compare what's available and if it's suitable for the size of your RV. Remember that you'll need a self-contained unit if you want it to fit in your travel trailer, as some models are much more suitable for full-size homes or cabins.

Advantages to Composting Toilets

For many people, the idea of a composting toilet may not seem very appealing, especially when one feels used to the concept of traditional plumbing. After all, letting your waste sit around doesn't seem like something you'd want to do. However, even if your first impulse thinks otherwise, composting toilets have numerous benefits.

Saving Water and Energy

When you're in an RV without any hookups, you only have so much water at your immediate disposal. Regularly flushing the toilet is something that can potentially use up plenty of water, which can also lead to high costs if you're renting an RV or using a campground's resources.

You may have noticed when reading our overview that composting toilets don't require running water to work; the only moisture they need is what your body produces. You can save your RV's water use for other things, such as showering and camping, rather than washing away what happens in the restroom. You might even be able to take longer trips without as much worry about water!

Fewer Odors

Remember how we mentioned that separating the liquids and solids makes fewer odors? We'll bring it up again because that's a benefit to composting toilets; while you may think otherwise, they actually smell less than a regular bathroom, and having a composting unit means that you won't need to experience the potential sewage smell. Built-in fans usually help with this aspect as well.

Instead of sewage, you may get the smell of fresh dirt, or maybe even nothing at all. Sounds like an improvement to us.

No Need for a Black Tank

RVs rely on black tanks to handle wastewater from toilets, and emptying them tends to be an unpleasant experience. Not only do you need to find an appropriate dumping station, but it's also just not a pleasant smelling chore to handle. In comparison, working with a bucket of composted dirt is far more comfortable, and far less gross.

Since you won't need the black tank anymore, you have the alternative of taking it out and adding in extra fresh water or used water storage tanks. Both will give you more options, though it can take some effort to handle the reconnections properly. The process is well worth it, though.

Free Plant Food

Fertilizers can cost a lot of money if you buy them in a bag, but using a composting toilet to let nature do its work is much cheaper—plus the results are nutrient rich for minimal effort. For the gardener, this incentive can be reason enough on its own to switch to a compostable toilet.

Eco-Friendly Waste

Even if you're not interested in upping your garden game, there's nothing wrong with being environmentally conscious. Your resulting compost will be eco-friendly, so you don't have to worry about its impact once it leaves your RV.

Simple Installation

If you want to install a composting toilet on your own, it's not too completed to setup, which makes it straightforward to add one to your camping trailer. With the growing interest in this technology, we might even see RV manufacturers offering these options right out of the gate.

Since RVing brings together the conveniences of home with the ability to enjoy nature at its finest, getting a composting toilet makes sense.