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2024-05-02

Composting latrine waste

Here you will find essential tips to get started with your latrine compost.


What should you consider when composting latrine waste? Here you'll find tips to help you start your latrine composting efficiently. With our toilet solutions, you become part of the cycle! You can easily compost latrine waste with a compost system that suits your needs. We recommend a latrine compost where you can compost toilet and household waste together—a great solution for easily and independently producing soil improvements!


The content of a latrine compost varies significantly depending on the type of toilet solution you have, with or without urine. With urine in the compost, you will get a very wet and nutrient-rich compost, and without urine, it will be quite dry and poor in nutrients, at least in nitrogen. Toilet paper is also dry and nutrient-poor.


Keep in mind that latrine can contain infectious material such as bacteria and viruses. It must always be handled in a way that prevents the spread of infection. You always need to be careful and handle your latrine in a safe manner.


Check local regulations

All municipalities have regulations for composting. Before you get a compost, you should check what applies in your municipality. A permit is always required for latrine composting, so remember to apply in good time. Information and forms are often available on the municipality's website. Regulations may vary, but when it comes to latrine composting, they usually involve:


> The container must have a sealed bottom and a lid so that any infectious organisms cannot reach the groundwater.

The material must remain in the container for a certain period after the last filling, usually 12–24 months, but sometimes longer. During this period, it is assumed that the infectious bacteria will have died. To ensure this, the municipality usually requires that latrine composting consists of two separate parts, which in turn means two different containers.

> The compost container must have a certain volume. Typically, 350 liters in two containers if only latrine waste is to be composted and 500 liters if it is to be co-composted with food waste. Note that the volume applies to holiday homes. For permanent residences, twice the volume is often required.


When it comes to household waste, the compost should generally be insulated, ventilated, and pest-proof, and you should place and maintain it in a way that does not disturb your neighbors. Read more about the regulations for household and/or garden waste here.


Placement of compost

Start by considering where you will place the compost. Preferably choose a shady location as the compost will more likely lead its own life and not be affected as much by the sun. Ensure there is room for two containers and space to work with the compost. For example, it might be good to have space for a wheelbarrow when you need to empty the compost. Municipal regulations rarely contain any rules about where on the property the compost should be placed. Avoid placing the compost near a drinking water source or in a place that could disturb the neighbors in any way.

If you are composting household waste, it is also good to have bulking material on hand. It is needed to ensure good functionality in the composting process. Bulking materials can be sawdust, cutter shavings, partially decomposed leaf compost, shredded newspaper, or peat moss. Note that you should not use bulking material for latrine composting alone, as this would result in too little liquid and nutrients for effective composting.


Latrine management: the importance of oxygen, water, and balance

Efficiently managing latrine waste can significantly simplify your daily life. There are several steps in the process where smart choices can make a big difference. In the compost, bacteria and microscopic fungi will break down the material into its components, including carbon dioxide, water, and nutrients. To ensure the right type of microorganisms thrive and work effectively, it is crucial to have sufficient oxygen, adequate water, and a balance between nutrient-rich and nutrient-poor materials. Below are some basic measures that can facilitate latrine management:


Latrine bags and materials

A simple measure to improve the management of the latrine container is to use compostable bags. These bags are available in various degrees of biodegradability depending on the material and are suitable for systems with and without urine management. Latrine bags make handling the emptied latrine container more pleasant and straightforward.

To manage the liquid that has accumulated at the bottom of the compost container, it is recommended to lay a foundation layer of peat moss. Peat moss has a good ability to absorb liquid and is a cost-effective option that can also be reused in the garden. The amount of peat moss needed at the bottom of the compost container depends on whether the barrel contains urine and the amount of material to be composted. It is important not to mix the bottom layer with the compost material above, as it is intended to handle the liquid. If you have a urine-separating toilet and have used an absorbent cloth in the latrine container, this cloth has absorbed the liquid. Moreover, the absorbent cloth, made from 100% natural fiber, can also be thrown into your latrine compost.


Emptying and refilling

When emptying the latrine container, use a fork or compost screw to make a small hole in the compost material, then empty the contents of the container and cover it. This suffices as mixing during the active period of the compost. If you have already placed bulking material in the latrine compost, you may need to add more material to achieve the right balance. It is crucial that the mixture is neither too wet nor too dry. Adjust the amount of bulking material as needed, which is crucial for maintaining an effective composting process.A latrine compost typically does not operate at as high a temperature as a household compost. The temperature often does not exceed the surrounding air temperature, and in a holiday home where no refilling occurs in winter, the material freezes. However, it thaws in the spring, and then the process continues. If the latrine compost is managed correctly, it normally takes 12–24 months to produce finished compost soil, which can then be emptied. This also satisfies municipal regulations that require emptying no sooner than six months after the last filling. Expect that there may be an odor when you dig out the wet bottom material. Work the material into the garden compost or cover it with garden compost or soil for a while to eliminate the odor.


Effective management through co-composting

When you have a compost system where you can co-compost household and latrine waste, maintenance becomes significantly easier, but its management can vary depending on the type of toilet solution you have. There are various toilet models that handle waste differently, affecting both the efficiency of composting and the maintenance requirements.


Benefits of different toilet models

If you have a urine-separating toilet, where the urine is directed to infiltration or to an Ejectortank, you will have less liquid in the compost and the maintenance is adjusted accordingly. If you have a toilet that does not separate the urine from the dry waste, you will have more liquid to manage, and the maintenance will be different.

Using a urine-separating toilet, where the urine is directed either to infiltration or an Ejectortank, means the compost contains less liquid. This type of toilet system makes compost management easier because it results in a drier compost, which is simpler to handle. With less liquid in the compost, there is also a reduced risk of bad odors, and it makes the further processing of the solid waste easier.

On the other hand, if you have a toilet that does not separate the urine from the solid waste, the compost will be wetter, which requires a different maintenance routine. Although it is possible to compost latrine even when urine is included, the process is much simpler and less demanding without the presence of urine. Urine separation not only offers the advantage of easier handling; it also contributes to a more pleasant toilet solution by reducing odor production and makes it easier to manage waste bins. Moreover, it allows you to use the nutrients in the urine as fertilizer. Therefore, it might be advantageous to choose a urine-separating insert for your outdoor toilet, or to choose a urine-separating toilet for your cabin.


Handling & Dispersion of Urine

Did you know that during a day, a person produces more urine than feces? Therefore, having only a urine toilet can be advantageous; both for simple management of the latrine compost and for spreading the urine as plant nutrition.

When you have a urine-separating toilet, it becomes necessary to manage not just the contents of the latrine compost but also the separate container with urine. Of course, it is not mandatory to reuse the urine, but it is one of the great advantages of having a urine-separating toilet; you can reuse all your waste. When you do not have urine in the latrine compost, the content will be drier and poorer in nutrients, especially nitrogen, although it still contains a good amount of both phosphorus and potassium, which makes it ideal for composting and use as fertilizer.

When it comes to fertilizing with urine, it is always important to check the local regulations, as they vary in each municipality and are therefore a must to do before you can handle your waste. If you are allowed to use the urine as plant nutrition, you can advantageously use an Ejectortank. It is a good solution for those who want to spread the urine and make it a less labor-intensive moment. To reduce the risk of odor when spreading, it can be treated by watering with a little water. There are different ways to fertilize your garden and flowerbed; the urine can be filled in a trench or in a pit after which soil is put back over.


Handling of Compostable Bio Bag

When you have a urine-separating toilet, you should ideally line your latrine container with a compostable bio bag, preferably using the most easily degradable bags, such as those made from cornstarch. These normally do not begin to break down in the latrine container, but they take the shortest time to decompose in the latrine compost. Important to remember when using compostable bio bags:


1. Never tie the bag.

2. Don't place the bag in a corner of the compost, this will slow down the decomposition.

3. Make holes in the bag to speed up the decomposition process or

4. Pour out the contents and throw the bag into the compost.


The decomposition process varies because the bag's decomposition time is affected by the biological activity in the soil or compost and exposure to sunlight. Since the compostable bio bags are designed to withstand the long time in the container, the decomposition in the soil or compost is also slow.

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This type of integrated waste management system not only improves sanitation but also contributes to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle. This is an option for those who really want to take advantage of their waste and recycle it in the best way possible.

Good luck!


Source: https://www.avloppscenter.se/kunskapsbank/allt-om-kompostering/latrin-kompost/