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thermophilic humanure composting  RSS feed

 
Nicanor Garza
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Location: Yakima county, Washington state
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I am seriously considering about composting human waste and am wondering if any permies here have had success with this method, Im hoping to start discussion with people with experience in this avenue.
1. when starting the compost pile do I need to make an impenetrable barrier at the bottom or simply cover it with high absorbent material like peat moss.
2.does anyone have pics showing the success of their systems.
3.do you have to go through regulators when it comes to thermophilic composting.
 
Wyatt Barnes
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Hi Nicanor, not sure how helpful I will be other than pointing you to http://humanurehandbook.com/. This will give you access to a tremendous amount of info, experience and another forum dealing specifically with the topic, its problems and their solutions.

I am in month eight of nothing but a sawdust toilet at my family home and we are quite happy with the system. I have not yet harvested any compost so I have no personal experience with that but I can tell you that everything else I was told has proven itself through experience. No odour at the sawdust toilet, no odour at the compost pile and the amount produced has been on par with expectations. We have an almost new septic system and a extremely large daily availability of water here so for us the change was driven by ethical considerations as well as curiosity and an aim for the future for us and those around us.

I highly recommend the system to anyone who wants to restore the normal nutrient cycle to their lives. As to your specific questions, no to barrier, yes to bio sponge on the bottom, sorry no pictures and my advice is never ask permission for anything unless you absolutely have to. Try it out and then maybe start quietly asking what regs are in place and how they can be changed to incorporate this already proven system.
 
Thomas warren
Posts: 69
Location: Yakima County, E WA
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I too am looking into this system.
Some videos I have seen show a dude doing the crap/sawdust thing and then sealing the bucket for a year. Will this make it decompose anaerobically? Or is that bad necessarily?
 
Bethany Dutch
Posts: 208
Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
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I've been using a compost bucket system since November 2013. Here are my thoughts:

First, to answer your questions:
1. No, you don't need to make an inpenetrable barrier. a thick layer of absorbent "browns" will work here. In fact, I think an inpenetrable layer would be bad, because a lot of your digester/composting bacteria will be coming from the soil directly. That, and if you leave it open, you may eventually have worms helping things along.
2. I don't have pics but if there is interest, I can take some pics and post a thread.
3. With regulators, it depends on where you live. The county where I live, it's no problem. I imagine I couldn't get away with it in other places in the country or the world.

Now, my other thoughts. I second reading the humanure book - great, amazing resource and one big thing that is important is it will put your mind at ease!

The way I set up my bins is each one is four pallets tied together in a square shape. Pretty complex, I know I start with a thick layer of dry sawdust or leaves at the bottom, and stick paper grocery sacks down inside the pallets so the stuff doesn't come out the sides. Cardboard works well for this also.

I have three 5-gallon buckets with lids, and about twice a week I empty them. When a bucket is full, I swap it out and put a lid on it, and keep it until I need to empty all of them. I have a hose with a jet sprayer attachment, and I spray out the buckets really well (rinse water goes onto the compost pile). Once or twice a year I'll let them soak for a bit with a bunch of vinegar in the water. the empty buckets get prepped with more sawdust - I believe the recommendation is 3 inches of dry material on the bottom, but I fill it to about a third full which for my family has worked well to keep a good ratio of urine to sawdust in the final, full bucket.

The pile, after I dump the contents, gets a layer of sawdust on top. If it's been wet or snowy, I like to put a decent layer of dry sawdust underneath before I dump the buckets. This is because we also urinate in the buckets, though I know a lot of people don't do that... I just want to make sure everything gets absorbed. When a pile is full, I cover it with a thick layer of sawdust or leaves, and leave it alone. I add another three pallets to the side to create another bin section.

I haven't harvested my compost yet - partly because I'm lazy, partly because I would like to vermicompost it for another year, and also I don't even have a garden in yet so technically I don't have anyplace to put it right now.

It is important to have DRY browns (sawdust or whatever). This isn't hard in the summer but you can't just tarp a sawdust pile in the winter, moisture will seep through the tarp. This year halfway through the winter I ended up just buying plastic covered bales of sawdust, which really increased the cost but my normal sawdust storage spot got blocked in. I normally buy my sawdust at a local lumber mill for $25/truckload. I would say I'd go through a truckload in about 4 months. Also, I remember reading in the humanure book that sawdust will freeze solid in the wintertime. Another reason to keep it dry, but that wasn't as difficult to deal with as I thought - it was pretty easy to break up with a pitchfork.

If properly covered, you won't notice any smell. It's a great system. The only cons are the workload of having to swap out the buckets - takes me about 20 mins twice a week (not a big deal normally, but sucks during cold/snowy/rainy weather) and also because I have little kids they often forget to put sawdust on afterward, which gets annoying (and smelly!). Also, a lot of people are squicky about coming over if they know you use a system like that... which in my case is a plus! I'm a total introvert... lol.
 
Bethany Dutch
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Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
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Thomas warren wrote:I too am looking into this system.
Some videos I have seen show a dude doing the crap/sawdust thing and then sealing the bucket for a year. Will this make it decompose anaerobically? Or is that bad necessarily?


Interesting! Yes that would be anaerobic composting, and I suppose the long run is it would have the same end result but I can't see that being viable for a full time system. My family fills six buckets a week, that's 312 buckets I'd have to buy for a year... and then where would you put them in the meantime? That's a lot of buckets!
 
Bethany Dutch
Posts: 208
Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
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OH one more thing about the compost toilets - if you have a DOG you need to be extra careful about making sure the lid is closed at all times. Nothing quite like coming in the bathroom to find smears on the floor because they were looking for a tasty treat
 
Wyatt Barnes
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Bethany this is my first year/first winter but I am having good results with sawdust in feed bags. I have enough bags in the yard to get through the winter and I just bring one in a day ahead to thaw. I am hoping to have an indoor storage area next year for my winters supply.
 
Bethany Dutch
Posts: 208
Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
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Wyatt Barnes wrote:Bethany this is my first year/first winter but I am having good results with sawdust in feed bags. I have enough bags in the yard to get through the winter and I just bring one in a day ahead to thaw. I am hoping to have an indoor storage area next year for my winters supply.


I've heard about that, though never did it myself because I don't buy bagged feed so don't have feed bags! But that makes sense if you can do that. My biggest problem so far has been having it covered adequately so it doesn't get damp through a tarp in the snow or rainy weather. This summer I'm going to build an actual covered lean-to with space for firewood and a "bay" for a load of sawdust. A real roof ought to do the trick!
 
Wyatt Barnes
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Farmers will generally give you bags. They hate throwing out anything good but generally don't have a use for all the used bags. You can also ask them about used bale twine from small square bales for tying the bags. Try people with laying hens as well. I also highly recommend extra pails for emergencies. Bakeries, coffee shops, wine makers and restaurants are all potential free pail possibilities. Doesn't hurt to ask.
 
Nicanor Garza
Posts: 144
Location: Yakima county, Washington state
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Bethany Dutch wrote:
thanks Bethany for the helpful input.
question, has the whole mixing of carbon with the waste resulted in high temperature output in the pile?
 
Bethany Dutch
Posts: 208
Location: Colville, WA Zone 5b
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Nicanor Garza wrote:
Bethany Dutch wrote:
thanks Bethany for the helpful input.
question, has the whole mixing of carbon with the waste resulted in high temperature output in the pile?


I'm not sure what you mean - for it to compost, there must be carbon in it, are you talking about proportions? In any case - I haven't actually paid attention to temps. I could get a thermometer, but I'm lazy and would rather let it sit for a few years. I don't think it get super hot (haven't noticed steam or noticeable warmth emanating from it) but it doesn't get really cold either.
 
Thomas warren
Posts: 69
Location: Yakima County, E WA
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My assumption, based on other experience with compost, would yes there should be heat put out by it, as its nitrogen and carbon, similar to using cow manure and straw or leaves or whatever.
 
Chris DeBoer
Posts: 30
Location: Boulder, CO
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Hey permies!

I'm most of the way through the humanure handbook...WOW! Awesome resource packed with lots of both alarming and fascinating tidbits...

A few questions....

What sort places should I look for local regulations on proper waste disposal?

When I'm swapping bins and nestling them in the center of the compost pile...does the cover material on the compost pile need to be dampened much or is the water in the urine enough?

During the mature/curing phase as the thermophillic microbes quiet down I'm thinking of throwing in some vermiculture worms and inoculating with fungi cultures.....any thoughts or experiences to share?
Also related, will the sawdust have decomposed enough that I ought to add some fungal food (flour and small woody material)? Is it even worth culturing fungi unless it's a specific symbiotic relationship to the plant it's used on?

To err on the safe side and if the man stops by I'll probably apply for horticultural use...i.e. trees, shrubs etc.


If it helps I'm in a broad acre situation in semi arid western Colorado so the water reduction in humanure composting is attractive and the nutrients will likely stick around for quite some time...

Thanks!
 
Wyatt Barnes
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Hi Chris, the cover material doesn't have to be dampened. I wouldn't ask for any permissions and I haven't heard of anywhere where it is illegal to compost. As to the fungus worm thing, experimentation.
 
Chris DeBoer
Posts: 30
Location: Boulder, CO
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Wyatt Barnes wrote:Hi Chris, the cover material doesn't have to be dampened. I wouldn't ask for any permissions and I haven't heard of anywhere where it is illegal to compost. As to the fungus worm thing, experimentation.


Thanks,

I looked into it and composting toilets are fine with some reg's on the receptacle and location of decomposition (structure, proximity to water sources, property lines etc.)
The only person I'll be asking much of anything is my lawyer (who should have a good laugh!) This is because I very well may sell lots of my surplus and have other ventures on site and just want to protect myself legally and run a "clean" operation
 
Nicanor Garza
Posts: 144
Location: Yakima county, Washington state
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these videos show humanure composting in the works.


 
Jud Morrison
Posts: 3
Location: Jacksonville, TX
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I scrolled through this thread and saw some excellent information and advice and, maybe I missed it, but I didn't see a reference to the Barrel Composting Toilet System at www.omick.net .

This looked like such a dynamite system that I'm collecting materiel to begin construction.
 
Wyatt Barnes
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Just to add an odd bit of information, make of it what you will, I added scrap maple syrup twice now to my almost full compost bin and saw extreme temps both times after a few days. The temps climbed above 160 F which is a good twenty degrees higher than my previous max.
 
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