Ever wondered how we came to develop the compost toilet urine separator? Here’s our story …
Like all good stories, this one starts as a love story. Suzanne and I were preparing to get married at our home on an off-grid farm in the remote hills of west Wales. There’s always lots to organise for a wedding, but our main concern was that we were inviting 100 people to celebrate with us and we only had one flush toilet, which was supplied by a very small stream. And it was mid summer. We needed more facilities and we needed to conserve the stream water for drinking (yes, even in notoriously wet Wales, the water can run out!). Being eco-minded and both working for the Centre for Alternative Technology (Europe’s largest eco-centre), compost toilets were the obvious solution.
So we set about planning wedding cakes, choosing dresses and designing compost toilets! We had help from a friend of ours who had experience building wheelie bin compost toilets for the Climate Protest Camps in the UK. Together we built a toilet from scrap materials that were lying around (I am a furniture maker by trade – see Free Range Designs – so I’m generally surrounded by a lot of wood and sawdust!). The toilet used a wheelie bin located at the back of the building and we bought in a Separette urine separator, which worked well but tended to get blocked quite easily.
The big day arrived and we had a beautiful marriage ceremony with all our family and friends, who made good use of the new compost toilet. Once back from honeymoon we posted pictures of our compost loo on the Free Range Designs website offering compost toilets as a product for sale. Little did we know what we were embarking on. A couple of months later we were asked to build two compost toilets for a campsite in Hay-on-Wye and we started designing a more streamlined model that could be flatpacked for transportation.
Everything was going well until we tried to source the urine separators. The distributer we had bought the first one from had disappeared. We scoured the interweb but nothing was coming up! With only a couple of weeks remaining until the toilets were due for delivery, an engineer friend suggested that we vacuum form our own separator. We started googling vac-forming and went about setting up a basic DIY system at home for producing our own plastic separators.
The toilets were successfully completed with our own urine separators and the clients were happy with their two compost toilet prototypes, aptly named Gypsy Caravan