most of the world's humanure is quickly flushed
down a drain, or discarded into the environment
as a pollutant, it could instead be converted,
through composting, into lush vegetative growth,
and used to feed humanity.
The humanure process involves
a compost toilet,
bin and cover material. Toilet
instructions are simple. There are a variety
of ways to make a humanure toilet (or
you can buy
one). Everyone wonders about "emptying
the toilet receptacle." How
horrible can that be? Well, here's the procedure:
two receptacles of humanure ready to be added to
the compost bin (look
at photos of the toilet process). The bin
is covered with a wire mesh to keep out vermin
such as dogs, racoons, stray chickens, etc.
This is a close-up of the bin and the wire. There is
a 20 inch compost
thermometer in the center of the pile, but it is not
visible in this photo.
wire is set aside, the compost
thermometer removed, and
the cover material is spread aside in all directions
using a picthfork to create a depression in the
top center of the compost pile. Note that there
remains a thick layer of cover material surrounding
the compost on all four sides. Spreading the compost
in all directions and leaving a thick layer of
cover material on the periphery allows you to keep
the compost pile somewhat flat, thereby increasing
the volume that the bin will hold. It also allows
the compost to be collected without runoff, splashback,
or the "Matterhorn
Effect" (i.e. a peaked pile). The fresh toilet/kitchen/garden/yard
material is added to the center of the pile where
the temperatures are hottest. The cooler periphery
provides a place for earthworms and other macroorganisms
to escape the heat of the thermophilic center,
while happily munching away on whatever looks good.
is a photo from a previous year when the cover materials
at that time were primarily weeds. The same procedure was
used at that time.
fresh humanure from the humanure toilet is now
added to the center of the pile. What you are looking
at is four 5-gallon receptacles worth of humanure
(a week's worth for a family of four) added to the
bin all at once. It's easier to carry two receptacles
than to carry one, and when using a four receptacle system,
a family of four adults will only have to empty the
receptacles once a week - a Sunday afternoon 20 minute
job from start to finish.
empty receptacles are rinsed out with water and the
rinse water is poured on the compost pile. The receptacles
are then scrubbed with a long-handled toilet brush
and a couple drops of dish soap. Do not use "anti-bacterial" soap.
You are trying to feed bacteria, not kill them.
The wash water is also poured on the compost pile.
bin has a rain barrel water collection system
for convenient receptacle washing. In the winter
months, the rain barrel is drained to prevent
freeze damage. A gallon milk jug filled with
water is instead carried out with the receptacles
in the winter. One gallon of water will clean
two receptacles. More
The cover material
that had been pushed aside is now pulled back over the
fresh compost, using the pitchfork.
cover material is added to keep a clean layer over
the compost at all times. In this case, straw is
being used, although hay, weeds, leaves or grass
clippings also make good cover materials. The cover
materials will change with the seasons depending
on what is available. Compost prefers green, live
materials, but hay, straw or dried leaves work well,
too. A variety of cover materials can be used in
one bin. It should be pointed out that not only humanure
is added to this compost bin. All of the compostable
kitchen residues, food scraps, and whatnot are also
composted in this bin, including small animal mortalities
(fish scraps, dead chickens, etc.). All meat, fat,
bones, etc., that you are commonly, and erroneously
to compost" are
added to the bin as well. This bin already contains
the carcasses of several dozen fish, at least one
chicken, and one opossum (caught red-handed in the
chicken coop and dispatched to the compost pile).
is placed back over the top of the compost bin and
the thermometer inserted
back into the top center of the pile. This wire is
a scrap piece of fence casually thrown over the
You can see the
wire and the thermometer better in this photo. The thermometer is the little gray dot in the middle of the compost.
Composting Tutorial: Switching Compost Bins:
a photo of the entire bin. The near side is being
aged. It has not been added to for three months when
this photo was taken. There is no need for wire over
it. It maintained high temperatures (110-120 degrees
F) for two months after fresh material was no longer
added. This side was completely filled by the date
of the summer solstice.
near side of this bin (the one we just emptied
into) has already been added to for three months.
It will hold nine more months worth of humanure
and food materials, hay, weeds, leaves, grass clippings,
etc. from a family of four. Smaller families or individuals
may need a smaller bin size. The phenomenon of compost
includes an incredible amount of shrinkage. As long
as there is thermophilic (hot) microbiological activity
, the compost will shrink, shrink and shrink some
more. In order to ensure thermophilic activity, all
urine and fecal material should be added to the compost
pile. Do not segregate urine from your humanure toilet.
Also include all toilet paper, toilet paper tubes,
and everything else you can compost from your home,
Look at a video clip showing the compost being dug from a finished bin:
purposes for composting humanure include preventing
water pollution, recycling human excrement to prevent
fecal contamination of the environment, and recovering
soil nutrients for the purpose of growing food. The
compost produced in the above-illustrated method
has all been used to grow food for a family -- a
process that is the result of 28 years of continuous
experience by the author of the Humanure
Handbook. Photos of the author's garden below
illustrate the benefit of fertile soil.
Take a look at a video clip showing the compost being added to a garden:
This 8 Gb USB data stick contains the entire Humanure Handbook, 3rd Edition in PDF format, plus 50 videos related to humanure composting, plus six research papers by Joseph Jenkins regarding compost sanitation, and much more. Click on the image for more information!