Regulations concerning disposal of waste from compost toilets

People are, quite rightly, concerned about the legality of disposing of solid and liquid waste from a compost toilet on their land. In the UK, the Environment Agency have produced this summary which essentially says that as long as the compost toilet is connected with domestic premises, and subject to a few conditions etc, then it’s OK.

In brief, for ‘domestic’ installations, you are permitted to use a compost toilet and to compost human ‘waste’ and use the compost on your land. You are also permitted to run urine into a soakaway pit, provided that it is located at least 10 metres from a water course and at least 50 metres from any well or borehole.

For non-domestic installations, please contact your local building regulations officer to seek specific advice for your location. In most cases, approval is readily forthcoming, provided the facilities are located in a suitable location.

Please do check with officials in your locality – this is only a guide and has been reproduced in good faith. The summary was correct when we obtained it, but is subject to possible revisions, alterations and local interpretation which may slightly or substantially alter what is or isn’t permitted.

Environment Agency summary [RM, EA, April 08] regarding:

Regulatory considerations for disposal of solid and liquid wastes from composting toilets

Solid Waste

Subject to other comments below a composting toilet generates sludge which, depending on its treatment and disposal or recovery is subject to a range of regulatory controls.  Within the context of the Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations sludge from a composting toilet is, unless site specific reasons require otherwise, regarded as septic tank sludge, i.e. ‘residual sludge from septic tanks and other similar installations for the treatment of sewage’.

If the toilet is connected with a householder (i.e. located on a domestic premise), and the waste it generates is kept within the premises (e.g. spread onto a garden), it is not subject to control under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007 or Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations 1989.  If the waste leaves the premises (e.g. to be spread onto other land) the situations described below may apply.  However, in all cases the site specific nature of the operation must be individually assessed.

If the toilet is connected with a business, and not a private individual, the composting operation may be subject to controls under Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007. For example, the Para. 12 Exemption, Schedule 3 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007 may be applicable.

Any further treatment of the waste from the composting toilet (before it is disposed or recovered/recycled) may be subject to controls under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007.  For example, if the waste is subjected to secondary composting before its disposal or recovery the Para. 12 Exemption, Schedule 3 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007 may be applicable.  Alternatively, the waste may be sent to a sludge treatment centre for treatment in accordance with the Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations 1989.

If the waste is to be spread onto agricultural land, used for industrial or food crops, this activity will be subject to controls under the Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations 1989.  There is a low risk waste activity 116 which currently allows storage of septic tank waste pending spreading and this is likely to apply until the Sludge (Use in agriculture) Regulations are amended.  Under the current Sludge Regulations guidelines on the treatment standard and spreading controls for the sludge can be found in the following documents:

  • The Safe Sludge Matrix, Guidelines for the Application of Sewage Sludge to Agricultural land, April 2001, 3rdedition.
    • DEFRA code of practice for agricultural use of sewage sludge
    • Agency leaflet ‘Sewage Sludge and Cross Compliance’
  • Guidelines for the Application of Sewage Sludge to Industrial Crops, April 2001.

The Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations are expected to be revised.  A date has not been given but we are expecting a further public consultation from DEFRA.  Therefore, the above advice may be subject to change.

Depending on the specifics of the toilet composting operation, the waste compost may be more suitable for spreading to land under an exemption to Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007.  For example, the waste may meet the definition of a waste suitable for spreading under a Paragraph 7 exemption.  It is recommended that advice be sought before registering a Para. 7 Exemption for the land spreading of composted toilet waste, falling under the definition of a type of source segregated biodegradable waste that has undergone an aerobic treatment.

Liquid Waste

For individual toilets –

Discharge direct to watercourse is not permitted.

Discharge to a soakaway is permitted provided that the soakaway is not

  • Within 10 metres of any watercourse
  • Within 50 metres of any well or borehole or spring

No consent would be required from the Environment Agency.

For larger groups of toilets –

Consent to discharge may be required and the EA should be contacted to assess any possible risks to groundwaters.

In either case contact the local Buildings Regulation Department at the local council for requirements regarding location of soakaways in relation to buildings.

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