The benefits of using composting toilets on board
The benefits of using composting toilets on board

Discover the benefits of using composting toilets on board your boat, an eco-friendly alternative to traditional marine toilets that can reduce your ecological footprint and make your sailing adventures more sustainable.

The Benefits of Using Composting Toilets on Board

As more and more people are embracing the sailing lifestyle and setting off on adventures with their families, it’s essential to consider the environmental impact of our choices. One significant way to reduce our ecological footprint while living aboard is by using composting toilets. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of using composting toilets on board, how they work, and tips for maintaining them.

Table of Contents

What is a Composting Toilet?

A composting toilet is an eco-friendly alternative to traditional marine toilets that use water and chemicals to flush waste. Instead, composting toilets use natural processes to break down human waste into a safe, odorless, and nutrient-rich compost. This compost can then be used as a soil amendment for plants or disposed of responsibly on land.

Benefits of Composting Toilets

There are several benefits to using a composting toilet on board your boat, both from an environmental and practical standpoint.

Environmental Benefits

  1. Reduced Water Usage: Composting toilets do not require water to flush, which conserves a precious resource, especially when sailing in areas with limited freshwater availability.

  2. No Chemicals: Traditional marine toilets often use harsh chemicals to break down waste, which can harm marine life and pollute the water. Composting toilets rely on natural processes, eliminating the need for harmful chemicals.

  3. Less Waste Disposal: With a composting toilet, you’ll produce less waste that needs to be disposed of, reducing the burden on waste management systems and the environment.

  4. Nutrient Recycling: The compost produced by a composting toilet can be used as a nutrient-rich soil amendment, returning valuable nutrients to the earth and promoting plant growth.

Practical Benefits

  1. Less Maintenance: Composting toilets have fewer moving parts than traditional marine toilets, which means less maintenance and fewer chances for things to go wrong.

  2. No Plumbing Required: Since composting toilets don’t require water to flush, there’s no need for complicated plumbing systems, making installation and maintenance simpler.

  3. Odor Control: When properly maintained, composting toilets produce little to no odor, making your boat a more pleasant place to live.

  4. Space Saving: Composting toilets can be more compact than traditional marine toilets, freeing up valuable space on your boat.

How Do Composting Toilets Work?

Composting toilets work by separating solid and liquid waste. Solid waste is mixed with a bulking agent, such as sawdust or coconut coir, which helps to control moisture levels and promote aerobic decomposition. This decomposition process is facilitated by microorganisms that break down the waste into a safe, odorless compost.

Liquid waste is either evaporated or collected separately and can be diluted and used as a fertilizer or disposed of responsibly on land.

Choosing the Right Composting Toilet for Your Boat

When selecting a composting toilet for your boat, consider the following factors:

  1. Size and Space: Measure the space where you plan to install the toilet and choose a model that fits comfortably within those dimensions.

  2. Capacity: Consider the number of people who will be using the toilet and how often you’ll be able to empty the composting chamber. Choose a model with a capacity that suits your needs.

  3. Ease of Use and Maintenance: Look for a composting toilet with user-friendly features, such as easy-to-remove composting chambers and simple maintenance procedures.

  4. Price: Composting toilets can range in price from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Determine your budget and choose a model that fits within your price range.

Maintaining Your Composting Toilet

Proper maintenance is essential for ensuring the efficient operation and odor control of your composting toilet. Follow these tips to keep your toilet in top shape:

  1. Add Bulking Agent Regularly: Adding a bulking agent, such as sawdust or coconut coir, helps to control moisture levels and promote aerobic decomposition. Add a handful of bulking agent after each use or as needed to maintain the proper consistency.

  2. Empty the Composting Chamber: Depending on the size of your toilet and the number of users, you’ll need to empty the composting chamber every few weeks to several months. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for emptying and cleaning the chamber.

  3. Clean the Liquid Collection System: If your composting toilet has a separate liquid collection system, be sure to clean and maintain it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

  4. Monitor Moisture Levels: The composting process relies on the proper balance of moisture. If the compost is too wet, add more bulking agent. If it’s too dry, add a small amount of water.

  5. Ventilation: Proper ventilation is essential for odor control and efficient composting. Ensure that your toilet’s venting system is functioning correctly and free of obstructions.

Common Misconceptions and Concerns

  1. Odor: Many people worry that composting toilets will produce unpleasant odors. However, when properly maintained, composting toilets produce little to no odor. Proper ventilation and moisture control are key to keeping odors at bay.

  2. Insects: Some people are concerned about insects being attracted to composting toilets. However, if the toilet is properly maintained and the composting chamber is sealed, insects should not be an issue.

  3. Health Risks: There is a misconception that composting toilets pose health risks due to the presence of human waste. However, the composting process effectively kills pathogens, rendering the compost safe for use as a soil amendment or for disposal on land.


Composting toilets offer an environmentally friendly and practical alternative to traditional marine toilets. By conserving water, reducing chemical use, and producing valuable compost, these toilets can help minimize the environmental impact of your sailing adventures. With proper maintenance and care, a composting toilet can be a valuable addition to your boat, making your journey more sustainable and enjoyable.