Cover Materials

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Composting Around the World: Cover Materials
Author: Alan J Marshall (Ecointerest)
Friday, September 19, 2008 - 3:48 am
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By way of trying to answer my own question, I have been looking in a book called "The Fungal Connection," edited by George Carroll and Donald T Wicklow, published by Marcel Dekker, Inc. in 1992.
Also in the later edition, 2005. I get the impression that White Rot Fungus is very important in the breakdown of timber, (and therefore sawdust). It produces enzymes which attack the lignin, allowing other bacteria to continue the decay. My knowledge of the science is extremely limited, but the workings of nature inspire me.
In the later edition, it seems that the various fungi are more species-specific than geography-specific. And the same sort of fungi that will be effective for eucalyptus are also effective for conifers.
Anyway, from a practical point of view, for us Humanure converts, it shows that we are using the ideal principles.

Author: Alan J Marshall (Ecointerest)
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 7:31 pm
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I have heard similar claims about some of the eucalyptus species sawdust in Australia: that eucalyptus sawdust does not break down easily.
My suggestion is that if the sawdust is accompanied by mulch and micro-organisms which exist naturally in the species' growing area, then the sawdust will compost well. When I use a chainsaw to cut my firewood here, the resulting sawdust is used for the loo. Composting takes place without any problems.
Joe in his book mentions allowing sawdust to weather and partly rot in the open air, before use. Maybe fungi etc. are present all around the world, that will help to break down any woody material, whatever the species. Or is fungi species-specific? Does anyone have definitive information on this?

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 1:25 pm
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We used rotted cedar sawdust at a music festival this year and at a conference last year as cover material in humanure toilets. It was an experiment - that's all they could get (California and Texas). I suspected the worst, but both heated up nicely. The readings from the music festival this year (450-500 people) were in the 144-150 F range about 7 weeks after the pile was built.

Author: Norm Routledge (Quakercannon)
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - 12:29 pm
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Cedar sawdust does not compost. That is why we used cedar as a building material in our cordwood masonry house. The remnants of the pile went onto pathways and under the hammock and it is still there three years later. It sure smells great though.
The hardwood sawdust we have now was cut with a bandsaw and seems to be very absorbent, so like Jonathan Walther we find moisture 'breaks through' and odours escape and flies appear. We will try a combination of one thing for urine, another for solids as suggested by JamesK. We are lucky to have lots of grass, weeds, bullrushes, organic free trade coffee grounds and sawdust from 3 local mills. Joe's hacienda design works great, looks good and our pile which was started in April '08 is cooking at 115-120 degrees. The whole thing is a roaring success, which is a relief after an agonizing failure with a 12V 'composting' toilet.

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