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Compost Toilets Go Portable

Two regional composting toilets designers are teaming up to take composting toilets to a new level. “We’re making composting porta-potties: aka Porta-Posters, said Ben Goldberg and Abe Noe-Hays about this ingenious socially responsible new invention.

What is the difference between these and an outhouse?

Outhouses just dump waste into a hole in the ground where it sits in an anaerobic blob, potentially leaching into the ground water. The porta-posters are self-contained and aerobically compost the humanure along with wood shavings. They are much more like porta-potties than outhouses, but without the smell or the slop of a porta-potty. Porta-posters are zero-discharge, and let you recycle the nutrients.

 Just how portable are they?

They’re similar to a small garden shed, but they can be moved around on a utility trailer. The accessible one in the picture rolled up the ramp onto a flatbed equipment trailer. They are heavier than the conventional porta-potties. They could be loaded and unloaded with a tractor with sufficient length loading forks.

Where would one want to consider using one?

Right now, of the two we have in the field, one is, in a field at a remote residence who’s owners host a lot of gatherings, and a seasonal outdoor education center. We have had inquiries from farm stands and CSA’s who want facilities for their visitors and apprentices, a beach on Cape Cod, where the unit will be moved inside for the winter storm season. Some of the original ideas were for green building construction sites. I’m exploring whether they would be able to contribute to LEED credits for green job site practices. They could be placed along bike paths and hiking trails, where they could easily be serviced by pedal power or on foot.

What is the required maintenance, and how often is it done?

Wood shavings need to be added frequently, ideally with each user tossing a small scoop of shavings down the toilet as a “dry flush” after each use. The 50 gallon solids drum we had in use lasted for the equivalent of two community fairs and still had room left over. The urine is diverted into a separate container and collected more frequently.

Do they smell?

No, they don’t smell, as long as wood shavings are added regularly. The urine, which is the smelly stuff, is separated from the solids in a sealed container so the porta-potty smell is eliminated. The solids are covered with pine shavings after each use. The building is vented and could be supplied with a solar vent fan, though it hasn’t seemed necessary.

Do they draw bugs?

Both times we had them in use, there were no flies. The collection drums are in a sealed chamber.

Can you put toilet paper in them?

Yes. We encourage using 100% Post-Consumer Waste recycled toilet paper to discourage bleaching agents, plus, it’s just good practice.

How do you collect the nutrients and what do you do with them?

Once full, the solids drum is exchanged with an empty one and capped with a vented cover. They are then sequestered for at least one year to compost. The compost can then be used on landscaping or buried, depending on local and state regulations. While one drum is composting, the other is filling.

Do you have any testimonials?

They’ve not been in use that long to accrue many official testimonials, but the majority of feedback we got from the two festivals, was either about how people expected it to smell but it didn’t, and how cute it was. And the homeowner in Plainfield, MA does not use her indoor plumbing anymore.

They are made from as many recycled and reused products as we can find, and assembled using built to last techniques, using weatherproof fasteners and sealed or pressure treated lumber when necessary. Roof is made using a continuous sheet of Therma-clear panel for lighting, and each unit can be crafted to any size or style.

The sequestering drum system was designed by Abe Noe-Hays of Putney. Each drum has interior screening and a raised floor to allow oxygen flow and evaporation. This allows the contents to remain aerobic and thus non-smelly. They can be constructed using any size drum or even a wheelie bin. A Separett urine diverting privy seat does that part of the work for us, and I convert a recycled 5 gallon water jug for the urinal. www.separett.eu/default.asp?id=2473&ptid=2052.

For more info, you can reach Ben and Abe at: 413-586-3699 or compostingtoilet@gmail.com

GET Aug2011 page  38

10 comments to Compost Toilets Go Portable

  • Hello Ben & Abe,

    I would like to purchase one of these composting toilets.

    Q’s….

    The Cost
    Do you Deliver

    Thank you,
    Sal

    SFiato7@aol.com
    I Live in..Albany, NY

  • Abraham Noe-Hays

    Hi, Sal. Thanks for your interest in our portable composting toilets! Delivery is definitely available, though we don’t have any pre-built and there would be some lead-time to manufacture one for you. It would be helpful to know a little more about your setting–how many people would be using it at a time, and for how long, to make sure our system would be sufficient to meet your needs. I’m including Ben Goldberg in this email, since he was the lead builder on the toilet in the article, and he could speak better to the cost. I know he is on the road right now, so you may not hear from him right away…please let me know if you don’t hear back from him within a week.

    Cheers,
    Abe

  • Definately interested. Please contact us. Thank you!

  • Worth Noting

    There is currently a fantastic way to get some solid field testing done – and participate in grassroots efforts to provide – a much needed service for Hurricane Sandy Survivors – STILL living WITHOUT running water and/or electricity – all these months later – and thus no working toilets.

    Please read:
    Portable-Toilets Removed in Staten Island Area Without Running Water
    http://statenisland.ny1.com/content/top_stories/177338/portable-toilets-removed-in-si-area-without-running-water

    Notice the date of the article.

    All efforts to get porta-potties returned have failed.

    Among those now included in a total lack of toilet facilities is Guyon Rescue – https://www.facebook.com/guyonrescue2012?ref=ts&fref=ts

    which provides a multitude of services for this hard-hit community.

    There are also NO TOILET FACILITIES for the many volunteers (local, out-of-the area, from other states)consistently working in this storm-ravaged area either.

    The porta-potties that were removed (see article) were all everyone had . . .

    Would you be willing to help provide even one of your composting portable toilets?

    Or perhaps help volunteers build some via your direction?

    We can work to raise donations – but these folks – already facing such strenuous daily adversity – really DESERVE – TOILET FACILITIES IMMEDIATELY!

    This would be an excellent promotional opportunity for composting portable toilets also!

    The current focus – is getting some public portable-toilet facilities – in place NOW – ESPECIALLY for GUYON RESCUE – through volunteer grassroots efforts!

    However, there are also many private homeowners – spread throughout Sandy-impacted areas – facing long repair times – that could also utilize these.
    Especially if they were made as affordable as possible.

    Having composting toilets – included as a part of the standard immediate provisions provided response – in disaster areas – would be GREAT!

    Providing for this basic human need – is often overlooked during volunteer efforts – in long-term disaster areas.

    And being hit by a natural disaster – is hardship ENOUGH – without also being denied the simple dignity of a place to poop.

    Anyhow, sure hope you are willing to help with this.

    Thanks!

  • Hello Ben and Abe
    I have a vineyard and am very active with composting. We practice sustainable farming and are trying to be good citizens to the earth!
    I am interested in a composting toilet for visitors to use during weekly tastings and during vineyard tours and weekend events.
    Are you building the units, is it a kit, pLease let me know more details.
    Thank,
    Heidi Cogean
    Newfound Lake Vineyards,
    Bristol, NH 03222

  • Ben Goldberg

    Hi Heidi … The way it works now is that Abe makes the composting bins and apparatus in Putney, VT, and I make one-off buildings in my shop in Leverett, Mass, and deliver the assembly. If you had a sufficient trailer, you could pick it if you’d prefer. The intention is to eventually have plans and kits, but that may be a ways off at this point due to finding the time.

    That said, the construction process is not that difficult and you would be welcome to come down to the shop and see what’s going on if you’d like to DIY. I have one in the final stages now if you wanted to come down any time before delivery on the 13th.

    Prices vary according to size, style and features. Styles vary according to need and location. Prices for the ones we’ve made so far have ranged roughly between 2500 and 8,000.

    I’m not sure I could have a building ready for you until late fall at least. Abe could likely have composting bins for you before that.

    Hope this helps. I’m sure Abe has some thoughts as well. Abe?

    Happy to answer any questions either by email or phone at 413-237-7060.

    Best … Ben

  • Ben
    Thanks for the info. I am still interedted. We “made do” for our open house with a rental unit.
    We have some DIY in our blood, I will email you for details on the composting bins.
    Thanks,
    Heidi

  • HI Ben and Abe. Please ping me an email – I am interested in possibly purchasing a few units. Thanks!
    /Robert

  • Have you created plans for this yet? We are developing housing for the homeless in an RV Campground setting, and we will also have farming/gardening, and so using the composted materials after 1 – 2 years would fit perfectly into our community model.

    I would really like to investigate your model’s practicability for use in the bathhouses. We are just in the design and development stage now. Any ideas you may have would be very greatly appreciated.

    Additionally, couldn’t the urine be diverted into a french drain if you weren’t going to be moving the bathrooms?

  • Parish White

    This is just what I’ve been searching for! Getting ready to build a green residence and wanted to provide a non-smelly green alternatuve to the traditional portaloo, but haven’t been able to find any such service. So, it seems your concept has been around since 2011, any update? Are you in larger scale production? Did you ever create a kit? Please advise.

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