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Posted by Marc Van Hummelen over 11 years ago
Composting is probably a generally accepted and usually enthusiastically applied method among permaculturists to process all kinds of organic materials. All organic processes in our immediate environment produce extra material to make compost of. But it seems that many still do not see themselves as an organic process in the ecosystem, producing a valuable material that is sadly mostly viewed as foul smelling and dangerous so they throw it away: humanure! I started with a humanure toilet years ago, after reading Jenkins' "The Humanure Handbook". What appealed to me was the sheer simplicity of this toilet. There was no high tech involved, no separating fluids from solids, no additives involved, no labour like turning the compost heap, no complicated plumbing. A few buckets, something to put them in and where you can sit on, a bag of saw dust, a compost bin, and straw - that's all you need.
I made my toilet of an old wooden chair, removed the seating, bought 3 buckets which fitted perfectly in the chair, didn't even have to do any sawing, made a simple toilet seat from a leftover piece of multiplex, and that's still my toilet today. We have an extra wc in the back of the house and I placed my compost toilet right next to it, still giving people the choice between the two, no need to rush things or force people into something they're not ready for.
So what about this "foul smelling" and "dangerous"? Saw dust and straw are what suppress the smell, on the one hand they are needed to a create a correct C/N mix, on the other hand they act as a biofilter, fixing all the bad smelling molecules with carbon. That's why a compost toilet is always topped off with a layer of saw dust, and the compost bin with a layer of straw. And dangerous? Not at all: time and heat are the 2 main factors for killing off all viruses and bacteria in the compost pile. After you empty your buckets in the compost bin, the composting bacteria start working and heat the pile up to 55°C (in my experience) during more or less a week, killing off most of the theoretically present pathogens. When the bin is full, you leave it to rest for a whole year before using it, killing off practically all that remains. You'll sooner catch something from a walk in the forest than from your compost... And remember, what you don't put in, doesn't come out: if you and your family are healthy, the compost will be healthy as well.
Linder, an enthusiastic permaculturist working in an anarchistic community called Freestate Swomp in Amsterdam, asked me to do a workshop on composting toilets for a project of his in "The Edible Park" in Den Haag, a place where you can see and learn how to set up a garden. There's also a small permaculture garden and a roundhouse where all kinds of workshops take place. They had obtained a subsidy to buy materials for a composting toilet, but they still hadn't actually received the money (you all know how it goes with subsidies...) so there was no toilet present and the workshop was reduced to a theoretical exposé. But everyone seemed enthusiastic all the same. Hopefully I managed to convert a few participants...
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|Full residential PDC course|
|Type: Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course|
|Teacher: Aranya Austin|
|Location: Turku, Finland|
|Date: Aug 2011|
|Type: Soil Biology/Compost|
|Teacher: Gerrit Van Dale, Comité Jean Pain|
|Date: Mar 2001|
|Permaculture Educator's Course|
|Type: Teacher Training|
|Verifying teacher: Andy Goldring|
|Other Teachers: Cat Dolleris|
|Location: Friland, Denmark|
|Date: Oct 2014|