Composting toilets: The sustainable and practical solution for your van life

Composting toilets: The sustainable and practical solution for your van life
Table of Contents

As a Vanlife fan motorhome owner, you are in search of freedom and adventure. The opportunity to explore the world in your own vehicle offers a unique experience that cannot be compared to any other type of travel. However, there are also challenges, such as the toilet issue. Depending on the type of vehicle you have, you will regularly be confronted with the search for a waste disposal station or public toilets. Especially at campsites that are away from the tourist mainstream, meeting large or small needs often becomes a challenge. Sanitary facilities can be found at campsites, but with terraced toilets, the session there often becomes a plenary session. On the one hand, open partitions help you pass the toilet paper, but on the other hand they ensure that you share more with the other campers than you sometimes like. One solution is to use a  composting toilet, which is an environmentally friendly, practical and contemporary solution.

In this article, we will explain the differences between this new alternative and conventional chemical toilets, as well as their advantages and disadvantages. We also discuss how the composting toilet can be used in different types of vehicles.

How a composting toilet works

Function of a composting toilet

A composting toilet is a mobile toilet that works completely without water and without environmentally harmful chemicals. It separates and collects urine and solids in two different containers. This is made possible by a special insert that is divided into two sections. The front section directs urine into the canister for liquids and the rear section, separated by a bar, provides an opening through which solids are directed into the designated container. The large trades are covered with litter after the session, which speeds up the drying process of the droppings by absorbing moisture. This drying and separating process results in fewer unpleasant odours, which means that the toilet can be used inside the vehicle without any problems.

Differences to the chemical toilet

Difference between chemical toilet and composting toilet

In contrast to a conventional chemical toilet, the composting toilet works without chemicals and is thus much more environmentally friendly. In addition, the annoying and sometimes very unhygienic emptying of the toilet at a disposal station is no longer necessary, as the solids are collected in separate containers and can be disposed of independently. In addition, the composting toilet does not require water for flushing. It is therefore much more resource-efficient and allows you to use water as a precious commodity for other things on the road.

Requirements for use

Interior of a composting toilet

To use a composting toilet, you first need the toilet itself, of course, which basically consists of a separating insert and two containers. In addition, there should be enough litter to bind the solids and prevent unpleasant odours. Suitable litter includes small animal litter, sawdust, fine bark mulch, agents with activated carbon, Terra Preta, coconut bricks or even dried coffee grounds. Depending on the consistency of the droppings, two cups are sufficient to cover and dry the business along with toilet paper.

Cleaning the composting toilet and disposing of the solids and urine

cleaning composting toilet

Disposing of solids and urine is much easier and more environmentally friendly than with a chemical toilet. For easier emptying of the solids container, it is recommended to line it with a waste bag before use. Recycled or compostable bags are well suited here, underlining the sustainability aspect of the composting toilet. These bags - well knotted, of course - can be disposed of either with household waste or in special composting facilities. The urine is collected separately and can be emptied in any toilet connected to the sewage system. Diluted, it can also be used as a high-quality fertiliser for the garden and balcony. 

Cleaning the toilet is comparatively simple and quick. After the containers have been emptied, you can clean the separating insert and the containers themselves with a mild cleaner. Diluted vinegar or diluted citric acid are particularly suitable. Agents with effective microorganisms are also recommended as cleaners. It is important that you never rinse the urine canister with pure water. The combination of residual urine drops and water promotes the formation of urine scale, which causes unpleasant odours.

Advantages and disadvantages of the composting toilet compared to a chemical toilet

everything you need for a composting toilet

On the one hand, this type of toilet is chemical-free and therefore more environmentally friendly and sustainable. It also gives you more freedom and independence when planning your trip. It is no longer necessary to regularly visit waste disposal stations or look for public toilets. This is especially an advantage if you are travelling in different countries or staying longer in nature and away from traditional camper routes. The toilet is always on board your vehicle and can be used at any time. Furthermore, you don't need any chemicals that may not be available for purchase everywhere. In addition, there are very compact versions that find a place everywhere. This is especially advantageous if you are travelling with a campervan, as these often have limited space.

Despite the many advantages, there are also disadvantages that should be considered when making a decision. You need litter to use the composting toilet. You need to stow this in your vehicle and allow space for it. You should also have enough rubbish bags on board to line the solid waste container.

Advantages with regard to the different vehicles

Trelino in Van

With their multiple uses, composting toilets are a great alternative for all types of campervans, whether you are travelling in a campervan, van or motorhome. They are particularly suitable for campervans with limited space, as they offer a compact way to carry your own toilet without unnecessarily wasting limited space.

For owners of panel vans and campervans that already have an integrated composting toilet, it is also possible to remove it and replace it with a composting toilet. Although permanently installed chemical toilets offer the comfort of a conventional toilet as you know it from home, they are often impractical and harmful to the environment due to their limited capacity and the necessary chemical additives. The composting toilet offers the advantage that it is chemical-free and sustainable, yet does not produce unpleasant odours. It is also much easier and more practical to empty and clean, as you no longer need to search for special disposal stations. Especially if you want to pay attention to sustainability, you should consider switching.

Since composting toilets are available in different sizes and versions, they can be installed in almost any motorhome. They offer an environmentally friendly and practical solution that allows you to enjoy the freedom of van life without having to worry about finding disposal stations or public toilets.


A composting toilet is a sustainable and contemporary alternative to a chemical toilet. Whether you have a campervan, van or motorhome, it offers many advantages and can be individually adapted to the needs of the respective vehicle. In addition, the mode of operation is simple and disposal is more environmentally friendly compared to a chemical toilet. It also offers more freedom and independence when planning your trip. However, if you decide to use a composting toilet, you should make sure that it is handled properly so that you can enjoy your van life to the full.

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