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Take one Dutch barge, and add a compost loo

A recipe for sustaining domestic harmony afloat

by Simon Myers

of Gaiaspace Structures

I recently installed a compost toilet system on our Dutch barge. In the research phase I amassed a quantity of useful information on the various benefits, features, suppliers and publication to do with this.  Here is some of the information I have found whilst researching what compost toilet system we were going to use on our boat.


Compost toilets are often built with two chambers for simplicity of construction and operation. The two chambers are used alternately; decomposition continuing in the full one until it is emptied just prior to the other one becoming full. Each chamber has its own opening for removal of mature, non-odorous compost. Some types of compost toilet batch the waste in movable receptacles on trolleys or turntables whilst others generate the compost slowly and continuously as the material progresses through the device. Some require electricity for small heating elements (in cold climates) or fans (to ensure a positive airflow through the system). Some compost toilets combine the urine and faeces whilst others separate them. The compost formed by the combination of urine and faeces is better but these toilets are more likely to smell if used carelessly and they require much greater quantities of carbonaceous residues like sawdust and straw. Some of the more complex types require dry access under the toilet via a basement or cellar room.


These options offer high performance within small self contained units and come in a  range

of options that can be either manually operated, powered by the wind and solar panels or be fully automatic and run off the mains: (this was a close contender but only had one UK based private dealer) (we went with this option because they have a European distribution network and the MS10 did not require a drain off for excess liquid and is able to handle a large family on constant use.)

The system has been in use for some time now, and got this evaluation from the Ship’s Mate:

“ I am very happy with our toilet for every functional reason although must admit that aesthetically it's not great.  But we knew that before we bought it and it certainly beats having a holding tank of sewage sloshing around our boat.  But yes, when one opens it, it is graphic!

We did not like the idea of using peat moss to break the compost up as it's not sustainable.  We tried grass clippings which don't do job in this sort of composting loo but now we have a supply of oak sawdust from a woodsman which has not been created by a chainsaw - therefore no oil - and this seems to be working a treat". ( I think these are just the same as the sun mar toilets under another name)

These next options separate the poo from the pee.  This is a very efficient way of dealing with ones waste but is a little more hands on: ( European company)

This option burns your waste which means that its not sitting around and volume is not a problem.  Very clean but not the most environmental solution!

Useful links:

Further reading:
The Composting Toilet System Book by David Del Porto 
Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins 
Sewage Solutions by Nicholas John Grant 

Simon Myers
Gaiaspace Structures

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