DIY Compost Loo on a Replica Dutch Style Barge

As we’ve said before, it’s always nice to hear of other people’s experiences of installing and using compost toilets. We got to hear about some work ‘Billy’ was doing to his replica dutch style barge after he’d purchased a Privy 501 compost toilet kit from us – he agreed for us to relay his story…

NB. We’ve edited the text slightly for brevity – you can see the full article by clicking on the link at the end.


Compost Toilet on a Boat, never!

Toilets on boats are always troublesome in one way or another. Many places do not allow you to use sea toilets that simply pump over the side. Holding tanks are fine but try finding somewhere to pump them out. Few and far between in many places. So on the barge I went for a 600 litre black tank that would last me 6 to 8 weeks – yeah, right. A fine Vetus macerator 24volt toilet unit was fitted. Scale build up was an issue and I have had to clean it twice due to virtually blocked pipes, anyway we muddled through despite poor flush characteristics which meant using far more water than it was supposed to.

I had to change the solenoid water valve too but that was only a fiver from Italy but I had to buy two as there was a minimum charge from the factory place. Anyway after six years the entire unit had had enough as the toilet made some unsavoury noises and stopped working. I said something a little stronger when, upon taking the unit apart, I found it was kaput, dead, nailed to the perch. The price for a new gubbins unit with the circuit board and pump unit was nearly £500 and a complete replacement toilet was £1100.

The thought of keeping several hundred litres of effluent under the saloon floor is beginning to wear thin, especially as the no smell pipes are beginning to smell. The pump out procedure is becoming a little tiresome too. Because of the emergency I have brought the porta potti into temporary use but I hate using that. I am too tight to spend cash on the blue stuff so it stinks, badly.

A year ago I was looking at composting loos but expensive they are and my own toilet was working then. The ‘Nature’s Head’ is compact but a little ‘mechanical’ if you know what I mean, whereas the Separett Villa 9010 is smooth and refined.

Still the £700 or so for a Separett or Nature’s Head seemed excessive if we didn’t get on with it. It appears that most land based compost loos are in a shed outside somewhere. What to do? Well……. Separett do a range of stuff concerning poo. They have weekend and camping options and I wondered if I could work with one of their cheaper alternatives, hence Billy’s “Poo in a Bucket MK 1.”

Billy's Poo Bucket Mk 1

Of course it will all fit into a nice box (thunder) and small fans will keep a negative air pressure, vented to the outside. This desicates the excreted material and removes any offending smells. Well this is the theory anyway.

Update #1

Well, even though we have runny noses, there is no smell. I “commissioned” the compost loo the other day when Mrs B was visiting Butlin’s with the small child. The fan is fairly unobtrusive. The extractor fan that is normally used when showering is unnecessary now and has been disconnected. A urinal pineapple chunk is used to combat scale and an empty spray bottle filled with water is used to spritz up when needed. Use no chemicals as this will ruin the bacteria in the bucket. I started the fermentation with some soil round some rotting wood and a bit of peat compost suitably moistened with a bit of pee.

The whole experience is so much better than the portapoti. Mrs B is delighted with the entire experience. That says everything!

There is a book on the web (free download) called Humanure. Rather informative. Much is said about pathogens in human poo. If you are in good western health then what you get rid of should not pose a problem. Generally we are not infested with too many worms these days. Cholera and Beri Beri etc will not be an issue. Normal hygiene standards will be fine. Use a fly screen on the vent pipe and don’t allow the material to get wet. Use a dryer, peat moss perhaps to mitigate should it ever become necessary.

Fresh clean water was used to flush the old loo. Our fresh water lasts so much longer now, great. My calculations suggest a 20% water saving.

If it turns bad I’ll let you know believe me, but so far so good.

Update #2

Well it has been ten days now since the inaugural deposit. Mrs B is delighted, no more smelly portapotti, now more stinky pump outs. Lets face it, just no more stink, full stop. Lets be brutal here even when the extractor fan was on it was always possible to know what someone else had been up to. Not so now, no nostrilic evidence at all, and I have a good nose.

I still don’t quite believe it, there you have a bucket of poo, the pile of which is getting bigger every day and it simply does not smell, at all.

I still don’t quite believe it, there you have a bucket of poo, the pile of which is getting bigger every day and it simply does not smell, at all. It looks like the bacteria are starting to get established now as there are strings of fluffy furry stuff growing. The deposits are all black through oxidisation. I will be super happy when the breakdown really gets going.

As you can see from the photos the box is a lash up from some old ply. No point in spending a fortune until we know we can live with it. So far so good.



Ticket sales have been going well, quite a few folk have expressed an interest and come to have a look. Some have even stuck their head down to check because they couldn’t believe the lack of odour.

I do keep a little bag of absorbent sawdust in case of emergencies, none yet fortunately. The tiny fan works well and the noise does not bother me and I am fretful about that sort of noise. I can hear the buzz of a phone charger at 6 yards! It reminds me of the ventilation fans on big ships, always there but background, very background and a lot better than the noise of the fridge.

[hr]Billy purchased the Separett Privy 501 which you can see more about here: Privy 501 Kit.

For more articles on the barge build etc, Billy’s blog is here:


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