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Human "Waste" suitability for fertilization of crops

 
                              
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This seems to be the best place for poop & pee questions so I'll post mine.

I have been reading a lot about managing this resource and I have a few important questions I can't find definitive answers on.

1. Is pee sterile? for example, would putting it directly into the soil that grows food create a germ loop?
2. Does all types of composting kill/remove dangerous pathogens from poop? including vermicomposting?
3. Will non-plant/non-animal substances be composted or ignored and passed into the plants? (Alchohol, parafin wax, plastic wrap?)
4. Are (vegitarian/aerobic) compost piles stinky like rotting veggies in the trash or does that indicate an imbalance/problem?

Thanks,
~ Willow
 
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Check:
Humanure Handbook, Joseph Jenkins
Future Fertility, Transforming Human Waste Into Human Wealth, John Beeby

Off and on, they are available online free at www.scribd.com

My overall notes on gardening are at:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/38915649/Micro-Environment-Subsistence-System-Sustainable-Civilization

 
                              
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I've read the Humanure handbook and can't find Future Fertility on scribd.com

#1. Mr. Jenkins says pee is sterile but I've been told otherwise by many people so I'm looking for another opinion so I'm not proceeding by one man alone.
#2. Your notes state that worms will carry disease from human manure if used as foodstuffs for livestock, but I still can't find info on whether SF larva are the same and whether or not the residue/castings are safe to use.
#3 Still no new info
#4 Thanks for the list of compost conditions and how to remedy them

Anyone have more info?
 
                        
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Provided the contributor doesn't have an active kidney or bladder infection, pee can be considered sterile; however, it make such a wonderful growth medium that you have to take active steps to keep it sterile outside the body.
 
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Yes, pee from a healthy person is sterile as it comes from your body. Otherwise, you'd be infected with a kidney, bladder or urinary tract infection, and would likely be well aware of that! Urine is produced through a meticulous filtering process in the kidneys, which, under normal circumstances, does not allow passage of microorganisms from the body into the urine. Bladder infections and UTIs are the result of contamination from "outside", not "inside". However, urine is a great growth medium, and is rapidly colonized by microorganisms. These organisms are the same beasties already living in your local soil, air, and water.

People think of urine as nasty, and it for sure can be. It stinks if left out for any length of time, and if disease organisms are part of the local population, they will make use of it, just like all the others, and so the urine can become a disease reservoir. By adding urine to soil/compost, pathogenic organisms, if present, remain part of a diverse community and are unlikely to take over and become a concentrated infection source.

I don't know of any info supporting the idea that red worms can become carriers of human pathogens. Seems to me if this was a possibility, people who produce red worms for sale would have to meet sanitation regulations - after all, they are sold by the millions for fish bait, and are handled by kids. As for soldier flies, they do not lay their eggs on poop, and the flying adults have no mouthparts, so the people promoting them for waste management go to great lengths to point out that the valid health concerns about house flies and similar critters do not hold for soldier flies.

Good question about the non-veg/animal substances, I have no idea.

Good online sources for info and leads to research -
http://www.redwormcomposting.com/
http://www.esrint.com/pages/bioconversion.html
http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/messages/

Willow, I think you are right to be concerned about these issues. It took me a while to satisfy myself about humanure composting. In previous lives, I was a nurse and a field biologist. So I didn't take this lightly. Now I use a bucket toilet at home, and cringe when I have to contaminate perfectly good potable water with my waste, and then flush all those valuable nutrients into a centralized system that expends a good deal of energy and my tax dollars to return that water back to a potable state!
 
                              
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jacqueg wrote:

Willow, I think you are right to be concerned about these issues. It took me a while to satisfy myself about humanure composting. In previous lives, I was a nurse and a field biologist. So I didn't take this lightly. Now I use a bucket toilet at home, and cringe when I have to contaminate perfectly good potable water with my waste, and then flush all those valuable nutrients into a centralized system that expends a good deal of energy and my tax dollars to return that water back to a potable state!



Exactly the reason I'm interested in this topic(that and I don't want to dig a septic tank system that only makes "sewage" that still needs disposing of every year or two.)

From what I've read HERE Soldier Fly Larva DO eat poop.

During 2003, 169 kg of fresh manure (67.8 kg dry wt) was delivered to the manure basin. A total of 45,000 live black soldier fly larvae were added to the basin. These larvae converted the manure into 41.6 kg dry weight of black soldier fly digest, resulting in 37,978 prepupae for harvest, weighing 26.2 kg.



They were using livestock poop so I'm still interested on getting more info on human waste pathogen reduction/elimination. Even if it were possible to start with an entirely "pure" system, I don't want to bring home something from restaurant food and just have it multiply over and over til we're dead.
 
jacque greenleaf
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Yes, SF larvae do eat poop, but it is hard to see how they could contaminate your food. I know of no data that supports the idea that a human pathogen could survive the larva-adult metamorphosis process, nor of any data showing that a human pathogen remains infective if it is passed through the larvae and into the compost material. Same goes for worms.

I don't think a truly definitive answer to your question exists because all the research required has not been done. In the end, you are the only one who can determine whether the evidence that exists is sufficient for you and your situation.
 
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Regarding plastic:  Apparently plastic breaks down to small particles which can clog the guts of tiny organisms, and also breaks down into chemicals which damage the endocrine systems of critters and other people.    So best if we can keep those things out of the garden.

http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/
 
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Urine, sterile or not, does contain any toxins you body wants to get rid of. So I wouldn't drink it (unless I was dying of thirst), but I think most plants deal with toxins pretty good. All human (and animal) remnants are meant/designed to be part of the fungal soup we are a part of. The average healthy gut has about 4 to 6 pounds of about 500 different kinds of fungus/bacteria with a cell count that equals that of our whole body. Man has studied maybe 20 of those... probably less well. In general, all of the bad ones we hear about have at least one mate type that balances it out (competes for the same food and environment). So there is a lot going on in all this stuff that has a lot more going on than pathogens... and even those pathogens when in proper balance can be a help to the body.  My biggest worry would be worms (not red worms or earth worms, but ring worms, tape worms etc. the parasitic kind) It seems the guarantee for that is heat and or time. Even with no heat two years seems to be the safe time to wait. This means when a pile is full you cover it and leave it for two years before adding it to your garden. Life as a system is designed (by God or, if you have lots of faith by evolution) to recycle everything.

There are two dairies in California that can legally sell raw milk Grandfathered from many years ago). That raw milk is full of biology. In fact if you inoculate it with a pathogen, that pathogen will be gone in about 20 min. If you try the same trick with dead milk, in 20 min it will be deadly.

This whole area is mostly unexplored as yet. Some of the study I have read more recently, indicates that our cells actually rely on bacteria to do their job. That is we would die in a sterile environment if we were sterilized of all the biology save our own cells. we need bacteria to live. Our genes are not complex enough (we know now that we have mapped them) to tell the whole story of what we and what we get from our parents, some of it is passed to us by the bacteria our mother's birth canal and milk give us.

So there you have it, eat dirt!


... The most important thing I learned in collage is "the more you know, the more you know you don't know."
 
Tyler Ludens
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Len, this is turning out to be so true - we depend on bacteria and are actually living in symbiosis with bacteria, would die without them!  So many of current illnesses such as immune problems, asthma, etc, look like they may link to insufficient exposure to bacteria in childhood, thanks to our mom's scrubbing everything with Lysol. 
 
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Willow NyteEyes wrote:
1. Is pee sterile? for example, would putting it directly into the soil that grows food create a germ loop?
2. Does all types of composting kill/remove dangerous pathogens from poop? including vermicomposting?
3. Will non-plant/non-animal substances be composted or ignored and passed into the plants? (Alchohol, parafin wax, plastic wrap?)
4. Are (vegitarian/aerobic) compost piles stinky like rotting veggies in the trash or does that indicate an imbalance/problem?



1.  Chances of a germ loop strike me as low to zero. Urine has some of the same negative effects on soil health as purified chemical fertilizer, though (kidneys do a lot of the same purification a factory might do), and so it's important to take steps to maintain high organic matter content if using urine. That is to say, almost all the carbon in urine itself, and some of the existing carbon in soil, will evaporate as microbes break the urine down into a form plants can use. Composting urine (using a straw bale as a urinal, for example) solves this problem.

2. To some extent, yes, but the pasteurization that occurs in thermophilic composting is much more effective, more rapid, and more broad-spectrum. I think it's wise to carry out thermophilic composting, and then allow detritovores and other living things to complete the destruction of any pathogens while the compost mellows. I'm not sure I'd trust worm castings, from worms fed a diet of human waste, to be free of pathogens: I'd try not to eat root crops grown with them, and to avoid walking barefoot over soil fertilized with them.

3. Paraffin and iron can be expected to compost completely, as long as they aren't too thick and the rest of the material present can keep them moist. Go easy on the zinc and copper, unless you know your soil lacks these, but soil can handle nearly unlimited chrome without causing a danger to plant or human health; it might be annoying to have little flakes of chrome in your soil, and "hard chrome" includes nickel and copper, which might be best to avoid, but the little chrome-plated steel staples in teabags are entirely fine. Most synthetic organic chemicals that don't include Cl or F can be composted if they are dilute enough. Very few plastics are compostable, and in my opinion it only makes sense to choose such plastics for things like the waterproof lining of a paper coffee cup, where composting already makes sense to do. Plastic wrap won't compost.

4. Putrid smells are a sure sign of compost going wrong. Each smell means something different: alcoholic or fruity smells mean too much starch or simple sugar, ammonia is a sign of too little carbon, and hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell) is a sign of too little air. Wood shavings, straw, or coarsely-ground charcoal would fix any of these three problems, but it's possible that what you have on hand to compost with would fix one of these problems, but not the others. Sandy soil will help improve aeration, and sawdust will correct a C/N imbalance, for example, but sawdust tends to choke out air, and sand is essentially inert.
 
                              
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don't drink urine.  just don't do it.  especially if you're dying of thirst.  unless it's someone else's urine it's got so much salt and toxins in it from you being dehydrated it's only detrimental to you.  chances are if you're dying of thirst you're not peeing anways.  this info comes from a marine survival book.
 
that said... urine is great!  it's sterile unless, like others have stated, it comes from a person with a UTI.  i think if i where in a jungle, got sliced open really bad some how and had no way of cleaning it... mmmmmm pee on my wound please?  normal urine is antiviral and antibacterial.

yes urine is a great place for bacteria to grow.  why do you think it's such great fertilizer.  i'm guessing bacteria chew it up and spit it out in series of different forms before plants even have a chance at it.  maybe im wrong on the last part.. not sure.  i know people use urine to cycle (establish the bacteria cycle) their aquaponics systems before introducing fish...
 
                              
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Thank you Joel. Your answer was by far the most detailed and answered not only the letter but the spirit of the question. I appreciate you taking the time. 

I don't know why everyone thinks I'm gonna drink pee when I have perfectly good tap water right in the next room. 

Also, I'm not really worried the larva or red wigglers are gonna me me sick cause I don't plan on eating them(although the chickens will) I was more worried about the castings/leftovers/whatever-you-call-it that I'd be mixing in the garden.

From everybody's input and the reading I've done:
- Pee goes in sawdust or straw, poop and produce go in the bug bin.
- When those are full/done they go in a "normal" compost pile with the garden stuff and sit for a year or two.
- Some wax is okay. No plastic. Recycle/sell your metals.
- Stinky compost is imbalanced compost.

Did I miss anything vital?
 
                              
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lol i didnt think you where going to drink the pee.  i was responding to someone's post above that said not to drink pee unless you where possibly dying of dehydration.  it's a survival tactic i've heard about pretty often and it's wrong.  i was trying to be silly and give some relevant info.
 
                    
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Willow,

I'm not sure how interested you are in the science behind all these questions, but you can find the scientific evidence and answers in these guidelines for the safe use of wastewater and excreta from the World Health Organization http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/wastewater/gsuww/en/index.html (Volume 4 is probably what you are interested in there).

1. Is pee sterile? for example, would putting it directly into the soil that grows food create a germ loop?
2. Does all types of composting kill/remove dangerous pathogens from poop? including vermicomposting?
3. Will non-plant/non-animal substances be composted or ignored and passed into the plants? (Alchohol, parafin wax, plastic wrap?)
4. Are (vegitarian/aerobic) compost piles stinky like rotting veggies in the trash or does that indicate an imbalance/problem?



A lot of people have already pointed out some important things, and Joel's answers were indeed pretty accurate but I do have a few clarifications to add:

1. Pee is indeed normally sterile, but there are a few pathogens which can be transmitted through urine. However, the risk of these pathogens constituting a health risk is very low because they typically do not survive long in urine and are not easily transmitted through the environment. One important exception is Schistosoma haematobium (a type of fluke http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schistosoma_haematobium ), which is endemic in certain tropical areas like the Middle East, India, and Africa (and possibly Portugal). The life cycle of this pathogen requires snails as intermediate hosts, so in these areas it is very important to prevent urine from entering freshwater supplies to ensure the transmission cycle is broken completely. Leptospira bacteria ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leptospira ) also poses a minor risk in tropical areas and avoidance of urine contact with freshwater also eliminates this problem. But again, in general risks can generally be considered very low for any kind of transmission of pathogens through urine. The biggest problem comes from cross-contamination of fecal matter. For example, if you have a urine-diverting toilet, there is a good probability that a tiny amount of fecal matter will enter into the urine storage tanks and this could cause some problems. So in cases where cross-contamination can be expected, it is best to store urine for a period of time (a month is good) before usage and to not apply urine directly to low-growing food crops with edible surfaces. Urinating directly into the soil that grows food crops should not be a problem, just be careful if you live in one of those endemic areas to those two aforementioned pathogens and if it is the rainy season, because that could create a low risk of transmission if those pathogens are present and enter puddles and ponds and such.

2. Only thermophilic composting really kills all fecal pathogens. The WHO guidelines do not really go into vermicomposting, but as a vermicomposter myself I would expect the worms would not eat 100% of the material and therefore could still constitute a pathogen risk. And as Joel said, I am not sure if they would really be killed passing through the worm's digestive system anyway. So if your composting is not thermophilic, this shouldn't be a big problem. Just make sure to store the compost (a year is good, and probably 6 months is sufficient in tropical countries) before use if you are going to use it to grow low-growing vegetables with edible surfaces like in a vegetable garden. It is good to store compost even if you are using thermophilic composting, because cold spots within the compost could provide a haven for fecal pathogens to survive the composting process.

3. I think Joel answered this question completely. Alcohol and wax should be fine, although wax will probably take a fair amount of time to break down. In general if it is an organic compound found in nature, it will break down readily. Plastic is definitely a no-no, but they do make some plastic bags now that are compostable now.

4. Compost piles with veggie scraps and the like will smell a bit, even when working properly. However, if you do not keep adding fresh material, the smells will quickly go away as the composting process does its magic. But if you really smell a strong offensive odor that makes your stomach turn, this is usually the sign of anaerobic bacteria at work and this smell will not go away anytime soon because it is imbalanced in some way, as you said.
Make sure to sufficiently aerate the compost and that it is not saturated with water and this shouldn't be a problem.


From everybody's input and the reading I've done:
- Pee goes in sawdust or straw, poop and produce go in the bug bin.
- When those are full/done they go in a "normal" compost pile with the garden stuff and sit for a year or two.


The treatment process you describe should be sufficient to eliminate almost all risk of pathogen transmission. But as a point of clarification, urine does not need to be added to sawdust although there is nothing wrong with doing that. You can simply store urine in a container on its own, no problem. The urine need not be composted, but can be stored for one month and then applied where needed. In my mind, sawdust is better to add to feces as that will create the perfect aeration and C/N ratio for the composting process.

-Adam
 
                              
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stalk_of_fennel wrote:
lol i didnt think you where going to drink the pee.  i was responding to someone's post above that said not to drink pee unless you where possibly dying of dehydration.  it's a survival tactic i've heard about pretty often and it's wrong.  i was trying to be silly and give some relevant info.



Didn't know you were directing the comment to Len... I thought you both were trying to stop a foolish newbie from poisoning herself.   ops:

[quote author=Adam]I'm not sure how interested you are in the science behind all these questions, but you can find the scientific evidence and answers in these guidelines for the safe use of wastewater and excreta from the World Health Organization http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/wastewater/gsuww/en/index.html (Volume 4 is probably what you are interested in there).

Love science. If I don't know how something works I can't help but break it by accident.

[quote author=Adam]One important exception is Schistosoma haematobium)[...], which is endemic in certain tropical areas like the Middle East, India, and Africa (and possibly Portugal).

Great White North here. No tropics (except maybe some very small parts of BC) so no worries.

[quote author=Adam]The WHO guidelines do not really go into vermicomposting, but as a vermicomposter myself I would expect the worms would not eat 100% of the material and therefore could still constitute a pathogen risk. And as Joel said, I am not sure if they would really be killed passing through the worm's digestive system anyway.[...] It is good to store compost even if you are using thermophilic composting, because cold spots within the compost could provide a haven for fecal pathogens to survive the composting process.

That's what I thought, and good to know. I'm getting a much better picture of the whole idea now.

[quote author=Adam]The treatment process you describe should be sufficient to eliminate almost all risk of pathogen transmission.[...]In my mind, sawdust is better to add to feces as that will create the perfect aeration and C/N ratio for the composting process.

Awesome news & more to think about.  I love this site.

Thanks guys, girls and those with gender-neutral screen names. You're full of awesome. 
 
Len Ovens
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Willow NyteEyes wrote:
Didn't know you were directing the comment to Len... I thought you both were trying to stop a foolish newbie from poisoning herself.   ops:



I had heard of some people doing it.... they were stuck in an elevator for several days. I can't think of any other places I couldn't find SOME other water somehow. Supposedly, even salt water will work if you start drinking before you start to dehydrate. Some guy rowed around the world shortly after second WW and drank only salt water..... and was in good health at the end of his trip. I don't know how he did in later life... I'm thinking his liver might have been less than 100%. McRalph's french fries might do the same though.

I certainly don't know everything.... and in dire straits, I can't guarantee clear thought

I wonder how a slow sand filter would do with it.
 
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Adam wrote:

1. Pee is indeed normally sterile, but there are a few pathogens which can be transmitted through urine. However, the risk of these pathogens constituting a health risk is very low because they typically do not survive long in urine and are not easily transmitted through the environment. One important exception is Schistosoma haematobium (a type of fluke http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schistosoma_haematobium ), which is endemic in certain tropical areas like the Middle East, India, and Africa (and possibly Portugal). The life cycle of this pathogen requires snails as intermediate hosts, so in these areas it is very important to prevent urine from entering freshwater supplies to ensure the transmission cycle is broken completely.



Interesting stuff Adam!  The wikki entry said that "the free swimming infective larval cercariae burrow into human skin when it comes into contact with contaminated water.

I think I'm going to be a whole load fussier where I go swimming from now on...   
 
                                
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This is how I use pee (and sometimes poo too .  Pee is great to add to your compost pile, but I never add it directly to plants because it can burn them (unless very diluted, so I don’t bother).  Most of the liquid I put in my compost pile is actually my pee (I only use my own); the only water added is a bit to rinse out the kitchen scrap container.  I do have a good amount of browns in there though (sawdust, leaves), so it does not smell.

Also, when preparing a new raised veggie bed it takes 2 years because I make my own soil out of leaves and grass clods (I’m trying to get rid of all my lawn, so when I plant shrubs I put the grass clods in a new raised bed), so I occasionally add pee to these beds as well.  In the winter, when I have charcoal from the woodstove I soak the charcoal in pee for a few days and then put that in the beds (I put all ash and charcoal in actual beds during the winter, not the compost pile since it can alter the ph).  Charcoal is great, but the problem is that it actually absorbs nutrients from the soil in the beginning, so by soaking it in pee or another nutrient-rich solution it won’t steal from the soil / plants.

When preparing compacted soil for ornamental plants I dig out an area, put in a bunch of leaves and some lime and/ or wood ash, cover with dirt, flood the area with water and after that I add pee over the next few weeks to speed up the breakdown of the leaves (this is usually done in the fall).  This year I decided to try adding some poo, too.  I put sawdust into a container, collect, place this on top of the amended soil, cover with leaves, add some lime, cover with dirt.  I have a bunch of little “burial mounds” right now so I can see where I have already applied my night soil!

I only use poo in ornamental beds though.  It takes at least 2 years for any feces pathogens to be killed via composting, so I don’t add it to veggie beds.

BTW:  Sawdust alone is NOT going to cover up the smell of a “bucket toilet”!!!  I did a test – I left my container uncovered in the bathroom, the poo completely covered in sawdust, and closed the door for 15 minutes.  I opened the door and EEEK!!!  I quickly closed the lid, turned on the exhaust fan and ran my “experiment” out to the garden!  Keeping the lid on helps, but as soon as you open it, YIKES!  I haven’t tried adding wood ash yet since it’s warmed up and I ran out, but lime should help (I never smelled my buried dogs).

You say you don’t want to install a septic system, so I’m assuming you live in a rural area.  You can purchase nice composting toilets nowadays – with or without water, all-in-one or with a separate composting unit in the basement or outside.  They do the bulk of the composting, speeding up the process so you can just empty and spread it out in your ornamental gardens.
 
                              
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Dunno about sawdust, but I can verify that rice hulls alone will work fine for preventing odor. I even forgot to empty mine before I left for two months, and it sat in an unconditioned space during the heat of the summer, and when I returned there was still no smell. In fact it has less odor than the travel trailer toilet I'd been using.

Just my two cents
 
                    
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Muzhik wrote:
Provided the contributor doesn't have an active kidney or bladder infection, pee can be considered sterile; however, it make such a wonderful growth medium that you have to take active steps to keep it sterile outside the body.



That is what I was told in a university microbiology course - the prof thought the taboo against peeing in the bushes was irrational, which he noted was good news for the health of people living in a college town. And even outside the body, urine is mostly going to be colonized by bacteria that specialize in using nitrogen as a food ... urine is not so likely to grow serious disease causing organisms. On the other hand, a casserole or meat dish left too long in the fridge can host some dangerous bugs - taking a taste, or even opening the container and getting a whiff can be bad.   
 
                          
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natschultz wrote:
BTW:  Sawdust alone is NOT going to cover up the smell of a “bucket toilet”!!!  I did a test – I left my container uncovered in the bathroom, the poo completely covered in sawdust, and closed the door for 15 minutes.  I opened the door and EEEK!!! 



Really??

Granted, we're still fairly new to the sawdust toilet, but that's all we've used so far.  Did you make sure you had a layer of a couple of inches of sawdust in the bottom first, before actually using it?

That's all we do, though. 
Layer of sawdust in the bottom, do our business, cover any additions with more sawdust, and drop the toilet lid down, just like usual. 
Not only does my discerning nose not smell anything, but we even have five dogs running in and out of the house and not a one of them has even noticed it!

 
Tyler Ludens
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I do not have a source of sawdust or similar material.  Would leaves or leaf-mold work? 
 
jacque greenleaf
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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According to the guy (J Jenkins) who wrote the book (The Humanure Handbook), yes it will.

Download the book. It's free.
 
                          
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Ludi wrote:
I do not have a source of sawdust or similar material.  Would leaves or leaf-mold work? 


Leaves are supposed to work, too. (We don't have trees, though).
And we also have peat.  Both the peat and the shredded wood shavings come in gigantic bags from Menards, though. 
No actual sawdust for us, either. 
 
                                          
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Location: Ferndale, MI- Zone 5b
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Adam wrote:
Here is the link for the free version (2nd edition) of the Humanure Handbook. I would also recommend it -- a great book!
www.humanurehandbook.com/downloads/H2_all.pdf


[s]
that's a link to a .pdf for the 3rd edition.  none of it is for free.

is there another link you could provide?[/s]

never mind.  there was a link embedded in the .pdf for on-line viewing of the 3rd edition.  here's a more specific link: http://humanurehandbook.com/contents.html
 
                    
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Yes I'm sorry that wasn't the link I thought it was. Thanks for pointing that out. Like you said, though, there is a link where one can view the 3rd edition. Somewhere floating around is the 2nd edition downloadable as one single pdf. I will post it here if I can find it.

Edit: Here is a direct link to the 3rd edition as one single pdf: http://www.weblife.org/humanure/pdf/humanure_handbook_third_edition.pdf
 
                                      
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We've been using our sawdust toilet for two years now.  In fact, we only recently got our well drilled and the thought of a flush toilet is dancing like sugarplums in the heads of the women of our family.

If your humanure is properly composted, that is, sustained high temp. composting, and then left to continue cool composting for a year, it can be used with great success and no worries on any foodcrop.  If, however, your humanure does not compost properly, like the bottom of any outhouse or cesspool, it WILL propagate pathogenic organisms.  It will create puddles that are just like the buckets of poop and piss that I remember being thrown into the ditches in Argentina.  Cholera is the most common result of such practices, and an improperly composted humanure is not really that distinguishable from the described...

Proper composting is not difficult, though, and humanure should not be wasted.  Even with our new flush toilet, our septic system is a reedfield that will grow structural bamboo, as well as cattails and bullrushes along side the water chestnuts.  All these plants will also be used for food.

It is interesting that the only People on earth that waste their waste are the tiny minority known as "civilized" people.  It is also very instructive.
 
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I posted this over in the permaculture–sanitation forum, but this forum seems appropriate too. Check the link, a great study on anaerobic fermenting humanure with charcoal and saurkraut juice and then vermicomposting it. Worms reduce pathogens nearly 100%.

We've been peeing into buckets, have started putting charcoal (made in a "chartridge" {a steel square pipe, with a lid and small holes that allow gases to escape} in our masonry heater, as house is heated) into the bucket first, we find it really cuts down on the odor. In the winter, we are adding this to our compost pile, with leaves or straw and food waste. We haven't yet harvested the compost. It take a lot of straw or leaves, and they don't always soak up all the urine (very wet climate here in Western WA). Compost bins have covers over them, so less rain gets added.

I've been researching to find out if this urine and charcoal mix can be used in a vermicomposting system and have not really found anything. Has anyone tried it? I did come across a study using humanure, charcoal, and saurkraut juice (!) (or other lactobacillus EM source) to anaerobically ferment the humanure, then fed to worms.

www.susana.org/docs_ccbk/susana_download/2-721-wst10201tps1.pdf

It is a very inspiring bit of research, kind of a bokashi system for humanure. I do like the idea of adding ashes to the urine for fertilizer too, we have plenty of wood ashes as well as charcoal. But, I have still not found info on urine/charcoal/worms. Does anyone have any experience (or knowledge) of this?
 
jacque greenleaf
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Warning, large copy pasta.


From the current issue of Worm Farming Secrets
(subscribe here http://www.wormfarmingsecrets.com/ )


"Can worms spread harmful bacteria such as ecoli and salmonella?"
~ Shauna Babcock

Hi Shauna,

That is a really good question!

Worms themselves are not hosts for pathogens, but the materials
they live in and consume CAN contain various disease-causing
organisms. Thus caution is certainly warranted when using
materials such as manure and sewage sludge, which can both
contain high levels of pathogens.

Not only are worms not pathogen-infested organisms, but there is
actually a growing body of evidence to suggest that worms
(specifically composting worms) can actually significantly reduce
populations of pathogens in waste materials.

Eastman et al. (2001) tested the effectiveness of vermicomposting
for pathogen destruction in biosolids (sewage sludge from waste
treatment plant). The researchers "heavily" inoculated two
biosolids windrows with four different pathogens - fecal
coliforms, Salmonella, enteric viruses and helminth ova. Red
worms (Eisenia fetida) were then added to one of the rows at a
ratio 1:1.5 (worm wt:biosolids wt) and left to process the
materials. After 144 hours the row with the worms was found to
contain significantly fewer pathogens than the control row. The
results strongly suggest that vermicomposting could be used to
achieve EPA Class A standards for biosolids.

In a 2006 BioCycle article, Craig and Ankers report on a
promising 'real world' example of a large-scale vermicomposting
system being used successfully to achieve Class A biosolids. A
Pennsylvania wastewater plant has become the first in the U.S. to
be granted a permit to make use of biosolids that have been
processed by worms. The plant utilizes a large-scale
(semi-continuous) flow-through reactor designed by Vermitech
systems (of Australia) to process biosolids 'filter cakes' - a
material that was previously landfilled. According to the
article, the resultant vermi-processed material has been well
received by local vineyards, golf courses and sod producers.

There is some evidence to indicate that worms can reduce
pathogens in manures as well (although this doesn't appear to
have been studied as extensively). Murry and Hinckley (1992)
studied the fate of Salmonella in horse manure processed by
Eisenia fetida. They observed an 8% reduction in the presence of
worms, and only a 2% reduction in treatments without worms. The
horse manure was completely sterilized prior to use in the
experiment, and the ratio of worms to waste was lower than in the
Eastman study - potentially explaining why reductions were not as
dramatic in this study.

Despite the evidence suggesting potential pathogen destruction
during the vermicomposting process it is still best to use
caution when dealing with materials such as manures and sewage.
Part of the problem is that even if the passage through the
earthworms' gut IS destroying these organisms, how can we be sure
that all the material has in fact passed through a worm? Even in
the most efficient systems there will undoubtedly still be at
least some unprocessed materials.

As an extra precautionary measure when using manures/sewage as
worm food, I'd recommend hot composting the materials for at
least a few days prior to feeding it to your worms. This has the
added bonus of speeding up the process and destroying weed seeds
as well.

REFERENCES

Craig, L. and S. Ankers. 2006. Vermiculture produces EQ Class A
biosolids at wastewater plant. BioCycle 47(2): 42.

Eastman, B.R., Kane, P.N., Edwards, C.A., Trutek, L., Gunadi, B.,
Sterner, A.L. and J.R. Mobley. 2001. The effectiveness of
vermiculture in human pathogen reduction for USEPA biosolids
stabilization. Compost Science & Utilization 9: 38-49.

Murray, A.C. Jr and L.S. Hinckley. 2006. Vermiculture Produces EQ
Class A Biosolids at Wastewater Plant. BioCycle 47(2): p.42.
 
                          
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Erin wrote:
Layer of sawdust in the bottom, do our business, cover any additions with more sawdust, and drop the toilet lid down, just like usual. 
Not only does my discerning nose not smell anything, but we even have five dogs running in and out of the house and not a one of them has even noticed it!



I must agree with Erin, here.  In fact, I once did an experiment with nothing more than shredded newspapers and found no odor whatsoever.  It worked so well with such relatively skimpy materials that I simply couldn't believe it, so I tested it by bringing it out to my living room where a friend was visiting and, showing him the bucket of what looked like nothing more than shredded newspaper I said "I'm sure I smell something in this house... does this smell funny to you?"  He sniffed and declared that he couldn't smell a thing, maybe I should check the kitchen.
 
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This spring will be the second year of using the end product  for our main/kitchen garden.  So far, zero problems except what to do with all those freeking tomatoes.  For my day job, I am a sort of doctor, and had to take microbiology, public health, etc.  So I am not casual or cavalier about this.  We have our own well, so, if I did this badly, we could really mess up our health.  I make a pile for a year including all the kitchen and garden scraps, turn it once, age it for one more year and then it goes on the garden and the orchard trees, etc.  I monitored the internal pile temperatures pretty often the first two years, but don't bother any more.

I do a bucket system, using shredded paper from work, and alfalfa pellets.  I found that I couldn't get enough sawdust to make the system work well, and I had all this shredded paper to get rid of anyway.  The alfalfa pellets are very absorbent, and while not odor free, it produces a smell that is not unpleasant, sweet even.

This year I will be switching to soil and shredded paper as my bucket additives.  I intentionally started with the alfalfa to get the fertility up fast, if you can call waiting a year "fast".  It's a pretty decent garden amendment all on it's own, and I just ran it through the compost pile first to control odor and soak up the liquids better.

Now, like many others who do this, I am mildly horrified when I think about how a flush toilet works in North America.  As part of a teaching exercise, I ask people to do a mental experiment.  It's gross, so if you're squeemish, you should stop now.  Here we go...

1.  Imagine you have a large glass of the most beautiful pure transparent water in the most most beautiful clear glass in your right hand.  (most people at this point suddenly get thirsty and want to drink it, mentally at least)

2.  Now imagine a fresh hot juicy squishy turd in your left hand.  YUCK!!!  OK, in your imagination, drop the turd into the glass of ultra pure drinking water in the beautiful glass.  NOOOOOOOOOO!  Do we not feel a certain revulsion at committing this terrible act of the worst sort of pollution?

Guess what, that's how our current flush toilet system works.  It takes triple-A grade drinking grade water, the best there is, and throws a damn stinking turd in there and hopes that the "big sewer/big treatment plant" can somehow get the turd and all the germs back out so we can drink the water again.

Really???  Yes, that is our current state of the art big sewage plan.

YUCK!!!

troy
 
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Troy Rhodes wrote:

1.  Imagine you have a large glass of the most beautiful pure transparent water in the most most beautiful clear glass in your right hand.  (most people at this point suddenly get thirsty and want to drink it, mentally at least)

2.  Now imagine a fresh hot juicy squishy turd in your left hand.  YUCK!!!  OK, in your imagination, drop the turd into the glass of ultra pure drinking water in the beautiful glass.  NOOOOOOOOOO!  Do we not feel a certain revulsion at committing this terrible act of the worst sort of pollution?

Guess what, that's how our current flush toilet system works.  It takes triple-A grade drinking grade water, the best there is, and throws a damn stinking turd in there and hopes that the "big sewer/big treatment plant" can somehow get the turd and all the germs back out so we can drink the water again.

Really???  Yes, that is our current state of the art big sewage plan.

YUCK!!!

troy



Troy, you have a special place in my heart.
 
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