Introduction: A Treasure Trove Available to All

About: I am an escapee from modern life, now living by the sea in a forest garden in France. After over 20 years industrial experience, I quit my managerial position to study for a degree in Engineering. That done I …

Probably the most frequently discarded material can be re-used to produce an essential raw material that ultimately can be used in making your surroundings ever more beautiful. I am, of course, talking about the unmentionable and derided human faeces with the true treasure that is Humanure being the end product.

The stages to undertake this conversion process from trash to treasure are outlined in the next steps. Not only has my design cost very little to create (approx. $10) but once in operation the reduced cost of the household water bill in one year would easily cover the 'expense'. Suffice to say that commensurate with the reduced water consumption comes the benefit of not using valuable water just for transporting this waste away from the home. Or for households that are not on mains drainage comes the benefit of not having to pay a contractor to empty the septic tank or cesspit.

Economic Facts and Figures

Water Consumption: prior to installation 80m³ per annum.

Water Consumption: post installation 36m³ per annum.

Volume of sewage: which would have been sent for re-treatment in a year: 44m³

Volume of dry waste: actually produced per annum 0.24m³

Step 1: What You Will Need

Besides your own very valuable and essential contribution, I would recommend the creation of a system which at its simplest comprises: a toilet seat on a sturdy support beneath which is a bucket. If in the house then this would obviously be best located in a bathroom. The sturdy support is merely a wooden structure with a lift up lid to facilitate the removal of the bucket.

The buckets' contents would need to be emptied into a composting bin located in the backyard/garden.

That is all you need to start converting trash to treasure.

In our case, 10 years ago we constructed a cabin in the backyard to use as an outside toilet and the seat was aggrandized to a 'two-seater ' one side for solids the other for liquids. This liquid side is often used when we are working in the garden but we also have another liquid only compost toilet in the bathroom. We do have a flush toilet which we do not use but is available to guests. I also made two compost bins one to receive the fresh waste and the other left to let the bacteria and worms to finish the job.

All of the above constructions are made entirely of recuperated pallet wood.

Step 2: How to Start Converting Trash to Treasure

The first step is to produce the trash, once in the bucket, the new contents are covered with a liberal handful of sawdust. The sawdust is an all important part of the process;

  1. It suppresses any odours coming from the bucket.
  2. It absorbs excess moisture.
  3. It supplies carbon to balance the nitrogen levels of the waste.

Luckily as we have a clean burn wood cooker and heat our house only with wood we have plenty of this commodity.

Step 3: Let Composting Commence!

When the bucket needs to be emptied, it is removed from its housing and taken to the composting bin where it is emptied and cleaned with a little water and a brush. I usually throw into the cleaned bucket a handful of sawdust just to provide a 'starting layer' . The newly added contents to the compost bin are covered with straw which adds more carbon for a more balanced composition and acts as another odour suppressant. The straw that we use is recycled from the hen houses and nest boxes and is itself organically produced. Another important function of the cover material is to provide the tiny interstitial air spaces necessary for the aerobic thermophilic microbial reaction to take place, an important stage in the decomposition to the treasure as this will result in the composts temperature being raised to around 45 degrees celsius. It is this hot stage that will destroy any pathogens, but this process may take longer to arrive depending on such factors as ambient temperature, changing seasons and humidity levels (inside the composter and out). As the heap cools down after this cycle, the worms, wood lice and fungi carry on the good work.

Every time a bucket is emptied the process is repeated. It will take quite a few months to fill the bin as once composting is underway the volume of the contents will start to diminish. When full, I start to use a second compost bin, I know that by the time this one is nearly full,, the first one's contents are ready for use in the garden.

Step 4: Burying the 'Treasure'

When the bacteria and worms have finished their job the resulting 'Humanure' is a light, friable, odourless medium which can be used in the garden. Because we prefer to err on the side of caution, we would not plant root vegetables using this but for every other kind of plant it is a perfect food and planting medium. Our front border was very poor and the soil depth was shallow, covering a bedrock layer, see first picture above. With copious quantities of the compost contributing to the border we now boast an explosion of plants.

Step 5: ...and the Fruits of Our Labour

Similarly, elsewhere in the backyard/garden, our fruit bushes and fruit trees were/are planted with this home-made compost.

So next time you flush, think about not letting your waste go to waste and how much you like apple pie.

Treasure chest in action - watch the film.

All the very best from Normandy, Andy aka Organikmechanic

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