Living Small – Toilets for tiny places – PART ONE

I had a mate ask me about how I will be dealing with the toilet/ sewage issue…because it is an issue BUT there are plenty of great solutions out there. I have whittled the options down to two sound products. That being the Separette and the Natures Head, both separation based toilets that operate in slightly different means.

Composting Toilets - Side by side

Natures Head toilet on the left…not quite as ‘clean’ looking as the Separette to the right. The Natures Head is built robust and light for boat and RV applications.

Currently there are 2 main styles of composting toilet, one that collects both liquid and solid wastes in the same canister and the other designed to separate the two. If the dry waste is not separated from the liquid the collected contents is simply sloppy stinky sewage that takes a long time to decompose and smells

Composting Toilets_bins

Sphangum peat moss inside the composting bin of the Natures Head. The decomposable bag liner used in the Separette to the right.

like the description…BAD! On the other hand when you remove the liquid waste straight away, the solids are able to decompose in an aerobic bacterial process that is essentially odourless. The separette has no odour according to user reviews while the Natures head has an odour that can be likened to soil. This is due to the use of Sphagnum peat moss, the bulking agent used to accelerate the composting process. Urine is in fact sterile (hence why Bear Grills love to drink it any chance he gets)so it is safe to put with grey water or can be diluted with water and used as a fertiliser. Common solutions are to plumb the liquid waste into a ‘sump pit’ which allows it to drain into the soil.

 Solid waste is in-fact 80% water content so as this decomposes and is dehydrated the quantity of waste reduces dramatically and therefore the whole composting system can last a good number of ‘uses’ before needing to be emptied. Both the Separette and Natures Head say somewhere between 60 and 80 uses before needing emptying. This could be 4-6weeks or more depending on the use scenario…Maybe I need a ‘take a dump wall chart’…just imagine asking your guests to fill that in!

Anyway the way they work is you poop in one hole and pee into the other (all by sitting on one seat…no funny seating angles required, just appreciate the moment haha)…pretty straight forward when you put it like that. No flushing required but people do keep a spray bottle with some eco-friendly cleaner closer buy if needed. Be careful not to use any harsh chemical as this will kill the bacteria and put a swift end to the decomposing process…that would stink…real bad.

Composting Toilets_Top view

View of the respective separation bowls that collect the liquid and solid waste into individual canisters or drainage points.

The liquid waste is either drained immediately or in the case of the Natures Head, stored in a canister that will require emptying on a regular basis. The solid waste falls into a composting bin where it is dehydrated through a small 12V fan which runs continuously. This means the toilet is drawing in clean air and expelling the smelly air outside so they are said to be a lot more pleasant than a regular flush toilet! As the waste is dehydrated it continues to break down, not fully to soil but to what is referred to as humus, a high nutrient rich soil of sorts. Generally this is then put through a secondary composting process to become a soil that is fine to put onto your garden…preferably not around edible plants though.

Composting Toilets_Draingage and ventilation

Drainage sump illustration for the Separette along with a view of the multiple vent options for the 12v fan.

Natures head has a lever that needs to be turned to stir the moss and waste to oxygenate the contents whereas the Separette requires no manual processing.

Composting Toilets_INTERNALS

Rotating handle that needs turning after use of the Natures Head toilet. View to the right shows the internals of the Separette with the composting bin removed.


Price wise, they are not cheap! I haven’t organised a formal NZD dollar price yet with shipping etc but you can expect they will be around the 1.5-2.5K price point. That’s some fancy toilet right there!

In summary, using a composting toilet is a great environmental choice and doesn’t have to be as scary or messy as what you may have imagined. A flush toilet on the other hand ADDS drinking water to waste to only create more hard to process smelly sewage on an epic scale. Composting toilets allow natures bacteria to do its jobs and the result is nutrient rich soil that can continue its useful life cycle once more.

I will keep you informed on the quotes as they arrive and the final decision/ installation.

Glad to get that post done and dusted!

For any further information or general questions don’t be afraid to get in touch.