There are many alternatives to using a latrine, all of which have positive and negative aspects to them. By far and away the best option of all is to have a septic system installed. This kind of system requires a substantial amount of space for its installation, and it can be somewhat costly. However, it is a well understood system that is commonly used throughout rural America. If you live in a house attached to a septic system, then you should have few worries.
Portable Latrine. Another alternative is the use of portable latrines. These are typically used with box-like structures, modified plastic buckets, stools (no pun intended), and other devices, on which you sit and into which you place a plastic bag to catch the pee and poo. These are typically found on the Internet under a search for camping toilets, and they typically cost less than $50 and usually include a small supply of the needed bags. Once you finish your business when using a camping toilet, you remove the bag for disposal. Some bags are biodegradable (meaning more expensive) such that you can take them out and bury them, making them a form of a latrine with a plastic bag acting as a middle man. Others use ordinary, cheap plastic bags; using plastic ones means you must find an alternate means of disposing the waste. While these have the advantage of being user friendly, sanitary, and essentially odor free, they suffer many drawbacks, including the expense of additional bags, the need for further waste disposal, and, most importantly of all, they are temporary solutions, because once you run out of bags it is no longer a solution.
Incinerating Toilet. Yet another alternative is the incinerating toilet. There are many styles and designs by which the pee and poo are treated. They can use propane, electricity, and some even use sunlight to generate the power necessary to decompose the sewage. Some of these toilets even decompose the waste to turn it into a useful product, such as fertilizer or methane gas. While these toilets offer the advantage of providing a sanitary method for the disposal of pee and poo, they almost all require electricity, propane, or some other fuel source in order to operate. The disadvantages include the requirement for fuels, which may or may not be available during a SHTF crisis. Also, these specialized toilets require installation such that not everyone could install these themselves nor could a person consider this an option in any situation other than a well-stocked, well-prepared, preplanned location. Despite all of these negatives, the worst one of all is the cost, which typically ranges from $500 to well over a $1000 each.
Chemical Camp Toilet. A hybrid between an incinerating toilet and the camping toilet is the chemical toilet. These are inexpensive toilets (typically costing less than $100) that are portable and sanitary. The down side to using these toilets is that these toilets require large amounts of chemicals to treat the pee and poo and that they need to be emptied every few days. This makes them unsatisfactory for long-term usage that you would expect given a SHTF situation.
Because everyone’s situation is so different, there is no set answer that will offer a universal solution. Unfortunately there are not many solutions to the issue of pee and poo in a SHTF situation that are workable without a significant amount of long-term planning. If you are on a septic system, then consider yourself one of the luckiest people around, for you have no need to do anything different from you have been doing. At the other end of the spectrum is the apartment dweller who lives up on an upper floor of a high rise. It is this person who faces the greatest challenges with the most difficult solutions. Because of this variability, you must tailor your solution to your anticipated situation. This means that you must not only decide what your needs are, but you must also determine how long you will have to face those needs with your solution.
Even if you live in an apartment, you have several options. The easiest option for an apartment dweller may be to bug out. If you have a predetermined location where you can go to be with others, then this would be a good option, since many hands make every task easier. If, for whatever reason, you are forced to bug in, then you still have options. One is the use of a portable or incinerating toilet. If that is unworkable, then a plastic bucket with kitty litter may have to suffice. While this is relatively inexpensive, it requires a large amount of kitty litter and a place where you could easily dispose of the feces mixture without endangering yourself and others, since this mixture would still contain live disease-causing microorganisms. Perhaps the most cost effective alternative for this situation would be to create your own chemical toilet. This is accomplished by having multiple plastic buckets where the first is filled with waste mixed with lime and then loosely covered, for it will likely off gas initially. (For every few inches of waste in the bucket, add half an inch of lime and continue layering until the bucket is sufficiently filled.) Once the first bucket is filled, it is set aside to “age” while the next bucket is used. As each bucket ages, the lime will kill the microorganisms such that after an extended period the mixture will become sterile and can then be used as a fertilizer. For this strategy to work, all you would need is a supply of quick lime (around $10 for a 20 pound bag) and several plastic buckets with lids. Your disposal site could be a garden, a patch of earth around a tree, or just about anywhere else.
If you live in a house with a yard, then you have an additional option of using a latrine. For the latrine to be an option, you must have sufficient room and be sufficiently high enough above the water table for it to work properly. If a latrine is not feasible, then you are left with the same options as does the apartment dweller.
No matter where you live, there is one significant constant that absolutely must be addressed and that is cleanliness. Something that is often forgotten about in people’s preparations is hand washing supplies. People must wash their hands after using the “facilities”, before eating, and so forth, which will require substantial quantities of soap or hand sanitizer. Also, hands must be inspected prior to working with your sanitation system to ensure that you have no cuts or open wounds; otherwise, rubber gloves must be used.
Another source for sanitizing is bleach, but bleach is only good for about six months. A far better long-term product option would be pool shock chemical containing either calcium hypochlorite or sodium dichloroisocyanurate salt (a.k.a. sodium 3,5-dichloro-2,4,6-trioxo-1,3,5-triazinan-1-ide). These salts are forever stable when kept dry, but they decompose into bleach when dissolved in water. Upon the purchase of your pool shock chemical, you should perform a quick Internet search to determine which form you have and how much is necessary to create a bleach-like solution. (It should go without saying that a small scale is required to use pool shock chemicals effectively. If you reload your own ammunition, then the balance used to measure powder can also be used to measure pool shock chemical.) As a part of your sanitation process, all surfaces involved in your personal sanitation process should be cleaned regularly with bleach or similar solution. This would include wiping down the outside of used plastic bags, buckets, lids, and so forth.
Ultimately, in a survival situation your primary goal is to stay safe and healthy. To accomplish this goal, it is necessary to plan ahead in an effort to cover all those possibilities with which you will likely be faced. Dealing with your pee and poo is something that is a certainty, so it cannot be avoided. It is far better to think about how you will handle this issue now than it will be after the crisis hits. Should you delay planning how you will take care of your pee and poo, then you could easily be left sick and debilitated, thus hurting your chances to survive. Being proactive about dealing with your pee and poo is not difficult and, in most cases, inexpensive. It just takes a bit of planning and thought. If you are going to do it, then now is the time.