Composting Toilet Pros and Cons

Composting Toilet Pros and Cons

If you’re interested in ditching a traditional flush toilet for a more sustainable option, it’s helpful to learn about composting toilet pros and cons.

Even if you’re familiar with composting, you likely have some questions about these toilets and whether or not they’ll fit into your living situation, whether that’s a house, RV, or boat.

How Does a Composting Toilet Work?

Before we explore the pros and cons of composting toilets, let’s address how they work.

As you might have guessed, these types of toilets rely on composting to deal with human waste. Like all types of composting, this process is driven by a suite of microorganisms.

Composting Toilets Pros and Cons

To keep the composting of waste running smoothly, you must control a number of factors. These include the carbon to nitrogen ratio, aeration, and moisture content.

Since human waste, especially urine, is high in nitrogen, users must mix in other materials to achieve the proper carbon to nitrogen ratio. Some common choices for carbon-rich materials include peat moss, sawdust, and coco coir.

In order to keep the decomposition process running smoothly, it’s important to provide the proper aeration and drainage. If you don’t, the compost may go anaerobic, leading to smelly conditions and improper decomposition.

Many composting toilets include a vent and fan to increase aeration. Some models even include a device to mix and aerate the composting waste.

What are the Different Types of Composting Toilets?

While all composting toilets work in the same way, there are some differences in their structures.

Self-contained systems have a waste collection bin attached below the seat of the toilet. Users can remove and empty this small bin.

Central systems have a larger, separate waste collection bin. Usually, this bin is located below the floor of the composting toilet or outside. Some types of central systems use a vacuum to draw waste to a collection bin in another room.

Both self-contained systems and central systems can be either single chamber toilets or urine-diverting toilets.

Single chamber toilets collect both solid and liquid waste in one chamber. When urine breaks down, it releases ammonia, which can slow the decompositions process. Also, it has quite the putrid smell.

Urine-diverting toilets separate solid and liquid waste. Users compost the solid waste, and remove the sterile urine separately.

Now let’s consider composting toilet pros and cons:



  • Reduces water use and therefore water costs
  • Removes the need for a septic system/black waste tank
  • Provides fertilizer
  • Eliminates the need to transport raw human waste


  • Requires consistent maintenance
  • Higher upfront costs than traditional flush toilets
  • Users must handle human waste
  • Smells and insects can occur with improper maintenance
  • Improper systems can lead to pathogen-filled waste

Composting Toilet for RV

When you add a composting toilet to an RV, you no longer have to access and rely on water to use the toilet. Furthermore, there’s no need to look for a spot to dump a black water tank.

Since RVs are small spaces, self-contained composting toilets are the best bet. These toilets contain a chamber and toilet in one package, and you can set them right on the RV floor.

It’s important to remember that solid waste in a composting toilet can still contain harmful microorganisms.

Therefore, don’t just dump it in the woods and assume it will be fine. Rather, add it to a functioning compost pile or dispose of it in the trash if necessary.

Composting Toilet for Tiny House

While tiny houses are small spaces like RVs, they’re often stationary. Therefore, the best compost toilet for tiny houses can handle either self-contained or central composting toilet systems.

Compost Toilet Waste in Garden

The waste chamber for central systems can be located outside of the tiny house or underneath the home. If you choose a central system toilet, you’ll need to empty your waste chamber less frequently than if you choose a self-contained toilet.

If you wish to use the waste in your garden, you’ll need to make sure the waste reaches a temperature that kills harmful microorganisms. After emptying your waste chamber, you can form larger compost piles that are capable of reaching the required temperatures.

Once the pile reaches the proper temperature for a long enough period of time, you can add it to your garden.

Marine Composting Toilets

If you want to avoid dealing with waste tanks and pump-outs on a boat, you don’t have to resort to using a bucket as a toilet. Composting toilets are practical options for boats of all kinds.

Self-contained toilets are good options for boats, since they require a small amount of space. As with RVs, make sure to empty your partially composted waste in a proper location.

Composting Toilet for Cabin

If you have a rustic cabin in the woods, water and sewer might not be easily accessible. Rather than dealing with the expenses and troubles of installing these services, you can install a composting toilet.

Central system toilets can work in cabins, since you can install a large chamber below the toilet. If you don’t want the toilet in the cabin, you can install a composting toilet in an outhouse.

Portable Composting Toilet for Camping

If you’re camping in a tent or pop-up, it’s nice to have some of the conveniences of home. Composting toilets allow you to do your business in a way that is comfortable and leaves no trace.

Portable composting toilets are self-contained systems that are meant for short trips. Before you buy one, make sure to check the waste chamber is large enough to handle your needs.


Do composting toilets smell?

If you’re doing everything properly, then no! However, composting toilets can start smelling if users don’t provide the proper aeration, materials, and maintenance.

How much do composting toilets cost?

The initial cost of composting toilets ranges from $125 for a portable composting toilet to upwards of $5,000 for a central system.

Incinerating toilet vs. composting toilet

Incinerating toilets burn waste into sterile ash while composting toilets break waste down using microbiology.

How is an electric composting toilet different?

Electric composting toilets rely on electricity to aerate the system and heat up the waste.

Wrapping up Composting Toilets

No matter where you live, off the grid toilet options are always an option. We hope this look at composting toilet pros and cons have helped you decide on which option is best for your lifestyle.

Remember that while composting toilets significantly reduce reliance on utilities and help divert waste, they do require proper care and maintenance.

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