Creating a Low Budget Composting Toilet




About: Professionally, I'm an IT Engineer (Executive Level) and Electronics Tech. I'm a Amateur Radio Operator (KK4HFJ). I lived off grid, with Solar (PV), Wind, and veggie oil fueled diesel generator power for 6 y...
For a number of years, we have used a composting toilet (often called a Joe Jenkins Sawdust Toilet) when our water / sewer solution would not support a flush toilet. up to 40% of our water usage is used to turn fertilizer into sewage, by mixing it with drinking water. Then we go out and buy chemical fertilzers to fertilize our plants. This seems idiotic to me. Here is a sanitary way to turn "waste" into fertilizer. It starts with the collection device, and ends with the composting device designed to make fertilized dirt. There is no "waste".

You can get the complete bucket and lid -

Or provide your own bucket, and just get the lid - or

Step 1: Cover Material

What makes this sanitary and earthy smelling instead of just a bucket of crap is the cover material.

Cover material can be grass clippings, Peat Moss, Coconut Coir (recycled coconut fibers), ground up corn cob, or even sawdust (raw wood preferred, not kiln dried). Our favorite is the Recycled Coconut Coir (a waste product from the food industry) and the ground corn cob.

Put about 3" in the bottom of the bucket before use to act as a liquid absorbent  and after every deposit, cover with another inch or so.

Some folks use a plastic bag liner, especially when camping. This makes it easier to keep the bucket clean, but harder to compost, as the bag needs to be disposed of. Biodegradable bags exist, but still problematic for composting. Perfect for camping in the woods.

Step 2: Composting

When the bucket is about 3/4 full, take it outdoors and dump it into your compost bin. Again, you can cover with dry materials, this time lawn / garden cuttings, to eliminate smells and flies. You can build your own compost bin with a 55 gallon drum (with aeration holes), a stack of tires with the sidewalls cut out, pallets, or purchase one already made.

Step 3: Using the Compost

After a year of composting, the resulting compost is perfectly safe to use in the vegetable garden. This is the part that makes most people shudder, but you can't catch diseases you don't already have, and after this amount of time, there's nothing pathogenic left,  so there's nothing to fear. If you still have fears, use it for flowers, trees, and shrubs.

Read more about this process at or - Humanure Handbook (Jenkins) - Toilet Papers (Van der Ryn) - Holy Shit (Logsdon)



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    7 Discussions

    Sounds Great! It is something we could all use especially in a time when we don't have water due to whatever reason. I like the idea for our mountain cabin, so we don't have to go to the outhouse late at night or in the winter! The fact that I can use the end product in my garden or as a lawn dressing seems like a win win to me!!


    4 years ago on Step 3

    your "one year" may be perfectly correct in your composting routine and environment, but is NOT an absolute. People in colder climates have issues with compost piles freezing solid for up to six months; not "turning" the compost often enough can slow the process; too dry of a pile can slow the process; etc....

    I like the concept and am probably going to use one of these on both a Vardo and a shanty boat I am planning......

    1 reply

    Many studies show that compost is self aerating and even large operations don't need forced aeration or "turning".

    There's no true numbers, it's nature people!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    What about composting pet droppings. Is it safe? I'm a great believer in recycling and composting but until now I've been very careful about not mixing our dogs droppings with the compost we use in the veg garden for health reasons

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Pets carry different diseases, especially cats. I would not mix pet compost with garden compost.


    It looks good and I have seen many similar ideas but, what do you do with the toilet paper? I like the Reed bed system that I once saw on Grand Designs, UK. Which was done by a Japanese lady in Cambridgeshire. This is a plumbed in system that cuts down on the labour time once it has been installed. In the UK, everything gets flushed down the toilets and having worked down the sewers, it's an eye opener and stomach turner! Thank you for hard work in showing this to us.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    The toilet paper composts along with everything else, There's no water needed. No reed beds either, just a regular compost bin. No stomach turning.