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Composting and coddiwompling

Bette Cosgrove

I’m about to swap out my portable toilet for a composting waterless toilet in my camper van soon.

I researched these FAQ to help me decide that this looks like a very practical and functional solution, for us, as off-grid freedom campers and keen coddiwomplers (travelling in vague directions with great purpose).

What’s good about compost toilets? 

Waterless compost loos offer several advantages. 

  • I’m excited that it’s environmentally friendly, uses none of our precious onboard water supply and promotes sustainable waste disposal. 

  • No more toilet chemicals. 

  • We very infrequently create solid waste in the van toilet. 

  • So having the advantage of a urine separator with a small tank, means it’s much easier and lighter to dispose of this responsibly.

  • I could even home-compost any waste when I return from a short trip.

How about the smell?

Despite thinking there could be issues with the smell it’s odour-free when properly maintained, thanks to natural composting processes.

It’s simple science. Separate out the urine and there is nothing to create smell.

Layers of sphagnum moss (available from garden stores) are a recommended layer material.

The toilet we’ve ordered has slider seals closing both tanks off when not in use.

Any challenges ?

The challenges to meet for installation and space constraints are no greater than fitting any new permanent toilet in your vehicle. It just takes some planning. These units can all be permanently fixed to the floor or on a sliding platform. Some models are quite compact, as they don’t need large water tanks, so they could fit in the space used by any portable toilet.

Can they comply with new SCV regs?

These style of toilets, when permanently fixed and vented, will meet all the new SCV (Self-Contained Vehicle) regulations for freedom camping, just as cassette toilets do. Be sure the total capacity meets the 3 days self-containment rule.

Many compost toilets designed for RV use already have small 12v fans and exit pipes to meet venting requirements, and there’s hope that vent rules will change so they won’t be mandatory in future. 

How do I keep it clean?

Flushing isn’t needed, and biodegradable toilet paper is fine to use in your compost bucket.

Proper maintenance and cleaning is the key to preventing odour issues. Vinegar in a spray bottle is an eco-friendly cleaning solution.

Use a bag (or double-bag, if preferred) in the solid waste tank. Just clean out the removable chambers in the same way you clean any toilet. Tanks are quite small and easy to handle.

Where do I responsibly dispose of the waste?

Disposal involves safely discarding the compost (preferably double-bagged) into landfill facilities while on the road or into properly managed home compost systems for long composting and burying in the garden (not composted under edible plants).

Urine tanks can be emptied at designated dump stations or in small amounts into any toilet.

How about the cost?

While initially costs of these units seem high and modifications for installation possibly higher (eg if you need a power supply for an added fan), the long-term savings on water and maintenance can justify the investment.

In fact the toilet unit I ordered is less expensive than a cassette toilet of similar size. I should be able to install it myself and get years of great use out of it, in the same space where my portable toilet now sits. 

There are some great companies supplying compost toilets suitable for vehicles in Aotearoa NZ and you can check their pricing options here: | |

As we enjoy our random van travels camping in beautiful free spots in future I’m going to enjoy having my composting toilet onboard.

I’m very keen to follow the principles of a creative artist I greatly admire — F. Hunderwasser who was an advocate and long term user of compost toilets.

I think he had the right idea.


Freedom camping & self-containment

2 Where are we at with self-containment and freedom camping?

2 Who can freedom camp from now until 7 June 2025?

4 Getting your camping vehicle certified

8 Am I freedom camping?

8 What you need for a green warrant for freedom camping

10 Planning a toilet for the freedom camping green warrant?

12 Venting a toilet cassette: why, what, when and how

14 Keeping up with the self-containment changes

16 Composting and coddiwompling ︎

How about the smell?

, p


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