Scoop: W.C. Afield

If nature calls while you're in the Wedgewood neighborhood, make use of Seattle's first public compo

W.C. Afield
Gardeners at Wedgwood’s Picardo Farm P-Patch have new cause for relief—a composting toilet. Similar to toilets installed on U.S. Forest Service land, the Clivus Multrum M54 Trailhead single-station model arrived on the scene in April, acquired and installed with the help of a $15,000 City Neighborhood Matching Fund award. Dubbed “the Picaloo” by the community, it replaces an oft-tipped-over portable toilet. Trent Elwing, the project’s volunteer coordinator, expects maintenance costs (for toilet paper, hand sanitizer, cleaning products and wood chips) will run about $5 a month, which will be covered by P-Patch funds and donations.

Without getting into the messy details, the toilet has a solar-powered ventilation system, and requires only 2 gallons of water added weekly (by P-Patch volunteers) to aid in the processing of waste into compost. Unfortunately, Washington state law prohibits using this municipally generated compost—called “humanure”—for lawns, trees and shrubs, so the resulting nutrient-rich mixture will be removed by a disposal contractor after about 7,500 uses…thus defeating the purpose of having a composting toilet in the first place. Still, the toilet certainly has given new meaning to the term “P-Patch.”

Originally published in July 2010