It is indeed possible to have a composting toilet in a motorhome, even campervans are using them.
Generally, Motorhome toilets use chemicals to break down waste and keep smells to a minimum. But, what if there was a way to use a chemical free toilet in a motorhome.
Well, there are new devices invented over a century ago called composting toilets.
When I first got the motorhome I was not very keen on having a chemical toilet. Just the thought of using the chemicals and having to empty the toilet every couple of days didn’t do much for my appetite. But, once you have emptied the toilet a few times and got used to the real convenience of not having to walk to a communal toilet in the middle of a rain storm during the night, it doesn’t seem so bad.
Now I actually love our little toilet and have found that it actually smells less than the toilet in our home! How is that even possible? Our toilet/shower room is smaller than some people’s wardrobes and yet it always smells fresh.
Once we got used to using the toilet I did a fair bit of research into composting toilets. After all, what could be better than a chemical free motorhome toilet? Here are some of the things I found out that may help you choose the best toilet for your motorhome.
What is a Composting Toilet?
Composting toilets work by separating the pee from the poo so the waste can break down quickly with virtually no odour.
That’s the theory. The toilet I was looking into purchasing was Nature’s Head Composting Toilet. This toilet seems to be well designed and relatively easy to empty.
When you separate the pee from the poo you have two containers to empty. Generally the pee container will need emptied the most as the poo should be composting and taking up less space with each day that passes.
The way they work is to keep the fluid separate from the solids. This will minimise the smells and actually help with the breakdown of the solids in quite a short space of time.
These help to compost the waste and start to break it down.
How Big is a Composting Toilet?
The composting toilet from Natures Head is not that different from an ordinary porta potti.
It comes in at 21 inches (53cm) high by 19inches(48cm) deep by 21 (53cm) inches wide.
It would take a bit of remodelling to get it to fit in my small bathroom but that is mainly due to the design. The existing toilet is quite a large unit with a removable cassette. The toilet would intrude a bit but we could get it into our old motorhome.
Does a motorhome composting toilet smell?
If the toilet is set up properly and clean, you should have no smells at all. The smell should be earthy, like compost. When you are emptying the urine container you will get the smell of ammonia but in general day to day use there should be no smell at all.
Can I put toilet Paper into a Composting toilet?
You can put toilet paper into your composting toilet but the paper will take longer to break down than the rest of the waste and will be visible when you come to empty the bucket.
The best toilet papers to use for a composting toilet are toilet papers designed for marine or motorhomes applications.
Even better would be not to put paper down the toilet at all, this would extend the time required between empties.
How often do you have to empty a Composting Toilet?
The Natures head is designed to last 60 to 80 uses before needing emptied. This works out to be about 3 weeks, possibly longer. The urine bottle will last 2 people about 3-4 days.
This is way better than a chemical toilet which we find lasts about 3 days before it needs emptied.
How do you empty a composting toilet?
There is a procedure to follow that will pertain to each individual toilet set up but basically there is usually a poo bucket and pee container. The pee container is usually in an easily accessible area where it can be removed easily.
The poo bucket is located under the bowl so this will have to be lifted off to get access to the bucket. The bucket is then emptied into a bag and disposed of.
You then have the advantage not having to hunt down a chemical disposal area. You can use a toilet for the pee and compost or bin the poo.
Where can you empty a composting toilet?
The urine bottle can be emptied down any toilet. The bottle is not too large so you can easily carry it. This makes the disposal of your pee very easy. Even though the urine bottle is a manageable size the smell of pee (ammonia) can be surprising so brace yourself.
The poo waste can be disposed of in a composter or in general waste. This is fine if you are going home before the waste bucket needs emptied but if you are The only problem I found was that you should, either stop using the toilet a couple of days before using or have an additional container to store it on for a couple of days before disposal.
Are there Any Disadvantages of Having a Compost Toilet?
A compost toilet will work amazingly well most of the time. But there are a few challenges for a compost toilet that you may not have with a chemical toilet.
As the pee and poo have to be kept separate in order for the toilet to work properly. The poo area has to be damp and not wet, if it gets wet it will smell. So, if you have a dodgy tummy and you have the runs the composting toilet may not be able to take care of that. It could get very messy in that poo bucket.
The compost toilet also requires a constant power supply. This is for the fan that constantly extract air to promote the composting process.
Apart from that I really don’t see many other disadvantages that you wouldn’t have with a chemical toilet.
Costs of a composting toilet
At the time of research I was considering getting a new Porta Potti for the motorhome. It was not working very well but after a good service it was absolutely fine and has not given us any problems. I was amazed at how much these toilets cost. Thetford doesnt make the old C2/C3/C4 toilets anymore so you would have to go with a C400 series toilet or similar. These come in at over £400.
Now, a composting toilet is definitely not cheap and comes in closer to £1000. You can have a look at the price of a composting toilet here or here (they can still be quite difficult to find in the UK)
Pros and Cons Of a Compost Toilet in a Motorhome
- No chemicals
- Long periods between emptying
- Natural compostable products used for breaking down the waste
- No Smells in the motorhome
- Can empty urine down any toilet
- No need for chemical disposal facilities
- Very low environmental impact.
- High initial cost
- Needs constant power for the fan
- Need to sit while peeing (for Guys)
- Urine bottle can be a bit whiffy
- Need to take the toilet apart to empty poo box
- Toilet paper may need to be kept separate
- Need to hold waste for a couple of days (or stop using toilet) so disposal is safe
- Compost toilets may not like it if you get the runs
For more information on this composting toilet you may want to have a look at Natures Head – full of great information and was a real help to us in trying to decide if a composting toilet was the right way to go for us.
website – https://natureshead.net/user_guide
Did I get a compost Toilet?
Well after a lot of thought and deliberation we decided to put it off. The chemical toilet is perfectly adequate for our needs and the type of camping we do at the moment. We tend to be in campsites most of the time so there are always places to dispose of the chemical waste.The length of the trips we go on are short as well.
We use the more eco friendly toilet chemicals in our toilet to try and reduce the environmental impact but it is not really comparable to a composting toilet which has an extremely low impact.
If you do a lot of camping without using campsites and go for long trips, a composting toilet would be a great asset.
If we had to replace the toilet for some reason, a composting toilet would be fitted without a doubt.