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Old 16-02-2018, 13:44   #1
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Composting toilets or wet sewage systems

This last week I read an article in Practical Sailor regarding the pros and cons of composting toilets. The author got things so wrong I thought, that I wrote to PS and told them that I thought their readers deserved better. But I have since learned that there are some composting toilets that really do have drawbacks that I am glad I don't have to tolerate.

I don't want to name names, but I will say that the two best known names have better advertising. And it appears that their units are a lot more prone to the above mentioned negatives.

The PS article said that (all) composting toilets REQUIRE a deck vent, hoses and a powered fan. Since I have had my unit for 3+ years with no deck fitting, hoses or a fan, I had to question why the author would say that. It turns out that he was talking about the better advertised units, apparently never having heard of any other alternative.

I do not want to sound like a salesman for the unit I decided on, while trying to point out that the cons that the author covered, simply were not true of all composting toilets.

At this point, I get to name a name. I believe that C Head gets it right.

Be advised that I chose the subject line for this thread intentionally to make one of the two choices look better than the other. What is there about wet sewage issues that sounds better than sawdust issues?

Over and over again, I read here on the forum about people with questions about their wet sewage systems. And over and over again, I think about how I am so glad not to deal with those issues, to the point of wondering why anyone would tolerate a wet sewage system at all. But I have also read and heard reports of negatives with some user choices of composting toilets. It came to me again, that what one couple described as "not a perfect system", makes mine look like a perfect system.

Before I made my choice, I met 2 different boats had been so disappointed with their composting toilets, that they reverted to wet systems. But I persisted in my homework, and am really really.... really happy with the choice that eventually made.

It might be a good time to mention that composting toilets only start the composting process. The end product is not compost, but rather desiccated waste. So getting any moisture in the drying compartment is a BIG NO NO. If that moisture happens to be urine, things only go downhill fast, and the REQUIRED vent and fan come into play.

But it gets a lot more serious. It seems that some designs are prone to emitting effluvia due to the PROBABILITY of some of the wet getting into the dry.

The movement of air in a composting toilet should primarily be an aid in the desiccating process, and secondly to help make the solids bin unattractive to gnats. Please note that odor control is not an issue with all systems. But there are toilets that have the potential for urine to find it’s way into the solids bin. Hence, “not a perfect system”. It is said that composting toilets are not well suited to the tropics due to the humidity. I am in the tropics. No vents, no hoses, no fans and no odor.

With the C Head, getting urine in the solids bin has to be intentional.

A well designed toilet is going to resemble something much closer to what bears do in the woods. Some people are willing to tolerate what I would not, because of their fear of odors. Simple is better. My point is, it seems that the better advertisers work hard to appear to address the "ieuuuu" factor for anyone considering their product. In the end, (and in my opinion) what you have is closer to a contraption that cost more, takes more space, is harder to install and empty, and is "not a perfect system” (urine where it shouldn’t be).

For any of you who walk your dog, picking up after them with your hand in a plastic bag, and still concern yourself with the ieuuuu factor of composting toilets over wet sewage systems,... well... I tried.

A couple of points that I also want to mention in this potty RE-training here are splatter from men relieving themselves while standing, and the use of rolls of TP.

When we go into the mens room, with it’s dedicated fixtures, we find something that accommodates men while minimizing splatter. It’s called a urinal. Not sure why that is important in places where we share this space in public places with other men, but not important where we share this space with those that sit to relieve themselves, and sometimes have deal with said male splatter before sitting. In a constantly shifting space, (boat) it makes even less sense to try to hit the tiny bulls eye. And the convenience of men relieving themselves over the rail, too often leads to floating bodies with their fly open. Some pay attention to this detail, and some do not. I do not tolerate this unsafe practice. I happen to be one who saves the empty liquid laundry detergent and fabric softener bottles. Each male crew gets his own. The spouts often pop right out, or are easily cut out. What you are left with is a sturdy urinal with a handle, a wide mouth opening, and a really great sealing cap. This is usable in rough water and calm, with less splatter than you can achieve with the permanent fixtures ashore.

Rolls of TP are very consumable. A very good idea for those that want us to believe we must use that product. Not so good for those who fall for it. And on a boat, it becomes an issue of storage. I noticed that consumption was about a roll a week just for myself, when my wife was not aboard. I calculated that there was more usable TP in a box of facial tissue than on a roll. I went from 1 roll a week, to one box lasting 4 MONTHS. In one trip to Costco, I acquired what looks like 3 years worth of TP. If you only get one month out of a box of tissue, you still win.
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Old 16-02-2018, 16:18   #2
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Re: Composting toilets or wet sewage systems

There are 3 kinds of "composting" toilets: True composters (none of the marine units are)...desicators and a few that are essentially just glorified kitty litter boxes (someone on another forum wondered aloud if it would be possible to use clumping litter in those, thus eliminating the need to separate solids and urine. To date I haven't run across anyone who's tried it, or willing to admit it if they have). They all have their share of true believers who are as committed to recruiting converts as the Jehovah's Witnesses are. Watching you attempt to "re-potty train" those sailors here whom you seem to think need it should be entertaining.
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Old 16-02-2018, 17:03   #3
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Re: Composting toilets or wet sewage systems

Minggat,

How many people are normally on your boat using your "C-head" on average?
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Old 16-02-2018, 17:33   #4
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Re: Composting toilets or wet sewage systems

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...They all have their share of true believers who are as committed to recruiting converts as the Jehovah's Witnesses are. Watching you attempt to "re-potty train" those sailors here whom you seem to think need it should be entertaining.
Peggy,

The belittling tone of your remarks leads me to wonder if you are not the author of the article I mentioned.

My apologies for touching a nerve, but your comments donít really dispute the points I was trying to make. I really hesitated to include the name of the manufacturer, but I did want to drive home that people have experienced unfavorable results with system that are better at marketing than they are at providing optimal systems.
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Old 16-02-2018, 17:57   #5
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Re: Composting toilets or wet sewage systems

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Originally Posted by SailsWithFists View Post
Minggat,

How many people are normally on your boat using your "C-head" on average?
This is a fair point to address. I think your question is really, how effective is it when more people are using it?

This is where I can say that with just 2 people, I prefer to go not more than a week before dumping. It is important to mention that my unit doesnít use a mashing type churning device, which breaks things up. The C Head basically rolls the waste to effectively coat it in drying media. So waste can be treated like you would a cat box, (without the odor). You could likely double the days of use if you choose to dump all and start with a new batch.

On a passage, I find that this can be easier.
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Old 16-02-2018, 18:16   #6
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Re: Composting toilets or wet sewage systems

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Originally Posted by Minggat View Post
This is a fair point to address. I think your question is really, how effective is it when more people are using it?

This is where I can say that with just 2 people, I prefer to go not more than a week before dumping. It is important to mention that my unit doesn’t use a mashing type churning device, which breaks things up. The C Head basically rolls the waste to effectively coat it in drying media. So waste can be treated like you would a cat box, (without the odor). You could likely double the days of use if you choose to dump all and start with a new batch.

On a passage, I find that this can be easier.
Based on this, I do not consider your results to be a success. Not even close, in fact.

Your example exemplifies why so many others become disenchanted with composting heads on boats.

I know couples who are getting 1-2 months before dumping, and that is still not a success (and all of them have readily admitted they will, or have already switched to a marine head.) I have installed many Sun-Mar central systems on mega yachts and off-grid homes with success, as those systems only needed to be emptied every 6-12 months of full time use. Some of those owners still switched back to marine heads or conventional septic systems after spending thousands of dollars on the Sun Mar.

You are simply one of those types that feel successful based on your own perceptions. That makes it work for you. And realistically that is all that matters. But your perceptions are your reality, not mine or other's. That is why Practical Sailor was correct in their assessments for the masses and you are correct in yours for yourself.
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Old 16-02-2018, 18:28   #7
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Re: Composting toilets or wet sewage systems

As someone who has used one of the Composters That Must Not Be Named , let me say I donít know what the PS article said but I do hope it wasnít written by Peggy Hall. For some reason she insists on providing inaccurate information regarding these heads. This is unfortunate given her obvious expertise in standard marine heads. As for her juvenile ďrecruiting convertsĒ comments, they really donít deserve a response.

Iíve been a happy Natureís Head user for must be five or six years now. Iíve had a few challenges with the system on occasion, but nothing that has made me consider switching back to a standard marine head. For me, the benefits of a NH far outweigh the negatives of standard marine heads. Iíve encountered exactly two people over the years who have regretted their choice of a composter, so maybe we know the same two people.

C-Head is a slightly different beast than Natureís Head and Air Head. Mainly, its capacity is around 1/2 of these other two. This is why it must be emptied twice as often (or more). But itís also why it works without being vented.

I purposely chose a NH over a CH b/c I prefer to go longer between dumps. My cycle with two adults, full time, is between four and six weeks. This is consistent with most other NH/AH users.

I donít think a composter is for all cruisers. And I donít think thereís anything wrong with a standard marine head. I used them for many years on two boats. Itís just that for me, a composter is a better head.
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Old 16-02-2018, 18:57   #8
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Re: Composting toilets or wet sewage systems

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Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
As someone who has used one of the Composters That Must Not Be Named , let me say I donít know what the PS article said but I do hope it wasnít written by Peggy Hall. For some reason she insists on providing inaccurate information regarding these heads. This is unfortunate given her obvious expertise in standard marine heads. As for her juvenile ďrecruiting convertsĒ comments, they really donít deserve a response.

Iíve been a happy Natureís Head user for must be five or six years now. Iíve had a few challenges with the system on occasion, but nothing that has made me consider switching back to a standard marine head. For me, the benefits of a NH far outweigh the negatives of standard marine heads. Iíve encountered exactly two people over the years who have regretted their choice of a composter, so maybe we know the same two people.

C-Head is a slightly different beast than Natureís Head and Air Head. Mainly, its capacity is around 1/2 of these other two. This is why it must be emptied twice as often (or more). But itís also why it works without being vented.

I purposely chose a NH over a CH b/c I prefer to go longer between dumps. My cycle with two adults, full time, is between four and six weeks. This is consistent with most other NH/AH users.

I donít think a composter is for all cruisers. And I donít think thereís anything wrong with a standard marine head. I used them for many years on two boats. Itís just that for me, a composter is a better head.
Couldnít agree with you more. We are full time cruisers and have been using a NH for almost 4 years now. Obviously, to each their own, but thereís not a chance we would return to using a conventional marine head.👍
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Old 16-02-2018, 19:22   #9
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Re: Composting toilets or wet sewage systems

Sails with Fists, do you empty your garbage under the kitchen sink once a week?

Look, for many of us the odor that comes with many marine heads is just plain nasty. Secondly, emptying one's black tank into barely 3 miles off is often done much closer in shore than many will admit to. That is very uncool. Ever have to dive into a marine head when something gets clogged up? That is one of the most sickening jobs the devil himself can't be outdone in.

Having to dump a desiccator or composter in a week or two...or two months...who the heck cares. The cost is cheap, they are effective, simple to use, simple to maintain, and avoid so many pitfalls of marine heads and black tanks. I have had to work on a clogged head before....never and i mean NEVER again. Can i take the black bag to the trash after coastal hopping for two weeks...happy to do it. Would even do it for a friend's boat and never think twice. Try to get a crew to unplug a toilet because someone threw in a lady thingy or used half a roll of TP to wipe their fanny....zero chance of that.

C head is what i got. I didn't want to spring 2x the money and electrical setup for the fan and more setup for a solar vent in the peak of the boat. Why do people want to disrespect everyone else's way of set up. You want a Lavac...have at it...you want a mascerating pump set up...have at it...you want to poop in a Home Depot 5 gallon paint bucket and throw pete moss in it and stir with a paint stick...have at it.

Just me and the missus...we want reasonable price, ease of use, ease of repair, and no smell, and absolutely no clogged puke your brains out situations ever again.
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Old 16-02-2018, 19:38   #10
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Composting toilets or wet sewage systems

Having owned and used all 3 of the big name composterís, I see no reason to go back to the standard Marine system. The one we have now and my favorite is the C-Head, my wifeís favorite the Natures Head. Seems as if the composting crowd never argueís over what composting head one uses. I do like the fact that our boat has no holes below the waterline.
Thanks for those kind and uplifting comments peghall, I guess we all canít be as perfect as you.
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Old 16-02-2018, 19:42   #11
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Re: Composting toilets or wet sewage systems

The belittling tone of your remarks leads me to wonder if you are not the author of the article I mentioned.

No, I am not the author....I haven't even read it. but "belittling"...really?? <LOL>!!
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Old 16-02-2018, 19:43   #12
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Re: Composting toilets or wet sewage systems

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.....I prefer to go not more than a week before dumping.

As far as ďnot even closeĒ goes, it seems that my including the word ďpreferĒ means I should be taken out and shot.

I know a fellow who goes 3 months, but he called it a dreadful chore. I just see greater frequency as labor saving in the long run.

So we can have anchor wars, gun wars, and now toilet wars?

Sorry to stir the pot here. But not sorry for the pun.
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Old 16-02-2018, 20:40   #13
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Re: Composting toilets or wet sewage systems

Composting head is better than a Porta-potty.

Is that something that we can ALL agree on?

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Old 16-02-2018, 20:48   #14
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Re: Composting toilets or wet sewage systems

I keep it dry as possible and mix ash from the fire.


I'm going to make a concentrated effort to build a concentrated parabolic solar tracker. This will of course allow cooking easily, but more importantly, it can distill poop into combustible gas for use later in a stove.
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Old 16-02-2018, 21:37   #15
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Re: Composting toilets or wet sewage systems

My wife and I have been using the C-head for about 2 years now and one thing that we have noticed is that she has some trouble keeping liquid waste out of the solid. We are wondering if any other females have had this problem and if so, what they did to remedy that. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I agree that simpler is better and don't wish to return to a regular head. Extra storage space on our small boat is valued highly.
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