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Middens? Burn Piles?

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We've been an aspiring permaculture community/homestead for 30 years.  Over that time, many people have come and gone, many projects have worked and failed, or not quite been realized.  And, the fact is, we've got junk.  Trash.  Too much stuff that got saved that was broken or even brought back from the dump cuz it could be useful.  And, truly, many of the things could, potentially, be useful.  I weave baskets from old irrigation tape, knit baling twine into grocery bags.  Really, we're trying.

But there is way too much junk.  SO, we are finally doing a major clean up of the bone yard.  But sending stuff to the dump sucks.  

Things like broken pottery and rotting wood can go in a midden/hole in the ground.  Check.

Dry, unpainted, untreated wood can be burned.  Check.

What about the unfortunate amount of plywood, pressboard, and painted lumber that has found it's way here over the years?

Any ideas or experience on what can be put in a midden/compost pile and what can be burned would be so very helpful.



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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I can only say what I do, not recommend what others should do.  I don't burn any trash or wood to dispose of it because it stinks up the valley and needlessly wastes organic material.  I make brush piles and let them rot down.  I have one huge compost heap in which I put old wood scraps, plywood, some cardboard and some paper, and dirty wool, some non-plastic fabric, etc.  Basically anything organic.  We have many fungi here that seem eager to decompose everything so I trust them to purify these materials over time.  Eventually trees may grow in this pile but it is not near where I grow food.

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Location: Nevada County, CA
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Speaking of fungi - I've taken a hint from Paul Stamets. Currently, theres a pile of 'potting soil' that I accepted before realizing its.... inexplicably filled with styrofoam. It looked like perlite at first
Just as well, our boneyard is overflowing, so Im picking through to get all of the decaying plastic/petro-products out. We also have two gigantic bags in the storage room bursting with oyster mushroom inoculate. The plan is to experiment with chipping the plastic, and designating test piles (foam + soil, plastic chad + soil; woodchips - whatever variables we can think of) with a handsome heaping of oysters under a tarp, in shade, to witness the process to see if it can be further optimized.... assuming we dont just wind up with a bunch of plastic compost piles. Mushrooms would be a handsome bonus.

Id love to talk up "fungal remediation" more, but... Ill have to report back in 6 months.

Im also wondering if a 'disposal rocket stove' could be built.... probably outside, with the purpose of "cleanish burning" treated wood? Or perhaps a modified biochar setup? Im ready to scolded on why it wont work; Im just struggling with certains things like this in the quest to never ever send a molecule of bullshit downstream.
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If you get a burning pile hot enough, I would imagine that most of the nasty stuff within it would gas-off.  Once it's burned down 80% or so, put the fire out with a hose.  The remaining charcoal could be incorporated into a rot pile somewhere -- hopefully in a high-fungal environment.  Give it a couple of years to continue to be exposed to fungi and bacteria, and then I'd think that biochar would be good to use.
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Location: Western Massachusetts (USDA zone 5a, heating zone 5, 40"+)
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Sorry to hear you're in this situation, but I can totally understand it - the amount of toxic gunk our society produces is overwhelming.

Please don't burn any plastic or paint.  There MIGHT be a very high temperature at which it would be safe to burn plastic, but I'd err on the side of caution.  As bad as plastic trash is, airborne plastic vapors have got to be worse for your health.

As for paint, all of it seems to be toxic, and if any of the paint is older than the mid-1970s, make sure it isn't lead paint.  Lead paint can usually be spotted due to its being thick, ductile, and flaking off in a distinctive way.  You can also get lead test kits from the hardware store that (in my experience) are pricey but pretty effective.  Do not EVER burn anything with lead paint on it - lead is a deadly neurotoxin and there is NO safe exposure level.  Children (especially under 6) must not be exposed to lead - it permanently damages IQ and leads to impulse control problems.  The way to deal with lead paint is to send it to a hazardous materials facility if possible; if not, encapsulate it with durable paint and keep it from cracking, rubbing against anything, or coming in contact with water.

Can you use any of the material for structures or insulation?

Some plastic may break down slowly if exposed to UV.  I don't know if the breakdown process releases anything toxic, or if the remnants are more or less toxic than the plastic you started with, but it's something to keep in mind.

I hope Ian and Tyler's suggestion of fungi works!
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