Composting toilet or classic separation toilet - What's the difference?

Time and again, our customers ask what the difference is between a separation toilet and a composting toilet.

We would like to explain the different modes of operation in more detail here.

It must be said in advance that both systems do exactly what they promise. That is, regardless of whether it is a separation toilet or a composting toilet, both work well and leave satisfied customers.

It is more a question of taste how you ultimately want to handle your separation toilet.

Another important evaluation criterion is travel time and the requirement for disposal intervals. The toilets differ in these aspects. More on this later.

The basic principle

Whether it is a separation toilet, dry toilet, dry separation toilet, composting toilet or crank toilet, they all have the same goal, namely the separation of excreta.

Despite the many different names, the basic principle is the same. Here, the natural separation is continued with the help of various separating inserts, so that urine and faeces are collected in separate containers.


Currently, we produce liquid manure* on our domestic toilets, which flows through the sewage system to the wastewater treatment plants. In the sewage treatment plants, the coarse and solid substances are separated piece by piece from the liquids.

The coarse substances, including human excrement, are processed in biogas plants. This is used to generate energy. What remains is the liquid part, which runs through elaborate purification and treatment processes and is returned to nature.

Functionality of the composting toilet / dry toilet

The classic separation toilet/dry toilet with separation consists of the 3 main components: Urine separator, urine container and solids container.

The sole purpose is to separate the excreta and to dry the solids as much as possible.

The composting of the excreta is an elementary component. Drying is achieved by adding a litter material (e.g. humus bricks, sawdust, small animal litter, ...) and/or by using a fan.

With most composting toilets, solids can be collected for about 1-2 weeks. The emptying intervals depend on the size of the solids container, the amount of litter and whether a fan is used or not.

The fan extends the disposal intervals, as condensation is removed and the quantity of litter can be reduced. Urine is collected for 2-4 days.


The solid waste bin is usually lined with a compostable bag, so disposal is child's play. Tie the bag, take it out and throw it in the nearest waste bin.

The slightly more sustainable disposal option is composting on a compost heap. Here, your excreta can be used to produce valuable substances (humus) that are returned to the natural cycle.

On the subject of composting excreta, we would like to recommend our detailed article!

How the composting toilet/crank toilet works

Rührwerk Trockentoilette

One of the composting toilets/crank toilets is the NaturesHead.

The bucket of a crank toilet is first filled with coconut fibres before it is used for the first time. The composting toilet is then ready for use.

Here, unlike with classic composting toilets, the bucket is cranked after each visit to the toilet. The addition of further litter or coconut fibres is not necessary.

The cranking ensures that the faeces are broken up and mixed with the coconut fibres at the same time. The result is a well-mixed and loose mass that can dry well.

The integrated fan transports the remaining moist air outside.

It should be noted that the crank mechanism is already made much more difficult by the simultaneous disposal of the toilet paper after a few days and the disposal interval is dramatically shortened.

Endurance tests of a crank toilet put the disposal interval at about 4-5 days when faeces and toilet paper are mixed.


The mass in the solids container gradually starts composting. Effective microorganisms contained in the excreta provide the initial decomposition and thus the pre-composting.

In the case of composting toilets, cleaning of the solids container is not recommended,

as the settlement of the effective microorganisms is desired. In the course of time, an optimal environment develops in the solids tank, which initiates the composting processes more quickly.


The smell and appearance of the mixed mass is more reminiscent of humus. Therefore, the disposal process is not a big deal.

Composting toilets have disposal intervals of up to 3 weeks due to mixing and pre-composting - with separate disposal of the toilet paper. The contents of the solid waste container can now either go directly to the compost heap or be transferred to a bin liner (compostable bag) and disposed of in the household waste. The urine is disposed of every 2-3 days.

After disposal, the solid waste container is prepared again with coconut fibres and the composting toilet is ready for use again.

Smaller residues of fibres and faeces can remain in the bucket without any problems, a thorough cleaning of the solids bucket has no significant advantage in practice.

Which toilet is better for me?

Both types of separation toilets can basically be used anywhere. Nevertheless, there are a few guideline values that should be taken into account when making a decision.

  1. Disposal intervals.
    As a rule, you can collect solids for a longer period of time with composting toilets than with separation toilets. You should, however, dispose of the toilet paper separately, as otherwise the changeover time of 4-5 days will be considerably shorter and it can get wrapped around the agitator. If you use the toilet regularly, even for days at a time, we recommend the separating toilet with litter and bag. This can be disposed of much easier and everywhere in seconds by removing the bag.
  2. High performance test
    Does the toilet have to withstand extraordinary loads, for example on the high seas or in expedition vehicles? In this case we recommend a robust composting toilet, such as the NaturesHead. These are specially designed for such requirements. All containers are built in such a way that nothing can leak out.
  3. Toilet use
    With the crank toilet you stir your excrement with the crank after your business under the mass already in the container. No additional litter is needed. The toilet paper should be collected separately. With the litter composting toilet, you cover your faeces with litter after using the toilet. For this purpose, you usually use an additional container with litter. Depending on the duration and intensity of use, the litter composting toilet also works without an additional ventilator. You can put your toilet paper in there without any problems.
  4. Disposal procedure
    You cannot use a bag in crank toilets, so the contents have to be transferred for disposal. Sometimes the entire toilet has to be removed for this. Alternatively, you can pour the contents directly into a waste bin or onto the compost heap. Classical separation toilets are initially equipped with a compostable bag, so that disposal is much easier here, as only the bag needs to be removed. Especially if you do not use the toilet for weeks on end and are travelling to very remote places, the normal composting toilet has its advantages here.

These features will help you weigh up and better determine your composting toilet choice.

Everything about the composting toilet can be found in our frequently asked questions.