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themerryonion 10-01-2013 05:26 PM

Composting Toilets vs. Holding Tank
I'm sure this has been discussed to death, but I'm new to boating and couldn't find a thread on this topic.

We recently bought a 1976 Catalina 27 with no holding tank. We'd like to live on board, which means we have to install either a holding tank or a composting head. We're leaning toward the latter, but I read in the news that Parks Canada was having some issues with composting toilets not working as well as advertised.

Does anyone have any experience with these?

pdqaltair 10-01-2013 05:41 PM

Re: Composting Toilets vs. Holding Tank
Hint: Most forum search engines are flawed. Try Google with "sailnet composting head" and you find many.

davidpm 10-01-2013 05:51 PM

Re: Composting Toilets vs. Holding Tank
I looked up the article you referenced and found this quote:

"Hill believes one of the problems is that liquid and solid waste are not separated at source. As a result of mixing the two before the urine is screened out, he says ammonia in the feces rises to levels that cannot support the micro-organisms needed for the composting process."

This makes total sense in a public park where there is no chance of teaching people how to use the facilities.

In your own boat if you are a guy you have to sit so your pee stream goes in the pee bottle.
The boat devices are designed for separation, that is what makes them work.

I have no personal experience, a little more searching will net you many commends from people that love them and hate them.

Pros: Simple and saves space.
Most people say the odor is less than with a holding tank even though a perfectly operating tank has no odor either.
I think the concept is that

Cons: You are dealing with a pee bottle every couple of days, most people just dump it overboard.
They sit a little higher
You have to have someplace to keep a spare 5gal pail of stuff to age before you dump it.
You have to have peat or other stuff to mix in.

In short is is very different. Neither solutions is without issues.
Hoses, pumpouts, joker valves, clogs etc
peatmoss, pee bucket, aging bucket, bucket disposal.

Many people that have the nature type heads love them, a few do not.
Pooping seems to be a personal issue in more than one way.

If you over use it it, more than the number of people expected it can be a real mess.
Over using a holding tank means you have to pump more often which can be a mess if you forget, don't ask how I know.

In any event any issues in a public park have no bearing at all on your 27' boat.

davidpm 10-01-2013 05:52 PM

Re: Composting Toilets vs. Holding Tank
The search trick is to in google start like this: the words I want to search on

Brent Swain 10-01-2013 06:08 PM

Re: Composting Toilets vs. Holding Tank
Maybe I should sell parks Canada a separator seat-bowl, so theirs will work. Maybe I should suggest they take a mold off mine, and make their own.
A footrest in the right place deals with the extra height issue.
I have been using a separator seat- composting head for several years now, and, like most people using them, I would never put a conventional head and holding tank in my boat.

themerryonion 10-01-2013 08:07 PM

Re: Composting Toilets vs. Holding Tank
I was sort of leaning that way after reading the article. I feel that the lower maintenance and fewer parts would be a real bonus for a composting toilet.

(Also, thanks for the search tips!)

Does anyone know if you have to buy one or can you make your own?

MikeOReilly 10-01-2013 08:18 PM

Re: Composting Toilets vs. Holding Tank
We installed a new composting head (Nature's Head) this season. Love it. It's perfect for a two-person full-time crew. Simple. Space saving. Safer. Will never go back.

There is a learning curve. It is different than a standard marine head. But on the scale of plusses vs minuses, a composting head wins hands down for us.

themerryonion 10-01-2013 08:31 PM

Re: Composting Toilets vs. Holding Tank
Good to know, Mike. What do you do to dispose of the waste?

MikeOReilly 10-01-2013 08:44 PM

Re: Composting Toilets vs. Holding Tank

Originally Posted by themerryonion (Post 1097141)
Good to know, Mike. What do you do to dispose of the waste?

Urine goes over the side, every couple of days. We carry two bottles, so never a problem. Waste bucket gets dumped in the bush. Our anchorages are remote and pretty wild -- much like the PNW. If I was out to sea (we're on the Great Lakes), I'd dump over the side out past the 3 nm limit. In urban areas you could take it into a public toilet I suppose. So far, no problem.

Dreaming 10-02-2013 03:07 PM

Re: Composting Toilets vs. Holding Tank
After Reading Breaking Seas and Mr. Damato's experience with a composting head I was discouraged from installing one.

The other consideration is that if and when I sell my boat, the targeted buyer's are most likely going to want a traditional holding tank system and will see a composting head as a con.

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