‘Long drop’ loo

Before composting toilets were popular, there was a strong tradition in Australia of long-drop toilets on rural properties.  These are toilets positioned over deep holes; I’ve even heard of them set up over old mine shafts!

You could easily argue that human ‘manure’ is the most expensive fertiliser we produce on the planet, so mixing it with water then running the ‘black’ water through expensive industrial plant seems pretty crazy…  much better to retain it on-site, use natural decomposition to safely process any possible pathogens and retain the nutrients to benefit the local ecosystem.

In preparation for the BPG Permaculture Design Course which started today, we built a new composting toilet, which is positioned over a hole dug by a backhoe fitted  with a 500 mm auger.  The holes are about 1800 mm deep – and I say holes because we dug 6 in a line (more on that later).

We started by building a solid base, working off the foundation of an existing pallet.

Clara and Bri making up the frames

Side walls prefabricated and stacked waiting to be put into place

…and here they are bolted to the base (so the structure can be easily dismantled later if we need to)

Clara and James putting on the roof crossbeams

and then the roof itself.  Notice the heavy pallets on corrugated iron behind the building.  These are covering the other ‘drops’ – as each is filled, the building will move backwards on timber tracks it has been built on.

Here James and Clara are fitting the internal framing that the door will swing on.  Note the insulation paper which is recycled – yes! – from a job at my brother’s place where he wasn’t happy with the install.  Pepper and I rolled up the paper and it was back on a new building within days.  Nearly all of the composting loo is recycled materials.

This old Victorian door was chosen because it is only 710 mm wide (modern doors are 820 mm) and we wanted a narrow door so it wouldn’t ‘stick out’ past the end of the building.  It is also a nice old door which deserves to have a second (or third!) life.

Toilet seat support structures in place – and insulation wrap going around the building

Clara and Bri looking pretty happy about putting the first sheet of iron on!

North side wall iron, with openings for windows ground out

The trim around the windows is Colorbond angle bracing taken off pallets and cut to size.  We used the same angle material around most of the building.

Internal lining sheets started

Clara making lining sections by cutting up chipboard packing sheets from a local furniture factory

Fully clad inside and out so it’s painting time!  Bri paints the inside and Simon paints the outside…

Internal finish – looking gorgeous!  PDC timetable up on the back of the door.

Wouldn’t you like one at your place?

Oh, and the lovely opaque windows are sliding doors from an old kitchen dresser or built-in unit.  1950’s or 60’s I’d guess.  Sanded and repainted by Clara; they let lots of light in while retaining privacy.

Two weeks ago, there was nothing here.  Built almost entirely from salvaged materials, this composting loo is clean, tidy, attractive and smell-free… all important factors in helping people get past the deeply ingrained caution about on-site processing of humanure.