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Self-Contained Batch Composting VS Continuous Composting Toilets: What’s the Difference?

When you think about eco-friendly living, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s solar panels, reusable shopping bags, or cycling to work. But have you ever considered your bathroom habits?

Composting toilets are a sustainable alternative to conventional toilets, especially for those seeking greener living solutions. Among the various types of composting toilet systems, self-contained batch and continuous composting toilets stand out.


What Are Composting Toilets?

Composting toilets transform human waste into compost through a biological process, offering a waterless alternative to traditional flush toilets.

Self-Contained Batch Composting Toilets

These toilets collect waste in sealed containers and set it aside to compost, with new containers replacing full ones.

Continuous Composting Toilet

This system continuously processes waste, mimicking natural decomposition and handling new material as it arrives.

Differences Between Continuous and Self-Contained Composting Toilet

Batch systems need less frequent but more straightforward maintenance, while continuous systems require regular attention and handling.

What Are Composting Toilets?

Waterless Toilet Systems for Greener Future | Types of Urine Diverting Toilets


Composting toilets are a revolutionary alternative to traditional flush toilets. Unlike conventional toilets that use water to carry away human waste, composting toilets manage waste through a biological process that turns it into compost. There are various types, including self-contained composting toilets, continuous composting toilets, and split system composting toilets, each offering unique advantages based on the composting system employed.

The Composting Process

The composting process in these toilets is driven by aerobic bacteria, which require oxygen to break down waste into compost. This biological decomposition process involves several stages:

  1. Collection and Aeration: Human waste is collected in the composting chamber, where it is aerated to supply sufficient oxygen. It can be achieved through mechanical agitation or by maintaining proper airflow with a vent pipe.

  2. Moisture Management: Adequate moisture levels are essential for the composting process. Excess moisture is controlled through drainage systems or by adding cover material like sawdust, which absorbs liquid waste.

  3. Temperature Control: Maintaining optimal temperature is crucial for efficient composting. Some systems use solar heat to enhance the composting process, especially in colder climates.

  4. Decomposition and Stabilization: Aerobic bacteria break down the waste, producing carbon dioxide, heat, and compost. The controlled aerobic process ensures the safe and efficient conversion of waste into usable compost.

  5. Routine Maintenance: Depending on the type of composting system, routine maintenance may include turning the compost pile, adding bulking agents, and monitoring moisture and temperature levels.

Environmental Benefits of Composting Toilets

Some key environmental benefits of composting toilet systems:

Water Conservation

Composting toilets are waterless systems, eliminating the need for flush water. Conventional toilets can use up to 1.6 gallons per flush, adding to significant water usage over time. By switching to a compost toilet, you reduce your water consumption, contributing to water conservation efforts.

Reducing Pollution

Traditional flush toilets often lead to water pollution due to the discharge of untreated or partially treated sewage into water bodies. Composting toilets prevent pollution by managing human waste on-site, thus reducing the risk of groundwater contamination and protecting aquatic ecosystems.

Lower Carbon Footprint

The operation of composting toilets typically relies on passive processes that require minimal energy compared to conventional sewage treatment plants. Additionally, by producing compost locally, these systems reduce the need to transport waste, further lowering the overall carbon footprint.

Self-Contained Batch Composting Toilets

GL 90 Self-Contained Composting Toilet System With Toilet Seat and Composter

The batch composting process involves collecting waste in a container until it’s full. Once a container reaches capacity, it’s sealed and set aside to compost. Meanwhile, a new container is put in place to collect fresh waste. Such separation ensures that the composting process can proceed uninterrupted, allowing aerobic bacteria to break down the waste like human excreta.

Advantages of Self-Contained Batch Composting Toilet

Self-contained batch composting toilets offer numerous advantages, such as:

Environmental Benefits

Self-contained batch composting toilets reduce water usage compared to traditional flush toilets. Utilizing a waterless toilet system helps to minimize the environmental footprint associated with water treatment and sewage management.

Off-Grid Living

For those embracing off-grid living, a self-contained batch composting toilet offers a perfect solution. Without requiring a connection to a sewage system or a continuous water supply, these toilets are ideal for remote locations, cabins, boats, and eco-friendly homes.

Simple Maintenance

Compared to continuous composting systems, batch composting toilets often require less frequent maintenance. The composting process in these units is typically more controlled, allowing for better management of human waste decomposition.


With no need for water or sewage connections, the installation and operating costs are lower. Additionally, the compost produced can be used to enrich garden soil, reducing the expense of purchasing commercial fertilizers.

Reduced Odor

Designed to manage odors effectively, the composting chamber is well-ventilated, allowing for sufficient oxygen to aid the aerobic bacteria in breaking down the waste. Proper ventilation minimizes unpleasant smells, making the toilet room a more pleasant environment.

Waterless Composting Toilets Buying Options

Disadvantages of Self-Contained Batch Composting Toilet

While there are many advantages to using self-contained toilets, there are also some drawbacks to consider:

Initial Cost

Despite long-term savings, the initial investment in a self-contained batch system can be higher than that of a conventional flush toilet. Some individuals considering making the switch to a more sustainable toilet system may see it as a barrier.

Space Requirements

A self-contained batch composting toilet often requires more space than traditional toilets. The composting chamber and related components need sufficient space to function effectively. Finding space can be challenging in smaller homes or areas where maximizing every square foot is necessary.

Regular Handling of Waste

Although maintenance is less frequent, when necessary, users must handle human waste more directly than they would with conventional toilets. Managing this task safely and efficiently requires proper knowledge and equipment.

Local Regulations

Local regulations and codes can sometimes complicate the installation and use of a self-contained batch composting toilet. Researching and understanding the local rules regarding waste management and composting systems is essential to ensure compliance and avoid potential legal issues.

Limited Capacity

These systems have a limited capacity compared to larger continuous composting systems. For larger families or high-traffic areas, managing the waste volume can become challenging, necessitating more frequent emptying and maintenance.

Continuous Composting Toilet

Sun-Mar Excel Composting Toilet | Continuous Systems


Continuous systems process human waste in a way that mimics natural decomposition. Unlike batch systems, which handle waste in separate, discrete batches, the continuous system handle is always “on,” processing new material as it arrives.

Advantages of Continuous Composting Toilet

Continuous composting toilet systems bring numerous benefits to users and the environment alike, including:

Eco-Friendly Waste Management

A continuous composting toilet reduces the need for water, a precious resource, compared to conventional toilets. By eliminating the use of flush water, water conservation and the reduction of strain on local water supplies are achieved, promoting sustainable living.

Reduction in Pollution

Pollution is minimized by these composting toilet systems, which contain and treat human waste on-site. The controlled aerobic process ensures that waste is broken down into compost, reducing the risk of groundwater contamination and harmful runoff that can occur with conventional sewage systems.

Production ofNutrient-Rich Compost

The composting process in these toilets results in the creation of nutrient-rich compost that can be used to enrich soil in gardens and farms. By supporting organic farming and closing the loop in the waste management cycle, human waste is turned into a practical resource.

Cost-Effective Solution

Over time, continuous composting toilet systems can be more cost-effective than traditional toilet systems. The need for costly sewage infrastructure is eliminated, and water bills are reduced. Additionally, the compost produced can offset costs for fertilizers and soil amendments.

Disadvantages of Continuous Composting Toilet

Some disadvantages of a continuous system:

Seasonal Variations Impact

Lower temperatures can slow down the composting process as microbial activity decreases. To mitigate this, additional insulation or heating elements might be needed, which can add to the complexity and cost of the system.

Limited Waste Processing Capacity

Although a continuous composting toilet is designed to handle waste steadily, it may struggle with sudden surges in usage, such as during large gatherings or peak times in vacation homes.

Dependency on Proper Ventilation

Without adequate airflow, the composting process can become anaerobic, leading to unpleasant odors and slower decomposition rates. Ensuring that the vent pipe and other ventilation components are correctly installed and maintained is essential but can be challenging in certain building layouts.

Waterless Toilet Adjustment

Adjusting to a waterless toilet system can take time, especially for users accustomed to the flushing action of conventional toilets. The absence of flush water can feel different, and some users may take time to become comfortable with the new system.

Impact of Local Environmental Conditions

Local environmental conditions, such as humidity and soil composition, affect the effectiveness of a continuous composting toilet system. High humidity levels can increase the moisture content in the composting chamber, while certain soil types might not be ideal for the final use of the compost. Adapting to these conditions is necessary for optimal performance.

Differences Between Continuous and Self-Contained Composting Toilet

Batch Composting vs Continuous Composting Toilets | Waterless Toilets


Both systems convert waste into usable compost, but they do so in different ways. 

Factors Batch Composting Toilets Continuous Composting Toilets
Frequency and Complexity of Maintenance Tasks These require less frequent maintenance. Users need to monitor the filling of each chamber and seal it off once it’s full. After the composting period, the chamber must be emptied, but this task is not a regular occurrence. Continuous systems require more frequent attention. Regular stirring and aeration of the composting mass are necessary to maintain optimal conditions. Additionally, the lower section of the composting chamber, where the most decomposed material resides, needs to be emptied periodically.
Ease of Handling Compost and Maintaining Hygiene Handling compost from batch systems is straightforward since the composting process occurs in isolated stages. When it’s time to empty a chamber, the compost is generally well-decomposed and easier to handle, minimizing hygiene concerns. These systems require ongoing handling of less decomposed material, which can be less pleasant and more challenging to manage hygienically. Proper protective equipment and practices are essential to maintain cleanliness and safety.
Installation Complexity and Flexibility Installation of batch composting toilets can be more flexible, especially in off-grid or remote locations. These self-contained units do not require complex plumbing, making them ideal for cabins, tiny homes, or eco-friendly dwellings. Continuous systems often demand more elaborate installation due to their size and need for consistent ventilation. They might also require a vent pipe to manage excess moisture and odors, which can add to the complexity.
Space and Infrastructure Needs These toilets typically require less space as they consist of several smaller composting chambers. The design is compact, making them suitable for areas with limited space. Continuous systems generally need more room due to their larger single chamber. They are better suited for installations where sufficient space is available, such as larger homes or communal facilities.


Choosing between a batch and continuous composting toilet system depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Batch composting toilets are ideal for those seeking less frequent maintenance and higher compost quality, making them perfect for off-grid living and small households. On the other hand, continuous composting toilets are well-suited for larger families or facilities with higher usage despite the need for more regular maintenance and a larger installation space.

Have any questions or would like to place an order? We'd love to help! Chat with our friendly customer service team by calling 1-844-945-3625, chatting in on our website or email us at customersupport@wildoaktrail.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

Patricia Turla
Patricia Turla

Patricia, a seasoned writer and editor, brings a wealth of experience and a pinch of flair to the world of off-grid living. With a sharp pen and an ever-curious mind, Patricia has collaborated on and edited various publications covering off-grid solar power, prepper's canning and preserving, and water purification. These numerous publications under her belt have been instrumental in shaping how-to guides and educational material for those keen on being off the grid. Beyond that, her commitment to empowering others with knowledge and her hands-on experience make her a trusted voice in the community of sustainable living advocates.

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