Separett Composting Toilets
Separett composting toilets are only now becoming widely known in North America, although they have been used and proven in Europe for over 10 years. These are “urine separating” toilets, which divert the urine away from the main composting chamber for separate disposal.
The logic behind this is simple – most of the problems associated with composting toilets result from too much liquid in the composting chamber. If there is too much liquid you can get odor problems and leaks. Composting will not occur if the contents of the main chamber are too wet. Instead of compost, you get a tank full of sewage.
The older composting toilet designs try to get around this problem with evaporation. They use built in electric heaters and/or fans to achieve this. As long as evaporation can keep up with the liquids being introduced, this will work fine. But in the real world, they sometimes fail to keep up, and the aforementioned problems occur.
By eliminating urine at the source, Separett toilets avoid these problems. However, you do need to devise a method to get rid of the urine. Separett suggest diverting it directly into a simple drain pit outside of your home or cottage. Alternatively you can store it in a tank, dilute it 10:1 with water, and use it as fertilizer. A third option is to connect it to your gray water system. Urine is basically sterile and does not pose a health risk.
The Separett toilets come in two models – the 9200, which plugs into a regular wall outlet or the 9210, which runs on 12 volt electricity (i.e. battery, solar panel). An adapter is included with the 9210 so you can actually plug it into a wall if your needs change.
Striving for simplicity (which equals greater reliability and lower cost), there are few moving parts inside the Separett. Unlike many other toilets, there is no mechanical system to rotate the contents, no trays that must be cleaned, no drawers that slide out, and as mentioned, no heaters.
The Separett uses a removable composting bin, lined with a compostable plastic bag, to contain the solid wastes. The company states that, because very little liquid enters the bin, it should not need to be emptied frequently – but this depends on how many use it. Practically speaking, a family of four would likely empty it once every 2 months or so. When the bin becomes full, you open the toilet, close the compostable plastic bag, and roll out the inner composting bin. The Separett comes with three of these inner bins, so you simply replace the full one with an empty one. Put the lid on the bin you just removed, and let it sit somewhere for about 6 months for the contents to fully break down. After 6 months, it is safe to put the contents on ornamental plants.
A big advantage of the Separate is that the inside of the toilet itself stays clean. All waste is contained in the compostable bags and removed. You are never faced with cleaning composted, semi-composted and (yuck) un-composted feces from inside the toilet. This is a common (and unpleasant) task with older styles of composting toilets.
With the three included composting bins, the Separett has essentially unlimited capacity. You can purchase extra bins if large numbers of people are using the toilet.
One nice feature is the weight activated “door”. The lower chamber remains tightly sealed at all times, but once you sit on the seat the door automatically opens, allowing solids to drop below.
The Separett is an attractive toilet that would not look out of place in any home. There is no awkward step up, as with some models. It seems well made and sturdy. There are no complex inner workings, like mechanical “raking” systems that are prone to failure. There is a 5 year warranty. Separett is made by well paid and fairly treated workers in Sweden, which makes the very reasonable price surprising.
See a detailed installation video here.