If you are anywhere near the boating or narrow boating community, you have probably heard a lot about the composting toilet. Their popularity on narrowboats has skyrocketed over the past few years. Simply because they were seen as a quick and easy solution to the narrow boat toilet problem.
What is this problem? Well, if you have read my other article on narrow boat toilets, you will know that the other main toilet options have their issues.
The cassette toilet is not fun to empty, has limited capacity and often needs chemicals in order not to smell. The incinerator toilet uses too much power on your boat and the pump out means you need to pay money to pump out your toilet waste (oh, and you have a massive tank of poop under your bed!).
The composting toilet seemed like the perfect solution….
How Were People Using Composting Toilets on Narrow boats?
If we look at the number of YouTube vlogs on the subject of composting toilets, we can see what the typical approach was.
First of all we have one of the biggest and most influential narrowboat tubers around, Foxes afloat. They made the following video reviewing and talking about their experiences with a composting toilet on a narrowboat.
They talk about double bagging the waste from their composting toilet in bio-degradable bin bags and throwing away in the Canal and River Trust rubbish points. Something that is confirmed by their comment below as well.
Then we have one of my favourite narrow boat Youtubing couples Boating Beyond, who again reviewed a Simploo composting toilet and talked about how they install and use it on their boat. You can see the video below.
As with Foxes afloat, they confirm in the comments section that they also bag the waste from their composting toilet and throw it away at the regular rubbish points.
Cruising the Cut (another massive narrow boat Youtuber) made a video all about different types of toilets on a narrowboat. In that video he goes over other types of toilets as well as the composting one, talking about pros and cons.
In this video, Cruising the Cut (and his guest) say that you can double bag and dump the composted waste that comes out of the toilet, but that it would be an option to leave it on board for a few months to further breakdown.
What’s The Problem with Composting Toilets on a Narrow boat?
As you can see from these videos, the way that most narrow boaters were disposing of their composted human waste was to double bag it and put it into the Canal and River Trust rubbish points.
Every one was happily following this until this video from Aussie Boater (I love Aussie Boater by the way!), who basically alerted me to the idea that the Canal and River Trust no longer wanted us to dispose of composted human waste in this way.
And naturally, he was totally right! The Canal and River Trust had come out in one of their Boater’s Updates and said that essentially you need to let your composting human waste fully degrade before disposing of it.
You can imagine the controversy! Many people had bought composting toilets for their narrow boats thinking that they can just double bag and bin the waste that comes out of it. Now they need to store it for at least a couple of months (something Cruising the Cut eluded too earlier). How is that possible on a boat, keeping buckets of composting human waste lying around 🙂
How is the Composting of Human Waste Normally Done?
After all of this, it got me thinking. How do other communities deal with composting human waste. I did a quick search and found a guy called Rob Greenfield who talks about his composting toilet used as part of his tiny house lifestyle.
The key thing during this video is that he talks about putting the compost from his toilet onto a compost pile in his garden. He talks about the need to compost in this way to kill parasites that cause disease. It makes it clear to me that there are still things that can make you or I sick in the stuff that directly comes out of a compost toilet.
What’s the Final Verdict on Composting Toilets for Narrowboats?
It seems that a lot of narrow boaters were misled into buying compost toilets that will now be a pain in the ‘you know what’ to use properly.
I don’t blame any of the Youtuber’s mentioned earlier. Even the Canal and River Trust were saying that it was OK to double bag and bin their half composted human waste.
Due to the wonder of the Wayback Machine, we can see that the CRT were basically saying that they realise they need to put in place better facilities for solid waste but that in the meantime it’s fine for boaters to dump this waste in their normal waste points. This is their old advice below:
I am going to take a wild guess that with the massive increase in composting toilets that the CRT were told by whoever they have contracted to pick up the rubbish at these points to ‘cut the crap’ (literally).
Can you imagine with all these boaters dumping half composted human waste at their rubbish points what a mess it could become. Of course everyone says to double bag, but I am sure a lot of these bags would split and spill their poop goodness all over in reality. Would you like to be the one to pick this up?
There are definitely still parasites in half composted human waste that mean you can’t just throw it in the regular rubbish bins.
I think the CRT should have done their research though. When you look at other communities doing composting of human waste, it’s pretty clear that you need a period of at least a few months to properly compost the material down to something not harmful to humans. They should have realised this and given the guidelines a lot earlier than they did. A lot of people are now stuck with composting toilets and the thought of having to keep buckets of poop on their boats for months at a time! Not nice!
In fact, having not actually owned a composting toilet myself, I had an article talking about double bagging! I thought this was the normal thing to do from what I heard from my fellow narrow boaters. I too stand corrected!
The CRT talked about putting solid waste facilities on the cut, they now need to follow through and do something to take the heat off of these innocent narrow boaters that have become ‘caught in the crossfire’.
Are you a narrow boater (or any kind of boater, actually) with a composting toilet? We would love to hear your views and ideas in the comments section below.