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The Amazing Composting Toilet

Join me on Monday, Feb 25 on the News at Six to explore the fascinating world of waterless composting toilets!
Jason Hughes, co-ordinator at the Co-op la Maison Verte http://www.cooplamaisonverte.com
was nice enough to plug one in, let us peek inside and answer the million dollar question: does it smell?

But wait a minute...

Why bother with a composting toilet at all, you ask? Well, conservationists the world over are deeply concerned about the way humans consume and pollute water. UNESCO predicts that by 2020, the world will be facing a severe water shortage. Already, nearly a third of the world's people struggle without access to fresh water, and that number is only going to go up as global populations increase and pollution continues.

So it's a problem. And we're part of it. How big a part?
Well, lets look at some Canadian numbers:

* 40% of all household water is flushed down the toilet
* The average Canadian uses 120,000 litres of water annually
* Canadians are second only to Americans in terms of household water usage.

So there's loads of room for improvement.
But a composting toilet, you ask? It's just too radical... Well, maybe not.

Let's look at the "HOW" of a composting toilet...

It's essentially a regular "throne"-style toilet. Difference is, it has a chimney instead of a drainpipe. And you never have to flush. Oh, and the model we saw is electrical!
The waste collects in a lower chamber (away from sight and smell) where it is heated via an electric element. The vapour that this produces is channeled up the chimney via a fan and the solid waste that's left reacts with organic mulch (that you throw in ocassionally) to form a non-smelly compost.

The model we feature in our story is a Mulltoa 45 waterless (and therefore drain-free) composting toilet that comes from Sweden. In Canada, most of these toilets are sold for use in cottages--not so much for urban folks. But in Sweden, the local government is offering tax rebates to encourage people to use them in their homes in the city. People save water and the municipality saves tons of money not treating said water. Money that they can put into other initiatives. Composting toilet manufacturers make money. Fish and animals have more fresh, unpolluted water for their own use. Everybody wins.

But isn't it icky? Or just for vegetarians?
From what Jason Hughes says, nope and nope.
The toilet works on the principal of evaporation. Nearly 90% of human waste is water. There's a heating element and a fan that work to evaporate more than 6 litres of liquid a day. That's enough for a family of 4 to use the toilet full time. The fan pushes odours and vapours up through a chimney (that one must install) and the toilet smells... like nothing. In the first few weeks, people are encouraged to use mulch to help the composting process start. Afterwards, toilet paper is usually enough.
The compost that comes out is dry and smells like earth. It ISN'T recommended for use with food crops, but is perfectly safe for decorative plants, lawns, trees, etc.


* To write in (or call our talkback line at (514) 597-5626) if you have one of these babies installed in your home or cottage. Tell us: does it smell? Is it practical? Any problems? Did you have trouble with the municipality in your area?
* If you plan to install one of these, we'd love to know why and which model you're considering.
* If a composting toilet isn't in your immediate future, are there other ways that you're reducing household (and particularly toilet) water usage? Tell us all!

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Comments (10)

gil bert


My wife told me that you are looking for comments about bio toilets--

I have one at my cottage which is on an island in the Laurentians.

It works very well and there is no electricity or polluting septic tanks etc. There are models for your home in the city,
but most lazy people won't spent money when we have a river to dump waste into.
Got to run. Congrats on your new job-- my wife thinks you are the best -- me too.


Posted February 26, 2008 04:55 PM



I've had a non-electric composting toilet at my hunting camp for about 5 years now. What makes mine a bit unique is (are you ready for this?) .... it's second hand.

Posted February 26, 2008 07:09 PM



Very interesting concept. The "chimney" prevents odor in the house, but I presume it vents outside. If everyone in the neighbourhood has one, what does the collective odor do for the area? Picture a hot, humid, windless day in July....

Any suggestions?

Posted February 27, 2008 05:09 AM

Kim and Nick


Geeta, Thanks for the composting toilet story and thanks for asking the important question "does it smell?" My husband and I have a cottage that is off-the-grid (solar), and a composting toilet is on of those big ticket items we are looking to adding. It is good to know that we won't be shelling out $2000.00 for a smelly toilet.

Keep up the good work on the new segment. Hope we see you more often on the news

Posted February 28, 2008 06:54 PM



You asked if setting up the composting toilet created any by-law troubles: NO. They didn't know what it was until they asked me if I had registered for septic tank cleanout. I said I didn't need any...
As for the smell:
It dosn't smell at all -- the bacteria crystals which are added to the peat moss are lemon scented to keep any critters [ with wings ] from investigating.
The long chimney has the option to connect an electric fan [from a battery connected to my solar panels ]. The fan is needed from time to time when there a a few guests and more evaporation is needed.

The lady who sells me the better quality peat moss tells me to think of the toilet as a garden add water but not too much.

At the beginning of the season, the remaining peat residue is put back into the garden or back into the forest- it is just a powdered peat moss. clean and ready to fertilize.

I have had the unit for over 4 years. One year had 2 family members there from June to October. The cottage is a summer place.
I would love to make a solar cabin at the water's edge with solar windows and a wind generator that uses existing solar panels. Get another composting toilet .

The next project I'm working on which is in your domain is a pontoon boat with a lift truck battery and an electric motor to tour around the massive lake that I bulit my cottage on. It would be charged by solar panels and a wind generator. With a back-up gas generator --or if it is windy, a sail.

Posted February 29, 2008 12:08 PM



Well I live off the grid. You can check my site lonewolfcabin.com I have just installed a composting toilet, non electric and within the first week did get an anmonia smell but only in the morning and late evening. I realized that my wood stove was competing for air. So I had a fresh air intake installed near the woodstove and problem solved. No more back draft. It will be a couple of weeks before the actual composting will begin. So far so good, better than running to the outhouse in the middle of the winter

Posted March 5, 2008 10:34 AM




Why not do some research on Canadian companies for a story like this... the Swedish system is not the only toilet in town. In fact, there are 2 companies around Toronto that make composting toilet systems, including my own called Envirolet. See envirolet.ca.

Posted October 16, 2008 03:43 PM



I am using another toilet that is working so well. It is a Separett and it is sold out of Oakville. See Separett.ca for more information.

Posted December 11, 2008 10:43 AM

Bruce Edwards


When we lived in the bush, we built an all-cedar composting outhouse. With its magnificent view of Wabasca lake, it was a joy to use, didn't smell and didn't fill for years. For the proper carbon/nitrogen ratio, we reduced the urine input by posting the poem below;
If a she, then get the key
If a he, please use a tree!

Posted February 18, 2009 08:24 PM



There are ones made in Canada but they don't compare to this Swedish brand. I'm glad to see Canadian companies getting into this but they are very young and have a long way to go. Most are big and clumsy and need a step to climb aboard. If not they have some silling trap in the basement. Sweden has been doing this for 30 years. Come on Canada, step it up (not literally!)

Posted March 30, 2009 02:25 PM

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