One of the biggest challenges associated with self-sufficiency is properly disposing of human waste. Not only does waste pose an existential health risk, but decomposing matter also attracts all kinds of pests. While there are plenty of tips, tricks and guidelines out there that can help to keep waste from accumulating in the wrong places, one excellent method is often overlooked: Making Humanure.
Humanure is a common way to describe the process of composting human waste into usable manure. While the idea of processing and introducing waste into the garden may seem repulsive at first, it’s actually a great way to give soil and crops much-needed nutrients while addressing the problem of waste disposal at the same time.
Isn’t Humanure Dangerous?
While it is possible for pathogens and contaminants to spread from untreated waste, composting usually kills off these microorganisms long before the finished product is introduced into the soil. The biggest risk comes from wastes that were produced by someone who is sick or is taking certain medications. However, this problem is easily solved by keeping those wastes from the rest of the compost pile.
In all actuality, making humanure is just as safe as composting food scraps or other types of organic material. The trick is to make sure that the compost pile is reaching temperatures that are hot enough to kill most harmful microorganisms. Fortunately, most compost piles will generate enough heat during the process to eliminate these threats as long as they are properly-maintained.
Keep it Simple
The process of making humanure is not that complicated, and you only need to follow some basic guidelines. The easiest thing to do is to make a toilet that sits atop a 5 gallon bucket. Line the bottom of the bucket with a layer of cover material, let the waste fall before covering with another scoop or two of material. When the bucket is full, dump it into your regular compost pile and you’re good to go. While there are limitless ways that you can put your own spin on this system, try to resist the urge to make things more complicated than necessary.
The key to establishing a good base for humanure is to use appropriate cover. Good cover material includes things like hay or straw, dried grass, crumpled leaves, sawdust or peat moss. Put a generous layer above any “deposits” that you make, and make sure that it is completely-covered. This will speed up the degradation process while reducing odors and keeping unwanted pests at bay.
The Compost Heap
When the time comes to empty the bucket, dig out a small hole in the center of your existing compost pile, dump the material, and top it off with a fresh layer of cover. Expect the wastes to take anywhere from 1-2 years before the they have degraded enough to be incorporated into soil. However, this can vary depending on the characteristics of individual compost piles.
That’s about all there is to this process, and you will be amazed at how much humanure a family can produce over the course of a year. Not only is this a great way to recycle wastes and nourish gardens, but you’ll also save hundreds of gallons of water every month because you don’t need to flush the toilet.