Are Composting Toilets Legal in Hawaii?


bathroom

Composting toilets have become increasingly popular since I began using one over 20 years ago.  Because of that, the idea of their use has become more acceptable, not only by the public but the government as well.

In the state of Hawai’i, compost toilets are legal to use, but it is up to each county to determine the installation and use.  The government tends to err on the side of commercially available compost toilets when making their approval.

The state believes that by allowing the use of compost toilets in areas that are underserved, it will benefit the people in those communities and improve the health and welfare of the state as a whole.  I love it when a law stands on the side of reason.

WHAT THE HAWAII STATE LAW HAS TO SAY ABOUT COMPOST TOILETS

So that we are completely clear, lets see exactly what Hawai’i State Senate Bill 2583 has to say about the use of compost toilets.

  SECTION 1.  The legislature finds that Act 187, Session Laws of Hawaii 2015, authorized the counties to approve the installation and use of composting toilets in areas that are inaccessible to municipal wastewater systems.  Composting toilets use no water and produce compost that can be used to enrich the soil. In certain areas of Hawaii, geological features or the limits of existing infrastructure have made the use of conventional flush and septic systems impracticable.  In such areas, the legislature finds that composting toilets are an effective way to provide toilet facilities to underserved or remote populations.

 The purpose of this Act is to mandate the counties to approve the installation and use of composting toilets in areas that are inaccessible to municipal wastewater systems, thereby benefiting the people living in those communities and the health and welfare of the State as a whole.

§27-21.6  Functions reassigned to the counties.  The following functions are hereby reassigned to the several counties:

  (5)  The regulation of the design, construction, and operation of individual wastewater systems and private wastewater treatment works; provided that:

(B)  The counties [may] shall approve the installation and use of composting toilets in areas that are inaccessible to municipal wastewater systems.  As used in this subparagraph, “composting toilet” means a toilet that uses no water or very little water and uses natural processes to treat waste.”

Source: Hawai’i Senate Bill 2583

To sum it up, the state of Hawai’i has legalized Compost Toilets.  However, it is still regulated by each county and they have all adopted rules that allow any commercially available compost toilet with an NSF approval can be used in a permitted dwelling in place of a flush toilet.

LEGALLY APPROVED COMPOST TOILETS

If you plan on going the route of building your off grid homestead that is fully permitted, then you must be sure to install an NSF Certified toilet.  There are a lot of commercially available compost toilets out there and they are not all NSF certified.

SUNMAR EXCEL COMPOST TOILEOpens in a new tab.T

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I had this toilet in the early years of our homestead when we were still thinking about going the permitted route.  As far as commercially available compost toilets, this one set the gold standard, being the first to meet NSF Certification.

I found it to work well.  It handled urine and feces pretty well, mostly by dehydrating the urine. It required a little bit of power, which was fine for our solar system.  It did not smell due to an evaporation pipe required to vent to the exterior.

I did not like that it only held a little bit before it had to be emptied.  It required regular cleaning which is a drag sometimes. It was also dependant on the purchase of additives and special activators to keep the system humming along.

For an off grid homestead with one or two people, this toilet would work well for you, but if you have a family, think about getting two.

SUNMAR CENTRIX 2000Opens in a new tab.

sun-mar-centrex-2000

For those of you with a larger family, Sunmar has put out the Centrix 2000.  This toilet can handle a family of 5. It utilizes a Sun Mar Dry Toilet (sold Separately) with a high capacity composting drum.

In order to use this unit, you must have a crawl space for installation.  It is recommended that the space available is at least 6ft high, because you will need to access it pretty regularly.

This unit does take some water with each flush, so it is not 100% waterless.  I have heard of many people rave about their use of these toilets and others wish they just went with a simple 5 gallon bucket system.

NATURE’S HEAD COMPOSTING TOILETOpens in a new tab.

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There has been some buzz surrounding this recent addition to the compost toilet market.  The reviews all seem to be very positive regarding the performance of this NSF approved toilet from Nature’s Head.

It features a waterless urine diverter, which really helps keep the odor down.  The toilet has a pretty large holding capacity, accomodating 2 people with full time use to go up to 3 weeks before needing to empty the chamber.

The installation is super easy, just place it where you want and plug it in.  Don’t worry, the toilet comes in 12v DC for those on Solar, but if you need to convert to AC, that’s available as well.

From what everyone is saying about this toilet, if you were going to choose a commercially available toilet, this would be the one to choose.

A SIMPLE COMPOST TOILET THAT ACTUALLY WORKS

bucket toilet

I for one have ditched the commercial compost toilet and have been utilizing the 5 gallon bucket compost toilet system for the past 18 years, popularized by Joe Jenkins and the Humanure Handbook.

It is really simple, I built a toilet frame out of 2×4’s and plywood, cut a hole in the top and put a toilet seat on.  Underneath the hole is a 5 gallon bucket that you use to go to the bathroom in. After going, you cover everything with some organic matter such as mulch, sawdust or peat moss.

When the bucket gets full you can take it out and place it into a special humanure compost right away, or put a lid on it and save up a couple of buckets before you dispose of them.  Once deposited into the compost pile, cover with leaves and rinse the buckets, then repeat.

The system really does not smell.  We had ours inside of the house before a number of years in a bathroom, before we remodeled and moved the bathroom into a quasi outdoor room.

It is very low cost to implement and seems to work much better than any commercial compost toilet that I’ve found.  Most people who start off with a commercial compost toilet tend to find themselves utilizing the 5 gallon bucket method because it WORKS!

BENEFITS OF COMPOST TOILETS

Even if I had the option to install a flushing toilet, I would not want to use it.  Flush toilets require centralized wastewater treatment plants or septics that contaminate waterways and groundwater.  Not to mention the despicable act of defecating in fresh water, that seems like a sin on mother nature.

Compost toilets are not only sustainable, but they are regenerative.  They turn a waste product into a valuable resource that you can use to feed the plants in your garden.

There are stories about villages in China that would have the most elaborate public compost toilets all competing with one another to attract someone to use their toilet.  The resource was considered highly valuable due to the fact that the people were of an agricultural society.

Compost toilets not only help us regain the health and vitality in or soils, they help us regain our connect to the cycles of the land.  If you’re not composting your own poop, you are not living a regenerative lifestyle. That is what we must all begin to strive for.

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Sean Jennings

Sean has been living simply Off-Grid in Hawai'i for over 18 years. He lives debt free on Hawai'i Island with his family and over 40 chickens. When he's not tinkering around the homestead, he's off exploring the shorelines for fish & surf.

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