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< prev - next > Water and sanitation Sanitation Compost toilets 29 4 13 (Printable PDF)
Compost toilets
Practical Action
Operation and maintenance
Before starting to use the latrine, each chamber is half filled with straw, twigs or dry leaves.
These provide the necessary additional carbon to the composting process and along with the
faeces will compost down to a fraction of their original volume. Occasionally additional straw
may be added through the faeces hole if the contents of the chamber start to become wet or
slightly odorous. After each use, a spoonful of dry cooking ashes or lime should be sprinkled
down the faeces hole which is then closed using a simple cover.
When one chamber is full its defecation hole is sealed and use of the second chamber begins.
Once the second chamber is full the first is opened, the compost is removed and the chamber
is re-primed with straw. The compost can be put around flowers, plants or trees. The urine
and wash water go directly to the plant bed where flowering plants grow. The plant bed does
not leak to the ground because it is sealed. Being diluted by the wash water, the urine does
not smell and is quickly absorbed by the soil in the plant bed and feeds the plants. The plant
bed area depends on local climate and the number of users.
Using the compost toilet
Remove the cover.
Squat and defecate in the defecation hole and urinate in the urine funnel. (A pedestal seat
and urine catcher can be arranged if the culture favours sitting rather than squatting.)
Wash over toilet area or washing trough.
Instead of flushing, simply sprinkle a spoonful of dry cooking ashes, lime or sawdust into
the defecating hole and replace the cover.
Wash hands with soap and water.
Awareness raising
Adequate awareness raising and training needs to be given to the users in the early stages of
establishing the compost toilet. It is essential that the toilet is correctly designed and built
and that there has been a very interactive and participative approach to its introduction. If
these steps are taken, there is a far greater chance of the compost toilet being “owned,
understood and accepted” by the community which is essential if it is to be successful.
The need for interactive training and awareness raising is to unravel and dispel the
misunderstandings and confusion that often surrounds sanitation, health, hygiene, water and
the environment. For example, in one project the main interest in the compost toilet was for
the privacy it gave rather than because it was safer and more hygienic than open defecation.
At the same time, the greatest fear of the users and neighbours was that it would smell. By
knowing the fears and misconceptions, the hygiene awareness raising can be tailored to suit
the needs of a specific community.
Training of the awareness team must also be done very carefully and interactively as they may
have the same misconceptions as the community. It is often beneficial to build the team from
amongst women and youths already active in development in the community and who are held
in good regard locally. Some methods that have been effective in reaching the community are
the performance of street dramas explaining the many faecal-oral routes that give rise to
disease and relating them to every day events and habits. Illustrated leaflets can be
distributed, games played and songs sung with children and adults, both in school and leisure
time. House visits should be made to follow up the messages and discuss the dramas and
leaflets. These visits can be particularly effective since people are generally more willing to
express any doubts in private.
The cost of a toilet will vary for each location. Roughly the compost toilet depicted in Figure 3
can be built in Sri Lanka for around $400 (2013) using fired bricks, cement mortar, a
reinforced concrete slab and a ferrocement roof. While in Nepal compost toilets are being
built for around $130 (2013) up to the plinth level, the superstructure is generally built by