Dry Toilet Systems

January 11, 2018

Composting toilets capture fecal matter mixed with organic material such as sawdust in vaults or pits.  Under properly managed conditions, heat is produced and aerobic decomposition takes place so that excreta is transformed into humus-like compost suitable for use as a soil amendment.  No-mix container-based toilets separate urine from feces, reducing the overall volume of excreta and making it easier to deal with and to recycle in agriculture.

The past 50 years has seen a huge and irregular body of literature on this topic. For composting toilets to emerge from a practical artisanal backyard technology and scale in contemporary society requires meticulous R&D and code change savvy.

Portland,Oregon-based Recode works with early adopters and state code officials to update regulations regarding site-built composting toilets in Oregon, Washington and California.  Read their 2017 white paper Opportunities for Achieving Next Generation Water Infrastructure in California, Oregon and Washington.

Learn More  

 The SuSanA Sanitation Library has hundreds of free, open source documents on waterless toilet systems. The Composting Processes section of the SuSanA Forum is a place where anyone can post questions and get answers from experts and practitioners.  A concise introduction to Composting Toilets is part of the SSWM Toolbox.

The SOIL Guide to EcoSan The expertise of SOIL Haiti in closed loop urine-diverting dry toilet systems is second to none in North America.  Request their 2011 guide and keep up with their progress by reading peer-reviewed reports of their federally funded research.

A Sewer Catastrophe Companion: Dry Toilets for Wet Disasters   Written by Recode experts, reviewed by PHLUSH, and endorsed by the City of Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, this guide demonstrates the system that served after earthquakes destroyed sanitation systems in Haiti and New Zealand.

Compendium of Sanitation Systems and Technologies. By Elizabeth Tilley et al.  Eawag, 2014.  This introduction to composting toilet technologies is a useful tool for making informed decisions.  It includes 52 illustrated Technology Information Sheets that describe the main advantages, disadvantages, applications and the appropriateness of technologies required to build everything from simple toilets to comprehensive sanitation systems.

An Unsolicited Design Review of Composting Toilets & Composting Methods This short, illustrated work by Mathew Lippincott and Molly Danielsson makes the case for the shift away from water-based sanitation and details the options.


Our Mission Through education and advocacy, PHLUSH helps local governments and citizen groups to provide equitable public restroom availability and to prepare for a pipe-breaking seismic event with appropriate ecological toilet systems.

Our Vision Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.

Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH) was founded in Portland, Oregon and today collaborates with groups across North America.

PHLUSH is a member of the World Toilet Organization and a partner in the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

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