page 1 page 2
page 3
page 4
page 5
page 6
page 7
< prev - next > Water and sanitation Sanitation Compost toilets 29 4 13 (Printable PDF)
Low-cost eco-sanitation solutions
Many types of compost toilets are available today. They
are designed to suit a variety of customs, cultures and
climates, and vary enormously in price. Composting of
human faeces is as old as the hills - it is Nature’s way of
safely reintegrating human waste with the soil. All
compost toilets, however simple or complex, are devices
for helping Nature achieve this. Contrary to popular
opinion compost toilets can be very clean and hygienic
and do not smell. They save huge quantities of water in
a world where water is becoming an increasingly
precious resource. For example, a family with a water
flush toilet would use at least 100,000 litres of water a
year for flushing. They protect surface and ground water
from sewage pollution and, unlike water flush toilets,
compost toilets do not produce sewage and do not
This technical brief looks at low-cost compost toilets
that are effective in areas where other types of toilet
may not be suitable such as water-logged areas. They do
not require electricity or great investment. Built using
local materials, it is a self-contained unit that produces
good compost and protects the soil and water from any
Figure 1: Rabi Lal Gurung outside
his newly constructed toilet in
The selection of the most appropriate type and design of Thimura, Nepal. Photo: Anna de la Vega
compost toilet will depend on many factors which include / Practical Action.
social and cultural norms, attitude to faeces, existing
hygiene and sanitation practices, sources of drinking water, availability of organic residues,
climate, soil types, patterns of habitation and local construction materials etc. Note that, in
dry climates, desiccating or drying toilets may sometimes be more appropriate than
composting toilets because the dry ambient air can be encouraged to flow through the faeces
chamber removing any moisture, thus rendering the faeces dry and odourless.
It is important to realise that any compost toilet programme also requires an education
programme to ensure that the principals of use and maintenance are clearly understood and
accepted by the user group.
In waterlogged and high water table areas, pit latrines and septic tanks can, and often do,
contaminate well water with human faeces. This is a common occurrence in coastal areas with
high population densities. In such places where open defecation on the sea shore and derelict
land is the normal practice, many families want to have their own, or at least, a community
latrine. In a crowded village, the wells and latrines would be forced to lie close together. If
septic tanks, soakaways and pit latrines are used, the well water will inevitably become
Practical Action, The Schumacher Centre, Bourton on Dunsmore, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV23 9QZ, UK
T +44 (0)1926 634400 | F +44 (0)1926 634401 | E | W
Practical Action is a registered charity and company limited by guarantee.
Company Reg. No. 871954, England | Reg. Charity No.247257 | VAT No. 880 9924 76 |
Patron HRH The Prince of Wales, KG, KT, GCB