What is the decomposition time of human feces?

August 14, 2023
min read

Short answer

The decomposition time of human feces can vary depending on several factors such as temperature, moisture levels, and other environmental conditions. On average, it typically takes around 1 year for human feces to fully decompose in natural conditions. However, in more ideal conditions like composting facilities, the decomposition time can be significantly shorter, usually taking a few months.


The decomposition of human feces is a natural process that occurs when waste is exposed to bacteria and other microorganisms. When human feces are excreted, they contain a mixture of undigested food, water, salts, and bacteria. Upon entering the environment, these waste materials begin to decompose.

The first stage of decomposition involves the breakdown of organic matter by bacteria. Bacteria consume the nutrients present in feces, breaking down complex molecules into simpler forms. This process releases gases such as methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen, contributing to the odor associated with decomposing waste. The bacteria multiply and continue to break down the remaining organic matter.

Over time, the decomposition process progresses, and other decomposers such as fungi and insects join in. Fungi help break down cellulose and lignin, which are present in plant matter consumed by humans. Insects, such as beetles and flies, are attracted to the decomposing feces, laying their eggs on the waste. The larvae of these insects further accelerate the decomposition process by consuming the remaining organic matter.

Eventually, the decomposition of human feces results in the formation of humus, a dark, nutrient-rich material that can be beneficial to plants. Humus improves soil fertility by providing essential nutrients and retaining moisture. This makes it an important component of natural ecosystems and agricultural practices. Overall, the decomposition of human feces is an essential part of the natural nutrient cycle, facilitating the recycling of organic matter back into the environment.

Is it possible to recycle human feces?

Intresting facts

  • Human feces decompose through a process called anaerobic digestion, which occurs in the absence of oxygen. This process involves the breakdown of organic matter by bacteria and other microorganisms.
  • The decomposition of human feces is a vital part of the nutrient cycle as it aids in the release of valuable nutrients back into the environment. This includes nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are essential for plant growth.
  • The decomposition process of human feces can take anywhere from several months to a year. It is influenced by various factors such as temperature, humidity, oxygen levels, and the presence of other organisms.
  • In areas without proper sanitation systems, the decomposition of human feces can contribute to the contamination of water sources, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases.
  • Some communities have started utilizing sustainable methods like composting toilets to decompose human feces. This process involves providing the ideal conditions for decomposition and can result in the production of nutrient-rich compost that can be used as fertilizer.

Summary and final thoughts

The decomposition time of human feces can vary depending on factors such as environmental conditions, presence of oxygen, and microbial activity. In general, it takes approximately a few months to a year for human feces to completely decompose. However, this process can be significantly accelerated in favorable conditions, such as when exposed to sunlight or in well-aerated soil. It is important to note that improper disposal of feces can lead to contamination of water sources and spread of diseases, highlighting the significance of appropriate sanitation practices.

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