Periods and a Composting Toilet…
What do you do with the, blood/pad/tampon etc. Basically, how do you intersect this process with a composting toilet?
Over time I have lost any hesitance to talk about any aspect of my life. Most peoples’ first questions have to do with how I poop or how we find time/space for intimacy… I’m not real shy anymore so you’ve been warned…
I get asked about how menstruation and composting intersect a fair amount. I always have to answer, ‘I’m not sure’. I’ve been pregnant or nursing literally since the day I moved into my tiny house. I have been able to provide theoretical answers but without real life experience I always felt like a poser to do a blog on the subject… Well… I’m real now! Ha! (yeah, light at the end of the baby phase tunnel! 😉
We (as women) have several options of what to use for sanitation during shark week. They all have pros/cons, I’ll address what I think I hear as being the most common methods. Cups, disposable tampons/pads or reusable tampons/pads. Whatever you use is your preference and they CAN all be used with composting toilets.
A cup is a device that is reusable that you insert in your body. Each time you use the bathroom you empty it, rinse it out and reinsert it. Easy-peasy, and those who use them (not me) seem to be very happy with them. (this may actually be the most awkward Christmas present I ever ask for. I don’t ask for much but I have to admit I have wanted to try this method) *update* I now only use a cup and I will never go back!
Disposables: I think most people are familiar with disposable tampons and pads. You use them, then throw them away or flush them each time you potty until shark week is over. There are lots of different brands and lots of different styles. They are easy to find at any grocery store (if you want a hilarious story between a mother/daughter about the topic click here). Super convenient but can also come with some bad side effects if not used properly/changed regularly. They also carry a pretty fair amount of ’embodied energy’ meaning it takes a bit to constantly manufacture them.
Reusables: Many people also make their own (or buy) reusable pads. Sometimes it is about environmental reasons but often it is because the disposable ones are often treated with chemicals or contain chemicals which your body can become sensitive to over time (fragrances and bleach). Reusable ones tend to be a bit more ‘friendly’ to chemically sensitive people. On the same side, not everyone likes pads (me!) so there are also reusable options for something a bit less messy and a bit more discrete, reusable tampons. Weird, huh?! Not really…
so… you’ve got plenty of options! BUT…
More than just your method you also have to consider toilet options, one-step, two-step, separated solids/liquids, not separated solids/liquids.
One Step vs Two Step
One step composting toilets are toilets that don’t require any additional steps to fully compost. Once you remove the waste it is fully composted (my toilet is a one step unit). Most composting toilets you see are two step – meaning you do your business and then at a point you move the waste to a second location to fully compost. One step units usually have some sort of mechanical component to them (a rotating bin, a grating surface etc.). Because of this it is important that you don’t put any solids that won’t immediately break down (cotton tampons) in them.
Sidenote: I would also argue that you should’t ever flush disposable tampons or pads, if you’ve ever visited a water reclamation site you can see that they are a major cause of problems down the line. It’s just as easy to throw them away and they break down just as easily in the trash without the possibility of causing big plumbing issues for you, your city or any septic system.
Where does the blood go?
Most one step composting toilets automatically separate the solids and liquids but if you don’t have that then where do you put the blood? The answer is: either is fine. Some people use the urine for a specific thing (it can be useful) and it wouldn’t make sense to add full on blood to that equation (though there are blood cells in any urine anyway). On the same hand some people are super picky about not having ANY liquid in their solids lest there be a smell. In reality, you do what works for you. Some extra sawdust will usually remove the smell from being a concern. It may be a bit easier, depending on your particular toilet to stick it in the liquid area (they come from the same general area…).
Long answer for a non answer, huh? 🙂 A pretty good rule of thumb for composting is “if it comes from your body it can go in your toilet” it comes down to what works for you on HOW you handle it.
A couple other things to keep in mind
(I will admit that some of this made me a bit squeemish writing so judge me if you will be I’ve also warned you if you’re in the same boat!):
- Blood is nitrogen and protein rich, it can make great indoor plant food. Some people (probably cup users) skip the toilet all together and put the blood directly in their plant pots.
- If you haven’t read the Humanuer Handbook and you want to know about composting things find it here, free.
- Without mechanical parts in your toilet to worry about most disposable tampons and some pads ARE compostable, and compost fairly quickly.
- Be aware of any medications you’re on when composting waste. A good portions of medicines do not break down in your body or in the ground (birth controls are generally fine). Some things, like chemo drugs are very poisonous and really should be filtered out chemically (not a DIY thing).
- Use whatever toilet paper you like. In general non-scented is ‘best’ (less embodied energy and chemically) but I have never seen a TP that won’t quickly and easily compost.
If you want to learn more about all your toilet options (not just all the composting toilet types!) check out Part 3 of my eCourse all about systems and utilities. Since you found it on my blog here is a coupon for half off!)