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Turning municipal yard “waste” into biochar and energy.

 
pollinator
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Seems like a no brainer, glad to see someone doing it…

https://bloombergcities.jhu.edu/news/solution-spotlight-turning-garden-waste-carbon-sink-stockholm
 
pollinator
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It is a no brainer, but accountants will be concerned it may cost a little bit more than dumping,
\so they will dump it.
 
gardener
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Something that has been proposed locally but just has not come to fruition, biomass electric generation facilities burning logging slash and yard debris. Oregon has several facilities throughout the state. Water access in our area being the issue.  Waste water from treating sewage has been proposed.
 
John C Daley
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Just about the whole of Europe drinks recycled sewerage.
Its all dumped after treatment into the Rhine River etc  and then drawn by the water plant down the river, treated and pumped through the water mains and thus the cycle continues.
 
Gray Henon
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A video on the project…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MB6LvtXUs38





 
Gray Henon
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John C Daley wrote:Just about the whole of Europe drinks recycled sewerage.
Its all dumped after treatment into the Rhine River etc  and then drawn by the water plant down the river, treated and pumped through the water mains and thus the cycle continues.



Maybe they can use biochar to help purify the water!
 
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This is a great idea. I think it will happen when the community gets behind it and demands it.  There are several places in the US where the community has demanded that the city take compostables, make compost, and then give it back to the community at certain times of the year.  Portland has one of those programs.

Biochar would be the next step.  With lots of people getting more 100 degree F temperatures than ever before, maybe some people will start to take climate change seriously.  We are having many days of 100 in a row, which never happened when I grew up here.  I just read a troubling quote from a climate scientist, who said that, as hot as it is, this will probably be the coolest summer we ever experience for the rest of our lives.  

John S
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John C Daley
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This video explains how Texans will be drinking reclaimed sewerage
 
John Suavecito
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This makes sense. There is no such thing as "new" water.  All of the water that we drink, no matter the source, has passed through humans, dinosaurs, plants and animals for millions of years.  The water that we are drinking today will be reused for millions of years into the future.   We are part of nature.  Programs such as this can help us to rebalance our resources in a responsible way.

John S
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Interestingly, distilling water is one of the easiest ways to use heat generated from small scale biochar production.
 
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William Bronson wrote:Interestingly, distilling water is one of the easiest ways to use heat generated from small scale biochar production.



Also, whenever a municipal water system has a problem with water cleanliness, they issue a "boil water order". Seems pretty easy to do that at some stage of the purification process, in concert with heat from biochar production as well. Make it part of a district heating plant, and you could capture the heat for space heating and domestic hot water.
 
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Our Municipality charges a fee to drop off yard waste which they compost, but they use the compost on parks and Municipally owned land rather than offering it to homeowners.
Kitchen waste has to go into a "green box" (if people don't compost it themselves), which is then shipped up Island or to the Mainland for composting which I think is totally ridiculous considering all the farmers who could use it, but it seems that many compost facilities aren't well run and tick off neighbors which makes everyone afraid of them. I get that.

To me, green waste should be mixed with some of the woody waste and composted, but being in a forest fire risk area, biocharing extra woody waste seems like a great way to offset fuel use and sequester carbon and have it available to mix into the compost they're making to both charge the biochar and improve the compost - win-win!
 
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My local landscape supply shop, now offers ash compost, most likely from city pickup of yard waste. I would like to see how they make it, as it’s really no more expensive then mulch, and imagine it would take a lot of OM to make that much ash. So it seems to be somewhat happening, would seek reason to check your local landscape supply shop, to see if at least ash is available…
 
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John C Daley wrote:It is a no brainer, but accountants will be concerned it may cost a little bit more than dumping,
\so they will dump it.


I think when the accountants add in the cost of building new landfills within an easy trucking distance of a major municipal centre (and the fact that it will take 20 years with environmental studies and the furious resistance of every landowner within 20 miles), they pivot with remarkable speed to diverting every possible bit of material away from the existing landfills, to maximize their lifespan.
 
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John Suavecito wrote:  Portland has one of those programs.



I thought the recent massive fires in Oregon would have produced enough biochar for the
whole state.

If climate scientists can model these fires and predict them, why not just dump all
the yard waste there and let the next fire do all the work ......... just thinking out aloud.
 
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I have never made biochar here.  I have a wood chip pile.  I know biochar is burning combustibles with very little oxygen feeding it.  I be nice to biochar locally.
 
Edward Lye
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Michael Moreken wrote:I have never made biochar here.  I have a wood chip pile.  I know biochar is burning combustibles with very little oxygen feeding it.  I be nice to biochar locally.



If you enclose wood and apply heat to it, you will produce charcoal and if you keep the fire
going, you end up with biochar.

 biochar = charcoal - volatiles/resins/oils

If you rub your hands with powdered biochar, it washes off cleanly.
If you rub your hands  with powdered charcoal, it is pretty tough to wash off.
They look exactly alike.

I make biochar on a small scale. I use two methods:

Method A uses a retort which is an enclosed vessel containing the stuff you want to
  make biochar out of: pieces of wood, eggshells, seashells, animal bones, dried dung, cloth(you get char cloth).
 These have to be as dry as possible because one drop of water converts to about 1800 drops
 of steam by volume. When this escapes, you get a dirty smoky exhaust. Your retort MUST
 have a few small holes for this steam and other gases to escape otherwise you have a B O M B.                
 Add some chunks of wood about the size of Jenga blocks in a brazier. Place the retort inside
 and fill up with more blocks to the rim. Set this on fire top down. A load about the size of a
 5 gallon bucket takes about 40 minutes to burn to embers and several hours to cool down.
 After a dozen sessions you will get the hang of things. Avoid using
 paper/newspaper/corrugated cardboard/shredded paper to start or relight the fire since
 this leaves ash which blocks air flow and a flame is basically air. In these cases, I use artificial
 bark. Artificial bark is peeled off layers of aged/weathered plywood or peeled strips from those thick
 cardboard tubes user for textiles/aluminium foil/shrinkwrap/duck tape.

Method B is a small scale CONTINUOUS biochar making method that can be stopped within
 5 minutes and boasts of a higher yield than Method B since there is no leftover white ash.
 It only handles sticks or wood cut to the geometry of sticks.

I use either method depending on the need.

 The post with video can only be found here:

https://permies.com/t/148449/composting/Introducing-ARS-biochar

EDIT: Inoculating the biochar you produced is another topic altogether. I have heard that biochar
         treated soil only takes off after 5 years. I don't_have/yet_to_come_across good advice
         about this. I sprinkle my powdered and sifted biochar into compost and hope for the best.

 
Gray Henon
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Looks like Minneapolis does it too, although I don’t see anything about energy recovery.  The energy recovery piece is a big part of offsetting fossil fuels.

https://www2.minneapolismn.gov/government/programs-initiatives/environmental-programs/biochar/
 
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If you are in a small enough town, these guys make the contraption to make municipal (or any) biowaste into electricity and biochar: https://www.allpowerlabs.com/

Our city gives away municipal compost monthly to residents, you just have to go dig it where they dump it, and take it home.
 
John Suavecito
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Edward Lye wrote:I have heard that biochar
        treated soil only takes off after 5 years. I don't_have/yet_to_come_across good advice
        about this. I sprinkle my powdered and sifted biochar into compost and hope for the best.
 .




With many of my trees, I have increased production and quality of fruit to a significant degree, the year after adding biochar to the tree.  This has only happened when I crushed the biochar and inoculated it with nutrition, so as not to pull it out of the existing soil.

John S
PDX OR
 
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John Suavecito wrote:  crushed the biochar and inoculated it with nutrition R



It is good to know of such positive results. I produced so many irregular pieces of biochar
that I decided to pulverize it and sift it to a manageable size for use and giving away.

A combination of methods are used and it entails a lot of work.

I use a metal faced wooden mallet and pound the raw biochar in a discarded wok.

I the sift the results with a wire mesh scoop or colander. Discards are either
pounded again or get the rolling pin treatment. I suppose I could put everything into
a pillowcase, put on a pair of wooden clogs and walk over the collection.

I aim for the size of granulated sugar but you will get talcum powder sizes also
which float around to get breathed in. Black nose snot.
I have yet to rig up a fan. Still iterating.

I tried putting in 2 litres of urine and 1 litre of powdered biochar into a bottle.
I shake this once in a while. Due to neglect  it is probably a year old already.
I haven't used this yet.

My ALL-B still consumes grass and the level drops. I sometimes sprinkle some
on along with hammered bits of clay pots which appear to be an ingredient
of Terra Preta.
 
Jay Angler
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The black dust from biochar crushing is really hard on my lungs. I *always* wear a mask if I'm working with it dry. If it's already wet and mixed in with my compost, it doesn't tend to go up into the air, so I don't worry then.
 
John Suavecito
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Yes. What Jay is saying is really important. There are many health warnings about the dust.  During this dry and hot time of year, I keep my compost tea sprayer filled with water to spray it from time to time as it is being crushed.  As she said, once it has a tiny bit of moisture, it's not dangerous, as it won't fly into the air.  Also, once I've poured the inoculating "sauce" on it, the tiny bits float more down to the bottom and stay moist in the 5 gallon bucket.  I live in the PNWet, so from November to May I don't worry about excessive dryness.  I don't think you need to get it all the way to sugar or sand.  There would be more interaction between the char and nutrients, but there is some data that it would store less water during a drought.  Probably best to adjust it to your climate.  I usually just crush it to about the size of a marble. Maybe a bit bigger, because they aren't evenly round, but there are some smaller and some bigger.  I  crush it, then inoculate on a regular schedule, and then dig it into the garden, so it can be used.  

John S
PDX OR
 
Edward Lye
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John Suavecito wrote:   I don't think you need to get it all the way to sugar or sand.  



Noted.

It does take considerable work. So I wonder why. But I reverse engineered my
actions and the main reason is because of my feedstock which consists of discarded pallets/furniture/cut branches/stuff_of_that_sort. I work with what I have.

I cut these down to Jenga sized pieces with a coarse bladed jigsaw. This gives me a source of sawdust.

I need those sizes to fit my brazier-retort contraption for making biochar. Really tough wood like
wooden cutting boards goes inside the retort.

Like Gump's box of chocolates, I never know what I am going to get.

The main reason for pulverizing the product is so that I can scan the powder with a magnet to pick out nails/screws/staples/metal_bits. I knew I had a good reason.

There is a stall in the morning market. I can always easily get two 5-gallon buckets of coconut
shells which can be solar dried as feedstock. They sell the coconut water and flesh in plastic bags.
Consumers want convenience. I buy the entire nut. Only these can I safely set aside as chunky biochar.

Have you ever autopsied one of yours? Do you see fungal hyphae intrusions?

EDIT: How far can the fungal hyphae intrude? What incentive is there to intrude into this barren substance? How deep can
         you innoculate these?
         This would set a limit on how effective chunky biochar can be. Is there an optimal Goldilocks size? Does anyone
         know?
 
John Suavecito
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Good information. It makes sense that you would crush it down that far.  I occasionally have a part of a broken old rusted nail in a board, but I get most of them out.  I figured a little bit of iron in there isn't really problematic. One good thing about hard, tough wood is that you get more carbon out of it = more char.

I don't usually autopsy the biochar effect afterwards. I usually just look at what it's doing to the particular plant.  It's had the most dramatic effect upon pie cherries and American persimmons.  I can see that the biochar mixes in with the soil. I have heavy clay naturally, but I've improved it with organic material.  There is a lot of info about how it improves drainage, but also tremendously improves the "housing for microbes", which develop the nutrition in the soil.  Mycorrhizae are said to love the flow of electricity through it, so they can send nutrients to whatever part of the garden they need to send it to. After crushing and inoculating, I dig it into the soil the depth of my spade- 8-10 inches more or less.  I put it at the drip line of each tree/bush.

John S
PDX OR
 
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