Composting toilet

The city of Wisconsin does not allow composting toilets, like the one seen here in a so-called "tiny home."

Q: Is it legal to install a composting toilet in Madison?

A: Under the Madison’s plumbing code, it is not permissible to have a privy, chemical or dry toilet system within city limits.

Composting toilets convert solid waste into compost, saving the water flushed by conventional toilets.

But Madison doesn’t take kindly to no-flow toilets. Madison General Ordinance 18.36 states that no such systems “shall be installed or maintained within the boundaries of the City of Madison, except during periods of construction where no toilet facilities are available.”

A temporary waterless toilet must be removed as soon as a sewer connection can be made, the ordinance states. Similarly, septic or sewage tanks aren’t allowed on properties where the public sewer is accessible.

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“If you’re in Madison, there is a sewer, and you have to connect to it,” said Kyle Bunnow with the city of Madison’s Building Inspection Division.

Bunnow declined to speculate as to why the law exists.

Madisonians aren’t exactly busting down the doors of City Hall demanding the legalization of composting toilets, in any case. The question had never come up for Bunnow prior to speaking with the Wisconsin State Journal.

“Myself and other individuals who have been here quite a while needed to dig to find the answer,” he said. “It’s not something that we get asked about, but you cannot have a waterless or chemical toilet.”

— Howard Hardee

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