Going caravanning makes you think afresh about water and waste management, things that our modern, infrastructure-dependent lives cause us to take for granted. Of these, understanding how to manage water is relatively simple. You basically need to be extra-judicious about using it, and fill up your tank as frequently as possible. The matter of toilet waste disposal, however, can seem particularly daunting. But just like with any other household chore, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it. Especially if you’re armed with the right information and the right products.
Caravan toilets and the chemicals that they need
Most caravan toilets today are based on the same design principle. They are divided into two separable parts. The first of these is the seat and flush tank unit, and the second is the waste holding tank. In portable toilets, the latter is removed from inside your caravan, while in cassette toilets, it is slid out (like a cassette) from a dedicated door outside. Caravan toilet waste disposal essentially involves removing the waste holding tank or cassette and emptying it at a waste disposal point (also called a dump point).
Caravan toilets need certain chemicals to break the waste down into a liquid form and minimise any odours by means of a masking perfume. These chemicals are usually sold as fluids that need to be diluted with water at the time of use. They are poured into the toilet’s waste holding tank, and in some cases in the flush tank (from where it enters the holding tank when you flush).
In addition to the chemicals used to break down toilet waste, caravan toilets also need dedicated chemicals that prevent bacteria build-up (which causes foul odours). Composite chemicals that combine these two functions are also available today. These chemicals are usually effective for 2-3 days at a time, after which you should find and use a waste disposal point.
Using a waste disposal (dump) point
Most modern caravan parks come with dump points. In fact, many Australian states are currently working towards illegalizing the release of toilet waste anywhere except at a dump point. Using a dump point is quite simple. Remove the waste holding tank or cassette from your caravan, take it to the dump point, empty it into the receptacle, and use the hose that’s usually provided at site to wash off the area. Modern dump points come with their own flushing systems, which make the whole process much cleaner.
Seasoned caravan owners often use ‘black-tanks’, which work as intermediary waste holding containers with a much larger capacity than that of a typical toilet holding tank. These enable you to go for 7-10 days at a stretch without needing a dump point. Waste from a black tank is emptied into a dump point by means of a black water hose.
Some important considerations
In the interest of keeping your caravan toilet functional, ensure that the only thing that goes into it is – well – human waste. Even disposable diapers are an absolute no. Try and avoid using any more paper than necessary. In fact, invest in the quick-dissolving variety of toilet paper to reduce the burden on your chemical toilet.
Never attempt to dispose of your caravan’s toilet waste at a site that’s marked as a ‘grey water disposal point’. Grey water is the waste released from your kitchen sink and must be kept separate from black water. Also, do not use water from the hose at a dump point to fill your caravan’s water tank. This water is typically recycled and unsafe for most uses.
Lastly, the unwritten rules of being a good citizen also apply to your caravan toilet waste disposal routines. In short, try your best to leave everything cleaner than you found it.
Here’s hoping that toilet waste disposal will be less of a worry as you go about planning your caravanning holiday!