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This may belong on either politics or law. Given that vermiculture toilets now have a bit of a track-record and that the cost of pumping vault toilets is quite significant, why doesn't the US government use worm-compost style toilets, especially in remote areas administered by BLM, USFS, NPS, etc...?

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  • Why did you tag this legality?
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 15 at 8:50
  • @gerrit There are lots of laws surrounding sewage treatment, and I don't know them. From what I've read, it's nearly impossible to permit a residential facility in the US. I say nearly because I believe in the correct state with a sympathetic and talented board/inspector, there are a few in use.
    – user121330
    Commented Mar 15 at 17:55
  • If only human waste went into the composting toilets it might be OK. However...
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Mar 18 at 14:49
  • @JonCuster Your point is well taken, but worms are pretty tolerant of a pretty diverse feedstock
    – user121330
    Commented Mar 18 at 16:54

1 Answer 1

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The volumes produced by composting toilets in areas that are currently served by toilets that need pumping out would add up to a lot of fertiliser, and fertiliser in a natural environment isn't often desirable. So it might need trucking out anyway (and the wet component of the waste still ends up in the soil locally in some types).

On the other hand, in other wilderness areas I have seen the traditional long drop at official locations, where a new hole is dug and the toilet relocated when the old hole is full. They of course have to be sited carefully, and work best if not too heavily used. They also introduce nutrients into the soil.

Modern composting toilets tend to be fairly limited in their throughput, which would mean a need to over-provide to cope with very busy times. That adds upfront cost, and it can be easier to pay the ongoing cost of emptying than the capital cost of building something new - which still has ongoing costs as they need more maintenence.

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  • The volumes they'd produce add up to a lot of fertiliser — that depends on the amount of traffic, doesn't it? I've used outhouses in places that probably saw substantially less than five people per year.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 15 at 8:48
  • @gerrit that's certainly true, and indeed so have I, but I didn't read the question as being about those, because of the contrast to toilets that need pumping out (and are therefore accessible by truck).
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 15 at 8:51
  • @gerrit I'd hope they'd choose the best-use-cases first - replacement or new builds with consistent traffic in moderate climes where fertile soil wouldn't be out of place. For less-ideal cases, more testing and engineering would need to happen, but USFS would be a great agency to do that. As for ideal volumes, even in high-traffic areas, what I've read indicates that volumes are less than a third of vault toilets, so that'd mean 1/3 of the pump/removals when the compost couldn't be used in situ.
    – user121330
    Commented Mar 15 at 16:41

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