If you are thinking about installing a composting toilet in your home, on your property, or in a moving vehicle such as an RV, you need to know whether there are any legalities that surround such installations in your state – or states you may be traveling into. Some places legislate composting toilets to try and avoid hazardous disposal of waste.
Different states have different legislation, and it’s crucial that you seek up-to-date advice from a legal professional before going ahead with an installation. However, at the time of writing, Florida, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Idaho, and many other states allow you to build a composting toilet that is not hooked up to a septic tank or sewer. Some states require the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) to certify toilets.
We’re going to look at composting toilets and the twenty-seven states where they’re legal.
How Do Different States Legislate Composting Toilets?
Although you will need to read up on the rules in your specific state and your local area (as the local area makes a big difference), I’ve covered some general examples that may help you out. Note that many local areas also have their own unique rules that may make it illegal to install a composting toilet even if the state allows it.
The following information contains generalities; for specifics, you will need to do further research. Most states, even those which allow composting toilets freely, will have some circumstances in which they are not permitted.
This article is a general guide to the governance on composting toilets.
It starts with the states which have no provisions or strict legislation and then moves onto the twenty-seven states where it is generally easy to install a composting toilet.
States that have no rules governing composting toilets are Alabama, Alaska, California, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
States that allow composting toilets (or do not have specific rules against them) but also require a gray water disposal system to be in place are South Carolina, and West Virginia.
In some circumstances, you may need a permit as well.
States that allow composting toilets in some specific circumstances are Connecticut, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, Rhode Island, and Washington State.
The following section covers the twenty-seven states where you can usually install a composting toilet.
States that allow composting toilets provided you have a permit are Arizona, Idaho (also requires gray water system), Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
States that allow composting toilets provided they have been NSF approved are Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.
States that generally allow composting toilets are Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
Many of these states will have further stipulations and intricacies that apply alongside these rules. Often, permission will only be granted in certain circumstances, such as there being no other provision for disposing of waste, or the composting toilet being a certain distance from sewers. There may also be regulations on how waste can be disposed of. You will need a detailed understanding of these things.
Which States Do Not Allow Composting Toilets?
After that list, you may be wondering which states do not allow composting toilets at all.
The two particularly tricky states are Indiana and Virginia. North Carolina does permit composting toilets, but only if a regular toilet is also available – which may be frustrating if you are building a composting toilet because there is no room for a traditional flushing one.
There are generally exceptions to these rules, but you would need to discuss your situation with both local officials and with experts in the law of the state in order to understand if an exception could be made.
What Are The Loopholes?
This will depend on where you are, but most states do have provisions for extenuating circumstances, so it is always worth applying in case your situation is accepted on a case-by-case basis.
One of the most common loopholes, however, is that in many cases, you will find that if you have a traditional flushing toilet in the home as well, the rules don’t apply to you, even if you want to use the composting system instead. This can get complicated, so contact an official body for advice before proceeding with your plans.
Often, composting commode rules only apply to new builds. That means if you’re setting up a tiny home or an off-grid getaway, you need to read up on the laws in detail and find out what applies and how you can meet the standards. If you are just installing a composting toilet in an existing building, you may have no problem.
Why Do Some States Legislate Composting Toilets Differently?
Each state will have independently assessed the potential risks that composting toilets pose. After all, if the waste is mishandled, it could present a biohazard to other people or contaminate water supplies. Disposing of human waste must be done in a way that limits risk and the spread of disease.
Many states have chosen to mandate that composting toilets be connected to a proper sewage system or a septic tank to ensure that waste is dealt with responsibly and safely. However, you may not like that idea if you were trying to build a toilet independently of sewers, and you don’t have space for a septic tank.
Some states do not legislate on composting toilets at all – or they have no rules about them.
What Legislation Might I Face?
Depending on where you are, you might face various kinds of legislation, or none at all.
If there are no rules to say that you can build a composting toilet, don’t just steam ahead; you could find that you are accidentally breaking laws that you haven’t considered, or that because there aren’t provisions for doing it, you can’t legally continue – even if you aren’t expressly forbidden from doing so.
It’s important to find out where you stand and what you are allowed to build and use on your property. If you are going to build a composting toilet, make sure you do some in-depth research into the legalities of this, and take into account the specifics of your situation.
You may need to have an inspection completed by a local official to prove that the system is fit for purpose. You may have to apply for a permit. You may also need to show that you have a waste disposal system that complies with the laws of the state.
Some states require waste to be buried at a certain depth. Others will permit it to be used as fertilizer, but only around non-edibles.
It is important to think about all aspects of the composting toilet and make sure that you are not breaking the law with secondary considerations. Do not just think about whether it is legal to build, but make sure you are complying with legislation every step of the way.
In General, What Can I Do Without Breaking The Law?
Please note that this is intended for general information purposes only, and you should not go ahead with a project-based only on this guidance. Always get up-to-date, official information from your governing body, in writing if possible, before you add a composting toilet to your property.
In most states, you are allowed to build and use a composting toilet provided that:
- You have a flushable toilet available that is connected to a traditional sewer system or a septic tank. This is a legal requirement for every dwelling that is habitable, and you may find it’s a necessity even if your state permits the composting toilet.
- No local area restrictions forbid composting. If your composting toilet causes a nuisance to neighbors through bad smells, unsightly buildings, or hazardous waste, you will be breaking the law and may suffer penalties for it.
- You are only operating on your property and all waste is contained within your property. You cannot transport or store waste elsewhere without a license, so you must make sure that the toilet and its contents are fully contained within your boundaries. Again, failure to do so could result in legal repercussions.
Before going ahead on the basis of this information, discuss your plans with the relevant authorities and find out if any laws render the information incorrect. Local and state laws may specifically override the scenarios mentioned above, so do careful research before pursuing your project.
Composting toilets are very eco-friendly, helping us to save water, reusing waste as fertilizer, and reducing our dependence on chemical treatments to keep our water clean. Traditional toilets, even ones designed to minimize water use, are notoriously wasteful. Many people want to step away from them for the sake of the planet.
Living off the grid also appeals to people, and it can provide an inexpensive, alternative lifestyle that is highly attractive. However, it is crucial that you follow the law regarding composting toilets, and that you thoroughly familiarize yourself with safety procedures and any legislation that applies to how you handle the waste to avoid legal problems.