Composting Chamber

Compiled by:
Eawag (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology), Dorothee Spuhler (seecon international gmbh)
Adapted from:
TILLEY, E.; ULRICH, L.; LUETHI, C.; REYMOND, P.; ZURBRUEGG, C. (2014)

Executive Summary

Composting refers to the process by which biodegradable components are biologically decomposed by microorganisms (mainly bacteria and fungi) under aerobic conditions. A composting chamber is designed to convert excreta and organics into compost. In composting toilets, faeces or excreta fall into a composting chamber together with cleansing material. Dry organic material such as sawdust is added to adjust moisture content and C/N ratio in order to obtain optimum conditions for thermophilic composting. Organic household waste can also be added. Depending on the process, shorter or longer maturation periods and maybe also secondary treatment are required. Urine might be diverted to decrease humidity of the compost and to be reused separately. Compost is a stable, inoffensive product that can be safely handled and used as a soil conditioner improving the fertility, structure and water retention capacity of the soil.
In Out

Faeces, Excreta, Dry Cleansing Material, Organics

Fertiliser, Compost/Biosolids, (Fertigation Water)

Introduction

Composting toilets are toilets systems, which allow to minimise water use and to recycle nutrients contained in excreta and faeces. Compost is a valuable soil amendment which increases soil fertility (see also use of compost). There are various different systems (i.e. pits or vaults; urine diversion or not; low-tech and high-tech; single-vault continuous or multiple vault batch). The functioning of the various different composting toilet systems is basically the same. This technology usually requires four main parts: (1) a reactor (storage chamber); (2) a ventilation unit to provide oxygen and allow gases (CO2, water vapour) to escape; (3) a leachate collection system and (4) an access door to remove the mature product. The leachate has very high concentrations of nutrients, organics but also contain pathogens. They need to be collected, treated and if possible reused (see also leach field, soak pits, evapotranspiration beds, fertigation). Urine diversion usually reduces leachate production (GTZ 2006), see also urine diversion components.

 TILLEY et al. (2014]

Schematic of the composting chamber placed below a composting toilet. Source: TILLEY et al. (2014)

Excreta, food waste and bulking material (such as wood chips, sawdust, ash or paper) are mixed in the chamber. There are four factors that ensure the good functioning of the system: (a) sufficient oxygen, provided by active or passive aeration; (b) proper moisture (ideally 45 to 70% moisture content); (c) internal (heap) temperature of 40 to 50 °C (achieved by proper chamber dimensioning); and (d) a 25:1 C:N ratio (theoretically) which can be adjusted by adding bulking material as a carbon source.

Dry material, which contains carbon (such as sawdust or ash) increase composting properties. It regulates moisture and the carbon to nitrogen ratio (C/N) and enhances the composting process. If ash and lime are used as adding material, this has the additional beneficial effect of raising pH, which leads to improved pathogen die-off (JOENSSEN et al. 2004, see also SCHOENNING & STENSTROEM 2004 for more information on alkaline treatment).

In practice, these optimal conditions are difficult to maintain. As a result, the output product (compost, or also called humanure) is often not sufficiently stabilized and sanitized, and requires further treatment.

Design Considerations

 ENVIROLET (n.y.)

Design scheme of a pre-fabricated composting toilet for a cottage hou sing. Source: ENVIROLET (n.y.).

A composting chamber can be designed in various configurations and constructed above or below ground, indoors or with a separate superstructure. Examples of chambers that are built as vaults above ground are the clivus multrum, the double vault Vietnamese composting toilet or the skyloo, see picture below). Pit composting toilets have vaults underground. This factsheet focuses on above ground composting toilets (vault composting toilets). You can find information on typical pit composting toilets in the factsheets for the arborloo and the fossa alterna.

In continuous vault composting toilets, such as the clivus multrum, compost can continuously be harvested on one end, while faeces fall into the other. In batch systems, the composting chamber is changed once it is full and the next one is used during which the other one is closed and left aside for maturation. Batch systems, especially in low-tech models, are much safer as they prevent mixing of fresh and matured material (WHO 2006). Typical batch systems are double vaults or movable containers (WHO 2006).

Composting toilets rely on the aerobic degradation of organic matter, resulting in a hygienic product that can be used as soil fertiliser. Composting is possible at high temperatures (thermophilic composting) and at low temperatures (ambient or mesophilic composting). Thermophilic composting is faster and more efficient to inactivate pathogens. The optimal operational conditions for thermophilic composting are (GTZ 2006):

  • Good aeration
  • A moisture content of 50 to 60 %
  • A C/N ration of 30 to 35

The carbon to nitrogen ration (C/N) of excreta (including urine) is about 7 to 8, but for optimal thermophilic composting, it needs to be 20 to 35 (WHO 2006). The addition of paper, wood or bark chips, sawdust, ash or other similar substances will help to increase the C/N ratio. However, if the C/N ration becomes too high (> 30 to 35), then the composting is slowed down, impairing the attainment of required temperatures. Adding bulk material is also important to reduce humidity in the chamber and thus the potential of odour and fly breeding problems (WHO 2006). The addition of organic household waste can also help to raise the C/N ratio (WHO 2006). It can be added to a composting toilet through the toilet itself or through a separate chute.

  BERGER (2009)

The TerraNova composting toilet. Air moves through channels through the compost. Maturated can be harvested at the bottom. Source: BERGER (2009) 

A design value of 300 L/person/year can be used to calculate the required chamber volume. 

Ventilation channels (air ducts) under the heap can be beneficial for aeration. Ventilation maintains low moisture content of the compost and prevents odour. Best ventilation is designed similar as for urine diversion dehydration toilets. More complex designs can include a small ventilation fan, a mechanical mixer (to homogenise the compost) or multiple compartments to allow for increased storage and degradation time. Mechanical ventilation requires a fan or another mechanical device and power/solar energy. For natural ventilation, a difference of pressure (or temperature) is required inside and outside the vaults. This can be given by wind or a stack effect. The stack effect can be achieved by installing the ventilation pipe outside and expose it to the sun (it may also be painted in black). When the air in the pipe heats up, it rises upwards out of the vent; a downward draught of cooler air of higher density then flows in through the squat plate hole, replacing the vacuum space created after warm air rising (OKETCH 2005). A sloped bottom and a chamber for compost withdrawal facilitate access to the final product. A drainage system is important to ensure the removal of leachate.  MORGAN (2007)

 

Front view of a compo sting toilet model „skyloo“, and a brick single-vault composting toilet with a movable container. Source: MORGAN (2007).

Excessive ammonia from urine inhibits the microbial processes in the chamber. The use of a Urine-Diverting Dry Toilet UDDT or Urinal can, therefore, improve the quality of the compost (see also urine diversion components). With urine diversion, less bulking agent is needed and the C/N ratio is naturally enhanced.

  MORGAN (2007)

After complete maturation, the humus-like toilet compost is safe an d can be used as fertiliser. Source: MORGAN (2007) 

Due to its complexity, thermophilic composting can be difficult to manage and often, the operating range of composting toilets is varying within the thermophilic, mesophilic and ambient composting (WHO 2006). Even though the pathogen content is considerably reduced in composting toilets, complete pathogen destruction can only be achieved if good process conditions can be guaranteed. This can be done by using an advanced toilet design with insulation for maintaining a high temperature within the whole composting chamber (GTZ 2006). If thermophilic composting cannot be guaranteed, longer maturation times or a secondary treatment may be required (see also co-composting at small and large scale or drying and storage of faeces). In practice, thermophilic composting of faeces at the domestic level is questionable, as only slight elevation of the temperature was recorded in some trial (SCHOENNING & STENSTROEM). Therefore low-cost composting toilets at the household level may only be adapted if a secondary treatment is provided to ensure safety of the system. As a secondary treatment on a larger scale, where the process can be insulated and monitored, composting might be more effective (SCHOENNING & STENSTROEM 2004).

Health Aspects/Acceptance 

If the composting chamber is well designed, the users will not have to handle the material during the first year.

A well-functioning composting chamber should not produce odours. If there is ample bulking material and good ventilation, there should be no problems with flies or other insects. When removing the final product, it is advisable to wear protective clothing to prevent contact with (partially) composted material.

If operation conditions for thermophilic composting are adequate (moisture content 50 to 60 %, carbon to nitrogen ratio 30 to 35 and mixing with bulking material), the temperature will rise to between 50 and 65 °C (WHO 2006). Such temperatures will effectively inactivate pathogens (WHO 2006). Otherwise, secondary treatment will be necessary (see above).

Cost Considerations

There are many designs and models offered by manufacturers all over the world with a large range of prices (GTZ 2006). Low-tech composting toilets can also be self-constructed with locally available material.

Operation & Maintenance

Although simple in theory, composting chambers are not that easy to operate. The moisture must be controlled, the C:N ratio must be well balanced and the volume of the unit must be such that the temperature of the compost pile remains high to achieve pathogen reduction. After each defecation, a small amount of bulking material is added to absorb excess liquid, improve the aeration of the pile and balance the carbon availability. The immediate coverage of the fresh faeces with an additive material also lowers nuisances caused by odour or flies. Turning the material from time to time will boost the oxygen supply. 

A squeeze test can be made to check the moisture level within the chamber. When squeezing a handful of compost, it should not crumble or feel dry, nor should it feel like a wet sponge. Rather, the compost should leave only a few drops of water in one’s hand. If the material in the chamber becomes too compact and humid, additional bulking material should be added. If a UDDT is used, some water should be added to obtain the required humidity.

In multi-vault/container systems, filling is generally stopped when the vault is 2 to 3 quarters full (WSP 2007; WHO 1992). Then content is covered with soil and the vaults or containers are sealed. The maturation periods depends on temperature and the local climate. Under optimum thermophilic conditions, it may only take some weeks until the faeces or excreta are decomposed and hygienised. However, batch systems should be designed such as each filled vaults/containers can maturate for at least during two years (WHO 1992). That means that each vault of a double-vault composting toilet should be large enough to hold at least two years’ accumulation (WHO 1992). 

Emptying composting toilet constitutes a critical handling point. The emptying frequency depends on the size of the chambers, the feeding rate and the composting rate (volume reduction, pathogen removal) (GTZ 2006). Depending on the design, the composting chamber should be emptied every 2 to 10 years (TILLEY et al. 2014). Only the mature compost should be removed. Proper protection measures, mainly personal protection, should be taken, especially if the material is not fully hygienised (WHO 2006). In addition to protective clothing (e.g. gloves and boots), normal hygiene and washing after the emptying operation are important (WHO 2006). The material may require further treatment to become hygienically safe (e.g., Co Composting large scale, Co-Composting small-scale and drying and storage of faeces).

With time, salt or other solids may build up in the tank or drainage system. These can be dissolved with hot water and/or scraped out. 

At a Glance

Working Principle

Faecal matter is collected in vaults or pits together with organic bulking agents. At optimum conditions, thermophilic composting takes place transforming the faeces or excreta into humus like toilet compost (humanure), which can be used as a soil amendment.

Capacity/Adequacy

Composting toilets can be constructed everywhere. Pre-fabricated high-tech models are available. Simpler composting toilets can be constructed by the user itself with locally available material.

Performance

Depends much on the local climatic conditions and operation and maintenance. At optimum conditions, resulting humanure is completely safe.

Costs

Depends on technology level; from moderate to high-cost.

Self-help Compatibility

Can be built and repaired with locally available material. Expert design maybe required.

O&M

Composting toilets require the frequent addition of organic bulking material and control of moisture and temperature.

Reliability

If well maintained and constructed, high.

Main strength

No water required and no risk of soil water pollution; Produces humanure.

Main weakness

Requires large amount of organic bulking material and thermophilic composting is not always achieved.

Applicability

Since this technology is compact and waterless, it is especially suited in areas where land and water are limited, or when there is a need for compost. It can also be installed in rocky areas, or where the groundwater table is high. Composting toilets are generally sealed systems; therefore they are also adapted to areas prone to flooding or high water table (CALVERT 1999).

Composting toilets are suitable for both industrialised and developing countries (GTZ 2006).

Composting toilets can be constructed at the household level, or they can be built in cluster for institutions, schools, hostels and so on (CALVERT 1999). However, open access community compost toilets are not recommended other than in well-educated and highly motivated communities (CALVERT 1999). 

Composting toilets can be built beside or as part of a house in rural, urban or peri-urban areas and can even be established inside a house or apartment (CALVERT 1999). In several projects, composting toilets have also been successfully implemented in houses with several floors with the collecting chamber being situated in the basement (GTZ 2006). In cold climates, a composting chamber should be indoors to ensure that low temperatures do not impede the microbial processes. This technology cannot be used for the collection of anal cleansing water or greywater; if the reactor becomes too wet, anaerobic conditions will cause odour problems and improper degradation.

Composting toilets are slightly more expensive than urine diversion dehydration toilets in terms of excreta management because of the need for the control of the C/N ration (GTZ 2006), but the nutrients contained in the compost from composting toilets are more readily available than those from dehydration toilets (GTZ 2006).

Advantages

  • Operate reliably during dry (no water required) and wet seasons (in comparison to dehydration toilets)
  • Can reduce the volume of the faecal matter considerably (up to 30 %, GTZ 2006)
  • Significant reduction in pathogens
  • Compost can be used as a soil conditioner
  • No real problems with flies or odours if used and maintained correctly (i.e., kept dry)
  • Organic solid waste can be managed concurrently
  • Long service life
  • Low operating costs if self-emptied

Disadvantages

  • Requires bulking material and careful operation
  • Requires well-trained user or service personnel for monitoring and maintenance
  • Compost might require further treatment before use
  • Leachate requires treatment and/or appropriate discharge
  • Requires expert design and construction
  • May require some specialized parts and electricity
  • Requires constant source of organics
  • Manual removal of compost is required

References Library

BERGER, W. (2011): Technology Review of Composting Toilets. Eschborn: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). URL [Accessed: 06.02.2012].

BERGER, W. (Editor); LORENZ-LADENER, C. (Editor) (2008): Komposttoiletten - Sanitärtechnik ohne Wasser. Staufen: Ökobuch. URL [Accessed: 21.11.2010].

CALVERT, P. (1999): Compost Toilets. Bourton on Dunsmore: Practical Action UK. URL [Accessed: 11.08.2010].

DEL PORTO, D.; STEINFELD, C. (1999): The Composting Toilet System Book. A Practicle Guide to Choosing, Planning and Maintaining Composting Toilet Systems, an Alternative to Sewer and Septic Systems. Concord: Center for Ecological Pollution Prevention (CEPP).

ENVIROLET (Editor) (n.y.): Envirolet modern pre-fab home or cottage installation. Envirolet Waterless Remote System. URL [Accessed: 11.08.2010].

GTZ (Editor) (2010): Basic overview of Composting Toilets (with and without urine diversion). (= Technology Review). Eschborn: German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) GmbH. URL [Accessed: 22.11.2010].

HILL, G. B.; BALDWIN, S. A.; VINNERAAS, B. (2013): Composting Toilets a Misnomer: Excessive Ammonia from Urine Inhibits Microbial Activity yet Is Insufficient in Sanitizing the End-Product. In: Journal of Environmental Management 119, 29-35. Bethesda: PubMed.

JENKINS, J. (2005): The Humanure Handbook. A Guide to Composting Human Manure. (= 3rd Edition). Grove City: Joseph Jenkins Inc. . URL [Accessed: 16.08.2010].

JOENSSON, H.; RICHERT, A.; VINNERAAS, B.; SALOMON, E. (2004): Guidelines on the Use of Urine and Faeces in Crop Production. (= EcoSanRes Publications Series, 2004). Stockholm: EcoSanRes. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012].

MORGAN, P.; EcoSanRes (Editor) (2007): Toilets That Make Compost . Stockholm: Stockholm Environment Institute.

See document in FRENCH

SCHOENNING, C.; STENSTROEM, T.A. (2004): Guidelines on the Safe Use of Urine and Faeces in Ecological Sanitation Systems. (= EcoSanRes Publication Series). Stockholm: Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

TILLEY, E.; ULRICH, L.; LUETHI, C.; REYMOND, P.; ZURBRUEGG, C. (2014): Compendium of Sanitation Systems and Technologies. 2nd Revised Edition. Duebendorf, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag). URL [Accessed: 28.07.2014]. PDF

U.S. EPA (Editor) (1999): Composting Toilets. (= Water Efficiency Technology Fact Sheet, EPA 832-F-99-066). Washington: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water. URL [Accessed: 16.08.2010].

UNEP (Editor); MURDOCH UNIVERSITY (Editor) (2004): Environmentally sound technologies in wastewater treatment for the implementation of the UNEP/GPA "Guidelines on Municipal Wastewater Management". The Hague: United Nations Environment Programme Global Programme of Action (UNEP/GPA), Coordination Office.

WHO (Editor) (2006): Guidelines for the safe use of wastewater excreta and greywater. Volume IV. Excreta and Greywater Use in Agriculture. Geneva: World Health Organisation. URL [Accessed: 26.02.2010].

WSP (Editor) (2007): Philippines Sanitation Source Book and Decision Aid. pdf presentation. Washington: Water and Sanitation Program.

Further Readings Library

Reference icon

BERGER, W. (2011): Technology Review of Composting Toilets. Eschborn: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). URL [Accessed: 06.02.2012].

This GIZ publication explains the design, use and operational requirements of composting toilets. Ample examples for composting toilets from around the world are included in the publication to show that these types of toilets have a wide range of applications under a variety of circumstances (for wealthy or poor people; for cold, hot, wet or dry climates; for urban or rural settings). The appendix contains a listing of suppliers.


Reference icon

GTZ (Editor) (2010): Basic overview of Composting Toilets (with and without urine diversion). (= Technology Review). Eschborn: German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) GmbH. URL [Accessed: 22.11.2010].

The publication explains the purposes of urine diversion, its benefits and challenges, possibilities of urine treatment and reuse in agriculture. It provides an overview on design and operational aspects for equipment needed, such as waterless urinals and urine diversion toilets. An appendix with a worldwide listing of suppliers for waterless urinals and urine diversion toilet pedestals and squatting pans is also available.


Reference icon

ECOSAN CLUB (Editor) (2011): Toilets. (= Sustainable Sanitation Practice, 6). Vienna: Ecosan Club. URL [Accessed: 01.01.1970].

The first part of a sanitation system is the „user interface“, i.e. the toilet, pedestal, pan or urinal. It is an important part of the sanitation system because this is the part the user comes in contact with. Acceptance of a sanitation system therefore often mainly depends on the acceptance of the user interface. This paper gives an overview on developments of different technologies for user interfaces (UDDTs and urinals). The contributions present developments in different geographical regions: South America, East Africa and the Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) countries.


Reference icon

WHO (Editor) (2006): Guidelines for the safe use of wastewater excreta and greywater. Volume IV. Excreta and Greywater Use in Agriculture. Geneva: World Health Organisation. URL [Accessed: 26.02.2010].

Volume IV of the Guidelines for the Safe Use of Wastewater, Excreta and Greywater recognizes the reuse potential of wastewater and excreta (including urine) in agriculture and describes the present state of knowledge as regards potential health risks associated with the reuse as well as measures to manage these health risks following a multi-barrier approach.


Reference icon

WINBLAD, U.; SIMPSON-HERBERT, M. (2004): Ecological Sanitation - revised and enlarged edition. (pdf presentation). Sweden: Stockholm Environment Institute. URL [Accessed: 04.08.2010].

This book is one of the most fundamental and important books that defined the concept of ecological sanitation. The first version came out in 1998 - this version presents the findings of over ten years of research and development in ecological sanitation supported by SIDA (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency).


Reference icon

ESREY, S. A. (Editor); GOUGH, J. (Editor); RAPAPORT, D. (Editor); SAWYER, R. (Editor); MAYLING, S.H. (Editor); VARGAS, J. (Editor); WINBLAD, U. (Editor) (1998): Ecological Sanitation. Stockholm: Novum Grafiska AB. URL [Accessed: 22.07.2010].

This book puts forward ecological sanitation as an alternative to conventional sanitation, and was one of the very first of its kind. It documents different options of ecosan based on dehydrating and composting toilets in use around the world. The book has been reviewed and enlarged since then.


Reference icon

JENKINS, J. (2005): The Humanure Handbook. A Guide to Composting Human Manure. (= 3rd Edition). Grove City: Joseph Jenkins Inc. . URL [Accessed: 16.08.2010].

A comprehensive book on recycling human excrement without chemicals, high technology or pollution. Well written, practical, and thoroughly researched, this self-published book is built on nearly twenty years of experience by the author, who tells us about every aspect of dealing with excrement on the home-scale level. Only available for free as web book.


Reference icon

MORGAN, P.; EcoSanRes (Editor) (2007): Toilets That Make Compost . Stockholm: Stockholm Environment Institute.

This book describes in an easy-to-understand and picture-based way how to construct three different low cost sanitation solutions, namely arborloos, fossa alterna and urine diversion toilets.

See document in FRENCH


Reference icon

NIWAGABA, C. (2007): Human Excreta Treatment Technologies - prerequisites, constraints and performance. (= Licentiate thesis). Uppsala: Swedish Agricultural University (SLU), Department of Biometry and Engineering.

The thesis consists of three papers, the first of which investigates incineration of faecal matter as a treatment and sanitation method using a locally fabricated incinerator made of steel sheets. The second and third papers investigate composting of faeces and food waste at two size scales, using 78-litre and 216- litre wooden reactors.


Reference icon

NWP (Editor) (2006): Smart Sanitation Solutions. Examples of innovative, low-cost technologies for toilets, collection, transportation, treatment and use of sanitation products. (= Smart water solutions). Amsterdam: Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP). URL [Accessed: 13.04.2010].

Smart Sanitation Solutions presents examples of low-cost household and community-based sanitation solutions that have proven effective and affordable. A wide range of innovative technologies for toilets, collection, transportation, treatment and use of sanitation products that have already helped thousands of poor families to improve their lives is illustrated.


Reference icon

TILLEY, E.; ULRICH, L.; LUETHI, C.; REYMOND, P.; ZURBRUEGG, C. (2014): Compendium of Sanitation Systems and Technologies. 2nd Revised Edition. Duebendorf, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag). URL [Accessed: 28.07.2014]. PDF

This compendium gives a systematic overview on different sanitation systems and technologies and describes a wide range of available low-cost sanitation technologies.


Reference icon

WHO (Editor) (2006): Guidelines for the safe use of wastewater excreta and greywater. Volume IV. Excreta and Greywater Use in Agriculture. Geneva: World Health Organisation. URL [Accessed: 26.02.2010].

Volume IV of the Guidelines for the Safe Use of Wastewater, Excreta and Greywater recognizes the reuse potential of wastewater and excreta (including urine) in agriculture and describes the present state of knowledge as regards potential health risks associated with the reuse as well as measures to manage these health risks following a multi-barrier approach.


Reference icon

WSP (Editor) (2007): Philippines Sanitation Source Book and Decision Aid. pdf presentation. Washington: Water and Sanitation Program.

This Sanitation Sourcebook distils some of the core concepts of sanitation in a user-friendly format so that the book can serve as a practical reference to sanitation professionals and investment decision-makers, particularly the local governments. The annexe contains a practical collection of factsheets on selected sanitation system options.


Reference icon

U.S. EPA (Editor) (1999): Composting Toilets. (= Water Efficiency Technology Fact Sheet, EPA 832-F-99-066). Washington: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water. URL [Accessed: 16.08.2010].

Factsheet including information related to microbial die-off rates and health risks.


Reference icon

WATER AID (Editor) (2011): Construction of Ecological Sanitation Latrine. Kathmandu: Water Aid. URL [Accessed: 19.10.2011].

This document sets out the principles for adopting an ecological sanitation approach, as well as providing guidance on the construction ecological sanitation latrines and their operation. It is intended to support sanitation field practitioners and WaterAid in Nepal ’s partners in the delivery of appropriate services and technologies to fit the needs of different users. .It is also equally hoped that this document will be of value to other organisations and sector stakeholders involved in sanitation promotion and ecological sanitation.


Reference icon

TOUBKISS, J. (2010): How to Manage Public Toilets and Showers. (= Six Methodological Guides for a Water and Sanitation Services' Development Strategy, 5). Cotonou and Paris: Partenariat pour le Développement Municipal (PDM) and Programme Solidarité Eau (pS-Eau). URL [Accessed: 19.10.2011].

The purpose of this decision-making aid is to provide practical advice and recommendations for managing toilet blocks situated in public places. It is primarily aimed at local decision-makers in developing countries and at their partners (project planners and managers).

See document in FRENCH


Reference icon

GTZ (Editor) (2010): Appendix: Range of manufacturers and commercially available composting toilets. (= Technology Review). Eschborn: German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) GmbH. URL [Accessed: 22.11.2010].

List of supplier for commercially available composting toilets.


Reference icon

MORGAN, P. (2010): Methods of Using "Toilet Compost" in Agriculture. Stockholm : Ecological Sanitation Research (EcoSanRes), Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). URL [Accessed: 20.06.2013].

This document gives a simple overview over toilet compost, its preparation and fields of application.


Reference icon

MORGAN, P. (2004): The Toilet That Makes Humus. An Account of the Fossa Alterna System and its Usefulness in Rural and Peri-Urban Communities. Stockholm : Ecological Sanitation Research (EcoSanRes), Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). URL [Accessed: 20.06.2013].

This easily understandable presentation deals with making humus in shallow pits by means of the Fossa alterna. Foci are set on: - How the Fossa alterna works (in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi) - Stages of construction - Routine management - Changing pits - Potential problems - Hand washing devices - Humus from the Fossa alterna - Enhanced growth of vegetables with “Fossa humus”


Reference icon

MORGAN, P. (2004): Plant Trials Using Fossa Alterna Humus. Stockholm : Ecological Sanitation Research (EcoSanRes), Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). URL [Accessed: 20.06.2013].

The ultimate proof of the usefulness of eco-humus and urine in agriculture is to demonstrate its effect on plant growth and yield directly. This chapter describes a series of trials in which the growth and yield of vegetables planted in humus derived from the Fossa alterna were studied.


Case Studies Library

Reference icon

BERGER, W. (2009): From pit latrine to nutrient conservation – Design and construction of an optimised public dehydration toilet in Ghana. Hamburg: Berger Biotechnik AG. URL [Accessed: 22.11.2010].

As part of the project "Ecological development at Valley View University in Accra, Ghana", a public dehydration toilet building for about 250 male students was constructed on a campus as a first step, to find out about acceptance, function and treatment conditions.


Reference icon

BERGER, W. (2009): From pit latrine to nutrient conservation – Design and construction of an optimised public dehydration toilet in Ghana- Presentation. Hamburg: Berger Biotechnik AG. URL [Accessed: 22.11.2010].

This presentation describes the installation of a public dehydration toilet building for about 250 male students at Valley View University in Accra, Ghana.


Reference icon

BERGER, W. (2009): Results in the Use and Practise of Composting Toilets in Multi Storey Houses in Bielefeld and Rostock, Germany. Hamburg: Berger Biotechnik AG. URL [Accessed: 22.11.2010].

This is a an article concerning composting toilets in four story buildings.


Reference icon

BERGER, W. (2009): Results in the Use and Practise of Composting Toilets in Multi Storey Houses in Bielefeld and Rostock, Germany- Presentation. Hamburg: Berger Biotechnik AG. URL [Accessed: 22.11.2010].

This is a a presentation concerning composting toilets in four story buildings.


Reference icon

HOLMER, R.; SuSanA (Editor) (2009): UDD Toilets with Reuse in Allotment Gardens.. (pdf presentation). (= SuSanA case study). Cagayan de Oro Philippines: Sustainable Sanitation Alliance. URL [Accessed: 11.08.2010].

Case study on an urban agriculture project with urine reuse in Northern Mindanao, Philippines.


Reference icon

DAWA, S.; KREUTZER, G.; PANESAR, A. (2009): Improved traditional composting toilets with urine diversion, Leh, Jammu and Kashmir State, India - draft. (= SuSanA - Case Studies). Eschborn: Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA). URL [Accessed: 02.08.2010].

In Leh, a small town in Jammu and Kashmir, people try to replace traditional sanitation systems by waterborne toilet systems. This project tries to revitalise the traditional ecological sanitation practice that is threatened to fall into oblivion. Different improvements of the traditional Ladhaki toilets are suggested. Due to an extremely dry climate, it is possible to process human excreta indoors without prior diversion of urine, by using a combination of soil composting and dehydration.


Reference icon

HOFFMANN, H.; RUEN, S.; SCHOEPE, A. (2009): Blackwater and greywater reuse system, Chorrillos, Lima, Peru. (= SuSanA - Case Studies). Eschborn: Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA). URL [Accessed: 02.08.2010].

The following technologies were installed in the education centre “San Christoferus”: Constructed wetland for greywater treatment; compost filter for blackwater treatment; and double-vault urine diversion dehydration toilets. The aim of the project was to reduce water consumption and limit the wastewater flowing to the public sewer system, of which the largest part is discharged without treatment.


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MORGAN, P. (2010): Introducing Low Cost Productive Sanitation in a Peri-Urban Settlement. Stockholm : Ecological Sanitation Research (EcoSanRes), Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). URL [Accessed: 20.06.2013].

The following presentation deals with low cost ecological toilets (Fossa alterna) which were introduced at Hopley Farm, a settlement close to Harare, Zimbabwe. The presentation addresses the following topics: - How the alternating shallow pit system works - Local agricultural practice - Linking sanitation to agriculture - Testing for effect of urine - Linking sanitation to forestry


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MORGAN, P. (2010): Ecological Sanitation in Malawi. Stockholm : Ecological Sanitation Research (EcoSanRes), Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). URL [Accessed: 20.06.2013].

This illustrative presentation on ecological sanitation in Malawi, focuses on the concept of ecological sanitation, types of eco-toilets and basic methods of recycling nutrient from human excreta.


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MORGAN, P. (2003): Experiments with Ecological Sanitation and Pit Emptying in Maputaland, South Africa. A Description of Visits Made in 2000 and 2003. Stockholm : Ecological Sanitation Research (EcoSanRes), Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). URL [Accessed: 20.06.2013].

This document describes the experimental design of ecological sanitation and pit-emptying trials in Maputaland, South Africa. It describes the situation found at field visits in 2000 and 2003.


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MORGAN, P. (2007): The Arborloo Book for Ethiopia. How to Make a Simple Pit Toilet and Grow Trees and Vegetables. Stockholm : Ecological Sanitation Research (EcoSanRes), Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). URL [Accessed: 20.06.2013].

This booklet describes how to make a toilet which is both low cost and easy to make. Builders and artisans are not required, once the householder has learned the basic methods of construction.


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MORGAN, P. (2007): Lessons from a Low Cost Ecological Approach to Sanitation in Malawi. Washington: Water and Sanitation Program (WSP). URL [Accessed: 20.06.2013].

Low cost Ecological Sanitation programs in Malawi have led to the building of over 11,000 compost-producing toilets since 2003. While the toilets are affordable and simple to construct, the fact that they convert human waste into valuable odour-free compost, enables cost recovery for households and is a prime driver in popularizing EcoSan designs. This field note summarizes the lessons learned thus far in Malawi’s efforts to popularize ecological sanitation.


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MORGAN, P. (2005): Ecological Sanitation in Southern Africa. Many Approaches to a Varied Need. Stockholm : Ecological Sanitation Research (EcoSanRes), Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). URL [Accessed: 21.06.2013].

This document describes the ecological sanitation situation in South Africa, focussing on the range of technological options, promotional methods and recycling methods and the problem areas.


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MUELLEGGER, E. (Editor); LANGEGRABER, G. (Editor); LECHNER, M. (Editor) (2011): Solutions for Mountain Regions. (= Sustainable Sanitation Practice, 8). Vienna: Ecosan Club. URL [Accessed: 01.07.2013].

This Sustainable Sanitation Practice (SSP) issue contains the following contributions: 1. Source Separating Solutions for Mountain Regions, 2. "Gloggnitzer Huette" Sanitation System, 3. Solid Waste Management in Mountain Refuges.


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MUELLEGGER, E. (Editor); LANGEGRABER, G. (Editor); LECHNER, M. (Editor) (2010): The ROSA Project. (= Sustainable Sanitation Practice, 4). Vienna: Ecosan Club. URL [Accessed: 01.07.2013].

The ROSA project stands for Resource-Oriented Sanitation concepts for peri-urban areas in Africa. This Sustainable Sanitation Practice (SSP) issue contains the following contributions: 1. Introduction to the ROSA Project, 2. From Pilot Units to Large-Scale Implementation - Ethiopia, 3. Implementation of UDDTs at Schools - Kenya, 4. Urban Agriculture for Sanitation Promotion, 5. Operation an Maintenance in Practice, 6. Experiences from Strategic Sanitation Planning, 7. Main Findings and Main Achievements.


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KRAMER, S.; PRENETA, N.; KILBRIDE, A. (2013): Delivering Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services in an Uncertain Environment: Thermophilic Composting of Human Wastes in Uncertain Urban Environments. A Case Study from Haiti. (= WECD International Conference, 36). Oakland: Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL). URL [Accessed: 01.11.2013].

This paper describes the project of constructing a thermophilic composting site in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. The composting facilities have treated over 500,000 gallons of human waste in the past three years, converting it to pathogen free compost, over 10,000 gallons of which has been sold for use in agriculture and reforestation projects. The experience of thermophilic composting in Haiti is unique in scale and duration and can have global implications for waste treatment in both emergency and development contexts.


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KILBRIDE, A.; KRAMER, S.; PRENETA, N. (2013): Delivering Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services in an Uncertain Environment: Piloting Ecological Sanitation (EcoSan) in the Emergency Context of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the 2010 Earthquake. (= WECD International Conference, 36). Oakland: Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL). URL [Accessed: 01.11.2013].

The earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010 and the cholera epidemic that followed from October 2010, resulted in one of the largest humanitarian relief efforts in history. Many of the internally displaced persons camps were located in urban neighbourhoods with high groundwater, making onsite sanitation extremely difficult. In response to these unique conditions a small local organization, SOIL, partnered with Oxfam Great Britain to pilot urine diversion EcoSan toilets in camps throughout Port-au-Prince. This briefing paper covers this pilot project from March 2010 through March 2012. During that 2-year period, SOIL’s toilets served over 20,000 people and treated more than 400,000 gallons of human waste, converting it to rich compost.


Awareness Raising Material Library

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DUNCAN, D. (2008): Is it Time to kill off the Flush Toilet?. In: TIME.com. URL [Accessed: 10.08.2008].

Critical article on the conventional flush-and-forget toilet systems on the occasion of the World Toilet Summit and Expo in Macau.


Training Material Library

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CALVERT, P. (1999): Compost Toilets. Bourton on Dunsmore: Practical Action UK. URL [Accessed: 11.08.2010].

This technical brief describes a compost toilet that has proven to be most effective in water-logged areas where pit-latrines and septic tanks are inappropriate.


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UNKNOWN (n.y.): Composting Latrines.

Construction and design manuals for double-vault composting latrines.


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USAID (Editor) (n.y.): Constructing Compost Toilets. (= Water for the World, Technical note). Washington: United States Agency for International Development (USAID). URL [Accessed: 11.08.2010].

Technical brief on the construction of composting toilets.


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USAID (Editor) (n.y.): Designing Compost Toilets. (= Water for the World, Technical note). Washington: United States Agency for International Development (USAID). URL [Accessed: 11.08.2010].

Technical brief on the design of composting toilets.


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USAID (Editor) (n.y.): Operating and Maintaining Compost Toilets. (= Water for the World, Technical note). Washington: United States Agency for International Development (USAID). URL [Accessed: 11.08.2010].


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VALLEY VIEW UNIVERSITY (Editor) (2008): Small scale composting of human faeces - in a Nutshell. Hohenheim: University of Hohenheim (Germany), Berger Biotechnik, Valley View University Ghana. URL [Accessed: 11.08.2010].

This leaflet provides a summary on why and how to compost faeces.


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NETWAS (n.y.): Proper Use and Safe Handling of Ecosan By-Products. Kampala: Network for Water and Sanitation (NETWAS). URL [Accessed: 29.09.2011].

This poster illustrates how to use Ecosan toilets and handle faecal compost in a safe way.


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NETWAS (n.y.): Primary and Secondary Processing of Ecosan By-Products. Kampala: Network for Water and Sanitation (NETWAS). URL [Accessed: 29.09.2011].

This poster illustrates how to transform faecal waste to usable compost.


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HOFFMANN, H. (2012): Construction of Bench Style Double Vault Urine Diversion Toilet and Alternatives. Lima: Rotaria del Peru SAC. URL [Accessed: 26.03.2012].

The use of Urine Diversion (UD) in dry toilets allows faeces dehydration. Urine can be reused as urea, while faeces are dried in a double vault system of alternate use. The moisture comes out using ventilation pipes. After 2 years the end product can be emptied and reused without having any health risk. Water from washing can be treated in a constructed wetland and reused for instance for irrigation.


Important Weblinks

http://forest.mtu.edu/ [Accessed: 18.08.2010]

A web portal giving an excellent introduction to composting toilets and latrine technology in developing countries. A brief introduction followed by the best links and sources available to put you on the road to ecological sanitation.

http://www.berger-biotechnik.com/ [Accessed: 18.08.2010]

German provider of pre-fabricated composting toilets.