Some states have no codes whatsoever concerning composting toilets, such as North Carolina. Then there are states that wholeheartedly embrace the composting toilet. However, it's not always cut and dried.
The laws about composting toilets are typically made by local government and can vary from county to county and state to state. Know the codes for composting toilets in the area where you plan to build before purchasing and installing the fixture.
Benefits of a Composting Toilet
Most composting toilets work by mixing waste with sawdust, wood chips or other dry material. The waste soaks up moisture to get to an ideal carbon-nitrogen ratio that, combined with the right temperature, drainage, aeration and ventilation, reduces the volume of waste so it can be used in outdoor compost.
Composting toilets are often preferred for their water- and energy-saving abilities as well as their low cost and maintenance. They can eliminate the need for tying into a main sewer line or installing a septic system. For off-grid farmers, the waste can be used as a nutrient-rich fertilizer.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average person flushes 88 gallons of water each day, and the average family of four can save about 13,000 gallons each year by updating inefficient toilets. Green Living Ideas notes that a composting toilet can save more than 6,500 gallons of water annually.
States That Embrace Composting Commodes
A few states across the country allow homeowners to install a composting toilet if there are a few things in place. The alternative wastewater system is regulated by some states that want to make sure the waste is not being mishandled. However, many states have embraced the composting toilet movement due to the environmental advantages.
Washington, Arkansas, Texas, Montana, Colorado, Idaho, Florida and Massachusetts are among the states that allow a composting toilet to be placed on a property rather than the traditional sewer system or septic tank.
Buying a composting toilet that is certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) is a way to ensure that the fixture is approved and up to local codes. This independent third-party certification verifies that the toilet is certified and manufactured by a company that follows public health and safety standards. Many states require that the composting toilet you plan to install is NSF certified.
States With Stricter Codes
It can be confusing to understand state laws, much less local laws. Some states actually make it illegal to build a home or live on land off the grid. Check with the state as well as the local building codes to be sure that you can install a composting toilet and what type is acceptable.
Each state differs on exact codes and regulations, but Nevada, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New York and New Jersey have varying regulations about where, how and when a composting toilet can be used. Check the latest regulatory changes and current codes governing your locale before purchasing and installing a composting toilet.
Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Virginia and Alabama have stricter regulations than other states, according to Primal Survivor. In some states, it may be illegal to disconnect from the power grid or harvest rainwater. This can make it difficult to operate a homestead that leans on a composting toilet.
- Greywater Action: Composting Toilet Codes and Policy
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: WaterSense Statistics and Facts
- Green Living Ideas: Save Water With Composting Toilets
- National Sanitation Foundation: NSF Home Page
- PrimalSurvivor: The Off-Grid Laws of Every State in America
- NSF: Composting Toilets
- Environmental Protection Agency: Statistics and Facts
- Tiny House Blog: Who Knew? Understanding Composting Toilet Codes
- Green Living Ideas: Save Water with Composting Toilets
- Primal Survivor: Off-Grid Laws Interactive Map
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.