Slovenian National Building and Civil Engineering Institute, Dimiceva ulica 12, SI-1000, Ljubljana, Slovenia; School of Environmental Sciences, University of Nova Gorica, Vipavska 13, SI-5000, Nova Gorica, Slovenia. Electronic address: [Email]
This study discusses the influence of six bulking materials (peat, bark, oat husks, sawdust, food waste, and wheat bran) on the composting of blackwater solids (feces, urine and toilet paper) from low flush vacuum toilets (0.8 L/flush). The focus was on faecal indicator reduction, nutrient recycling, and carbon dioxide and methane emissions. In a composting experiment lasting 60 days, bulking materials were combined and mixed with blackwater solids, composted without stirring and with controlled aeration in a bench scale experiment. The bulking materials combination of oat husks, wheat bran and bark and of oat husks and wheat bran composted with blackwater solids showed the best results in terms of faecal indicator reduction (2.8 log10 reduction of Escherichia coli and 3.2 log10 reduction of faecal streptococci, respectively). Oat husks, bark and wheat bran combination had the smallest nutrient losses of 7.5% total nitrogen, 3.8% total phosphorus and 28% total potassium, while the highest accumulation in total phosphorus was 76.4% occurred in the mixture with oat husks and wheat bran. Peat and food waste improved the sorption of ammonia. The highest methane emissions (average 15.4%) were detected after 28 days of composting in the mixture with bran and food waste. Methane and carbon dioxide levels decreased in all the mixtures towards the end of composting indicating high organic matter degradation. Our findings show that a variety of natural and inexpensive materials can be used and adapted when composing blackwater in remote and sensitive areas.