composting human waste with worms

by Mynx
(Knoxville, TN)

Hi,

I recently purchased a flushing Coleman camp toilet with an 18 gallon waste tank attachment. I think it uses very little, if any, water. I wonder if I can just throw some worms from my compost into the tank with the poo to be added back to the compost pile later, if that would work. I wonder if the bedding is necessary in this case. Thanks!
Mynx

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Oct 28, 2019
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Worms must breathe
by: Stephan

There are a number of problems I see here which need to be solved in order to go ahead with this basically noble idea. You do not want anaerobic digestion taking place where you have worms. This would happen if the tank is airtight. Worms need to breathe oxygen, like any air breathing animal, which they do through their skins, which are like lungs. Their 'lungs' or skin is also burned in the presence of ammonia which is a by product of degrading urine. Ammonia is effectively absorbed by there being a lot of dry organic matter, but this also sets up the hot composting process, which once again is bad for the worms. They can't take too much heat. They also drown in too much liquid, if their bedding gets to wet for prolonged periods. Dry organic matter like sawdust soaks up this liquid. In a normal compost pile they can move in and out as the heat, moisture content and chemistry of the pile changes, but in a tank they will be trapped. If you could find a way of draining off the excess urine, or separating it, or adding lots of absorbent organic material like sawdust from untreated wood, so that the feces remain damp but not swimming in any loose liquid, and there is some aeration in the tank and adding of material is slow it should be feasible. Many tiny house owners have worm toilets, but they add some organic matter to absorb ammonia, a little sawdust on each pile. I also advise that you add the fecal matter slowly, so that the worms have time to process it before there is a thick layer that traps heat, ammonia and cuts off oxygen. If you can manage these things then you should have solved the problem. I know of people who have worms visiting their Joe Jenkins style composters, and I myself have fed humanure to worms for over six months. However, I put the feces in shallow, well aerated worm trays, on a bed of predigested vermicast and organic matter, and only seven or so poops per tray, moving to a new tray every week. In two months the worms had done their good work. After this the vermicast must stand for at least a year before you use it on the garden, as this brings down the pathogen count enormously. It is especially important where cross infection between groups of individuals can occur and is thus governed by state legislation.

May 30, 2013
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re: worms eat human waste
by: Stephan Admin

Hello Mynx,

thank you for your excellent question.
Worms can definately be used to eat poop!

We have several worm bins that have been fed dog poop exclusively for up to 8 years now. The worms are thriving and are multiplying rapidly in those bins.

There are quite a few designs for compost toilets available worldwide and many people are successfully using them.

It might be best to use some bedding initially for the worms. The bedding is usually only needed to offer the worms a retreat in case they get covered with acidic materials which could harm them.

I don´t know the design of your toilet but I really don´t see any reason why you shouldnt add compost worms to your toilet and let them eat your poo.

Once you empty your toilet, by all means add the processed worm compost and remaining poop to your compost heap.

Please let me know about the progress of your compost toilet project.

Kind regards

Stephan


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