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Is a Composting Toilet for an RV a Good Choice?

Are you curious about a composting toilet for your RV? What about a composting toilet in your off-grid home or even your sticks-n-bricks? We are explaining everything you need to know about composting toilets and why they might be a good choice for your lifestyle.

Woman adding coco coir to composting toilet
A composting toilet is a great addition to your RV or van build. Photo from @theogotoilet

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What is a Composting Toilet?

A composting toilet is a type of dry toilet that treats human waste by a biological process called composting. This process leads to the decomposition of organic matter and turns human waste into compost material. Microorganisms carry out composting under controlled aerobic conditions.

While composting has been around for centuries (even in the sanitation setting), most of the US has little knowledge of a composting toilet as a proper sanitation solution. Nowadays, there is an increase in the usage of compost toilets in alternative lifestyles like full-time RVing, van life, boat life, and skoolie-life.

Composting toilets are also becoming popular in small spaces, remote living, and other places where running standard sewage and water lines is too expensive or simply unavailable.

Illustration showing different types of composting toilets for RVs
Not all composting toilets are the exact same, however, they all follow the same principles of design.

Are All RV Compost Toilets The Same?

Not all composting toilets are the exact same, however, they all follow the same principles of design. While the main idea of a composting toilet is to divert the urine away from the solids, there are many different ways to accomplish this.

Does My Waste Instantly Become Compost?

Does your waste instantly become compost when using an RV composting toilet? Only the permanent systems that require underground digging and installation of a composter chamber, create a start-to-finish compost cycle. For those requiring a less expensive and more flexible system (like RVers or off-grid dwellers), the start-to-finish compost cycle is a little different:

  • Your compost toilet starts the process of breaking down your waste
  • Remove the compost/waste mixture from the composting toilet unit
  • Add the compost/waste mixture to a compost pile to finish the process

This process makes a composting toilet a great fit for a nomadic lifestyle. Many states are adopting green dumpsites where your mixture can be put in a compost-friendly, biodegradable plastic bag and added to their compost system. Worst case scenario, the compost mixture from your toilet is put in a bag and thrown in the trash (where it will continue to break down into compost). Although you should always check with your local environmental guidelines for proper disposal.

Things to Consider When Purchasing a Composting Toilet for Your RV

There is no wrong answer in choosing a composting toilet for your RV or home, it’s just what works for each individual and their space. Finding out what features are needed for you and your dry toilet, is quite simple.

An OGO Composting Toilet installed in a motorhome RV bathroom.
You can easily replace your RV toilet with a composting toilet. Photo from @theogotoilet

Here are some things to consider when shopping for your composting toilet:

  • Does the composting toilet have an agitator? Mixing your solid waste with a compost medium starts the composting process and absorbs any odor associated with solid waste. Some composting toilets are set up not to agitate and use a “layering method” of compost medium, waste, and compost medium. The layering method is a much slower process since it does not aerate the mixture, inhibiting oxygen from getting to the microorganisms.
  • Does it have a urine sensor? Once you start using a composting toilet in your RV, you will find diverting your urine into a bottle will create an odorless sanitation system and eliminate the need for a black tank, chemicals, pumps, and other products used to extract and control any foul-smelling odors. Most compost toilets will not warn you when your bottle is getting full, resulting in over-flowing and a frustrating clean-up. A compost toilet that has a urine sensor helps you worry less.
  • Are composting toilets difficult to empty, use, and maintain? No, composting toilets aren’t difficult to set up or use. Some compost toilets only require a compost medium such as coco coir or sphagnum peat moss to partially fill their solids bin before use. Others using the layering method would require a bag to line the solids bin. The time before needing to empty the solid bin can vary from a few days (small layering method toilets) to a month (large agitation method toilets). When they do need to be emptied, a compost toilet’s solids bin can typically be easily removed, and waste can be emptied into biodegradable bags and thrown away. The waste can be discarded into a compost bin, the normal trash, or other waste removal locations which again can depend on local environmental guidelines. Many users find compost toilets reduce the time and effort to maintain versus a cassette, incinerator, or normal RV toilets. Due to the medium and initial compost process (as well as a fan in many toilets), there should be no smell, unlike emptied cassettes or traditional RV black tanks.

The Benefits of RV Composting Toilets

Now that we’ve learned a bit about the different types of composting toilets, let’s look at the benefits of replacing your traditional RV toilet with a composting toilet for your RV.

Save Water

There are many benefits to switching to a compost sanitation system in your RV or tiny home. Many users are finding that while the initial investment may be costly, over time composting toilets typically pay for themselves.

The water used to flush household toilets is about 86.9-billion gallons of water per day in America.

Composting toilets are waterless to flush so you save water. When you’re living in an off-grid space, boondocking in your RV, or staying in an area where freshwater is restricted or scarce, water becomes one of the most valuable resources. A standard RV toilet will use almost a gallon of water to properly flush solid waste into your RV’s black tank. If your black tank has a holding capacity of 50 gallons, that’s only 50 flushes – or 2 days if you have 4 people using your RV bathroom on an average of 6 times a day.

Waste Not, Want Not

In America, landfills take up 1.8 million acres of land and are growing. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), within this acreage “an estimated 1.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide–equivalent (CO2-equivalent) greenhouse gas emissions were generated from solid waste management in 2016”. That is the black sludge byproduct from waste treatment facilities handling our public sewage systems.

If you dump your black tank or use the dump station, your waste (and the hazardous toilet chemicals used to manage the smell) go to these waste treatment plants, resulting in not only greenhouse gasses but hazardous conditions for landfill personnel.

How to Use the OGO Compost Toilet

Man removing the urine diverter from the OGO Composting Toilet
If you’re ready to add a composting toilet to your RV, the OGO Compost Toilet is a ready-to-install solution

If you’re ready to add a composting toilet to your RV, the OGO Compost Toilet is a ready-to-install solution. The OGO Composting Toilet is waterless, energy efficient, and made in the USA. The system allows for 25-30 uses before you need to do any maintenance on the collection bins.

  1. Set up and install your OGO Compost Toilet. The exterior shell vent allows the air to exhaust to the outside. The fan pulls moisture and air from inside the toilet and pushes it outside. Use a charcoal filter instead to vent your composting toilet without a pipe or hose.
  2. Mount your OGO Toilet by fastening the system to the floor or base.
  3. Plug in your OGO Composting Toilet. The OGO works on a 12V system (perfect for RV or van life) to power the agitator and urine level sensor.
  4. Mix in the coco coir composting medium with some water and “fluff”. When it’s time to “go”, open the trap door, go, and then close the trap door. You can toss your RV toilet paper right into the same chamber. Press the agitator button and walk away – the OGO Toilet will start the composting process.
  5. Sit back and relax – the urine diversion technology keeps your liquid waste diverted.

BeginRV readers get $50 off their OGO Composting Toilet using coupon code: BEGINRV50

Is a Composting RV Toilet Right For You?

Regardless of your living space, a compost toilet could be an excellent step in the right direction for a sustainable sanitation solution. A composting toilet in your RV is a simple, smell-free solution that helps our planet. Plus, many full-time RVers can remove their black tank altogether and double their freshwater capacity.

Compost toilets are great additions to your RV, van build, or off-grid home to consider. Could it be right for you?

BeginRV readers get $50 off their OGO Composting Toilet using coupon code: BEGINRV50

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