Composting in the 5-gallon bucket ? ...

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: General Composting Issues: Composting in the 5-gallon bucket ? Will it work.
Author: Al Chase (Uncleal)
Friday, November 21, 2008 - 6:44 pm
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. In response to Brian: ("I live on a 1/4 acr lot and do not have the room for a full on compost pile.")
. I live in the city on a 40 x 50 ft lot, less than 1/20 acre total. Besides the house, there are two trees in front plus a side yard that's about 15 x 40 feet and a strip about 6' wide behind the house.
. I built a 3' x 3' x 3' bin, which sits along one side of the side yard, and will build a second one, to sit beside it, when that one fills. Based on 6 months of use to date, it looks like it will be at least a year before that bin fills, which means I can continue indefinitely with two bins that size. Beside the bin I have a couple of bails of straw, one on top of the other. Some people wouldn't like the aesthetics, but having grown up partly on a ranch, which I miss, I love it! In my garage I have a couple garbage bags of other cover material that I collect from the trees and the yard, and one or two big bags of peat moss.
. Just my own compostables are going into the bin, but my yard could accommodate two bins with enough capacity for two people's compostables.
. Obviously it's a matter of one's priorities for the available space. But for whatever it may be worth, this was a brief description of a humanure composting project that so far seems to be working well in limited space, occupying a much smaller footprint than a full-on "humanure hacienda."

(Message edited by UncleAl on November 21, 2008)

Author: Brian Hawkins (Brianhks)
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 - 12:35 am
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I live on a 1/4 acr lot and do not have the room for a full on compost pile. I've been looking at the composting drums that you can rotate in order to turn the pile. Has anyone used one of these to compost humanure? Also what about the use of ChemiSan to aid in the composting process?

Author: Patrick (Pcinca)
Monday, April 30, 2007 - 10:45 pm
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Composting in the bucket is doable, but not very efficient and that's why the earlier mention of transfering it to a bigger vessel such as a 55-gallon drum with aeration and ventilation if it is kept indoors would also work.

"Night soil" collectors have been hauling the full containers for centuries in Japan, India, etc. and a good history of this can be seen in eco-architect Sym Van Der Ryn's book "The Toilet Papers: Recycling Waste and Conserving Water".

This could be started in America and elsewhere as it provides jobs and sends the humanure to large, commercial compost centers and then to farms. It's a good solution for city dwellers who have little to no room for composting.

John Todd of www.oceanarks.org has been using small (micro) to large scale created wetlands for the same purpose and growing fish for food in the process. This site has a large link section for more info on bioremediation.

Todd's commercial site for bioremediation design and installation is at www.toddecological.com .

Todd has spawned many other similar groups all over the world. His site has before and after pictures of terrible raw sewage filled streets in China and elsewhere and then the same areas after instalation of bioremediation systems ("restorer" systems)- total cleanup.

http://www.toddecological.com/ecomachines.html

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Monday, April 30, 2007 - 10:21 am
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The solution in those scenarios is simply for someone to come and pick up your full, covered humanure containers and replace them with clean containers filled with cover material. The pick-up service would then take the humanure and compost it elsewhere.

Author: H. Barton (Aaytch)
Sunday, April 29, 2007 - 3:54 pm
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Let's say I live on a normal 1/2 acre plot in suburbia. There's no possibility for a compost pile here. Or let's say I am replacing a "head" on a boat. No land at all. No room for any sort of compost pile. Or maybe I am one of the billions in the slums of the third world where poop is typically discarded into the street. In short, a humanure system that contemplates a compost pile as a necessary ingredient cannot I think be a solution for the masses. I do wish some effort would be made to make humanure composting more generally applicable, and less iconoclastic. Composting "in the bucket" would be one such strategy, among others perhaps.

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Sunday, April 29, 2007 - 12:51 pm
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I think my point is that it would be far easier to dump the contents of the bucket into a compost bin than to design a bucket that will allow composting inside it.

Author: H. Barton (Aaytch)
Sunday, April 29, 2007 - 7:36 am
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I didn't say to leave the lids on. In fact I suggested a wire mesh inner liner to allow air circulation around the entire bucket. If there is an issue with injecting microbes and such to jump-start the process, that could be accomplished too. In other words, I still don't see any intrinsic reason why composting in a bucket would not work.

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Thursday, April 26, 2007 - 6:05 pm
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You're not going to get compost in buckets. Compost is not only aerobic, but it benefits immensely from a mixture of material - food scraps, yard debris, garden residue, as well as a wide variety of insect life, which comes from the soil. This isn't going to happen inside closed buckets.

Author: TCLynx (Tclynx)
Thursday, April 26, 2007 - 9:32 am
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H. Barton (Aaytch),
I don't know how well that would actually work. Perhaps some one could Test it for the rest of us and see how it goes.
Possible problems to deal with. How do you airate a very large number of 5 Gallon buckets? If you are not airating them and you seal them up, what keeps them from buldging or popping open? If they are not sealed or airated, how do you deal with bugs and smell? (in a large pile there is space for extra cover material that acts as biofilter.) Oh, and how do you deal with the fact that in a bucket the bottom part is prettymuch saturated with liquid and the top is pretty dry (the act of emptying the bucket in a pile helps wet everyting with the urine and speed composting.) Finally, to do this on a full size scale you would need alot of buckets, that is alot of airators and thermomiters.
It really isn't so bad to empty buckets. About a minute of smelly time and you are done. I've noticed when we sometimes leave a few buckets with lids on them for too long before emptying, they are the nasty ones to empty. Fresher buckets aren't so bad. The good thing about emptying into a full size compost pile, once it gets about half full, it doesn't seem to get much fuller for a while (at least with only two people filling it.)

Author: H. Barton (Aaytch)
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 - 11:03 pm
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OK so here's a plan for a sewage "system". Buy 5 gallon buckets full of sawdust. Buy one extra empty bucket. Put half of the sawdust into the empty bucket which becomes the "loo". The other bucket, now half full of sawdust cover material, has a scoop in it. Scoop as needed. When the bucket of cover material is empty, the loo is taken outside to the composting station or more sawdust can be brought in. Outside, the buckets can be stacked high, labeled, and rotated in the way that produces the best compost, or whatever. Advantage of this system over a compost "pile" is no emptying, no washing, and pre-packaged compost product is ready for delivery to garden. A system so easy even a soccer mom can handle it. Over the top?

Author: Patrick (Pcinca)
Wednesday, April 25, 2007 - 4:44 pm
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Well folks, I hit the jackpot finally on that article I was looking for in Mother Earth News about the bucket composting. Turns out that they were not pooping in the bucket, rather, they were throwing their toilet paper in it along with kitchen scraps and paper, and they had inoculated it with a little compost full of bugs and microorganizms.

I had mentioned that as I remembered, the bucket had not needed empting at about a year into the project- wrong. They emptied it at the 4 year mark and they didn't need to empty it then!

Also, the guy who started the project is eco-friendly survivalist writer and educator, Christopher Nyerges who lives not far from me.

The article is a hoot and educational to boot- see the link.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/DIY/1991-08-01/The-Last-Laugh.aspx

Author: Patrick (Pcinca)
Monday, April 23, 2007 - 4:22 pm
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H. Barton, absolutely. When a properly set up system is up and running, regardless of it's size, it will do fine. Of course, depending on the amount of people using a 5-gallon bucket, for instance, the fill-up to capacity time will vary.

When the bucket is full, it is set aside and a empty one is started with a little (C) material in the bottom and a little fresh and ready compost to "inoculate" it for a head start on decomposition.

In a practical sense, however, it would be more efficient to take the full bucket out to the compost pile, or, if there is room in the house or garage, one can use a larger vessel such as a 55-gallon drum for dumping into. Same system requirements: aeration tubes and vent pipe to the outside and in cold regions, a source of heat or good insulation so it will keep the bacterial action robust.

My father had special-built dolly made just for heavy 55-gallon barrels and he used a "stewing" mix of cow dung, water and compost for an eventual high potency (N) ammendment to our fruit trees. At first, it was over-kill potent and it "nitrogen-burned" the trees and he soon realized that this concoction had to be diluted-down.

Eventually, I convinced him to run this "soup" through his huge compost pile (10x10x10- the "'post mountain", we called it) to mellow it out.

From then on, he had the best compost I've ever seen and he was always proud to show it off by sticking his hand in the botton of the finished part and pull it out with the richest, darkest, worm crawling stuff I ever saw.

Author: H. Barton (Aaytch)
Monday, April 23, 2007 - 1:42 pm
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Patrick,
So I guess you're agreeing that thermophilic composting can and will occur in a properly designed 5 gallon bucket with special provision for air (but not otherwise). If so, then it's possible or even easy to set up a system of rotating buckets.... and no need for dumping them onto a larger compost "pile" and washing out buckets, etc.

Author: Patrick (Pcinca)
Monday, April 23, 2007 - 1:05 pm
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In trying to track down current info on the "Carrousel" toilet I described (and no luck yet as they might have discontinued it), I found an interesting alternative indoor compost toilet and found a page with all of the specs on it.

http://www.thenaturalhome.com/sunmar.htm

Note that it has an aeration rotating feature for turning the pile- much like those store-bought outdoor compost barrels that have crank for turning the pile.

I will keep looking for an info link on the "Carrousel" unit.

Author: Patrick (Pcinca)
Monday, April 23, 2007 - 12:39 pm
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Anaerobic bacterial decomposition is definitely much slower than aerobic, but it has it's merits, esp., when dealing with humanure. One need not- should not handle a humanure pile by turning it due to the pathogens present and the bad ammonia smell and there is no need to because of the long sitting time of the pile (2 years, as Joe mentions in his book is good).

When air is introduced, the aerobic bacteria can significantly excellerate the decomposition process along with worms and bugs, so in the case of a bucket or inside the house container, raising the pile with wire as you said, can help aerate it along with adding air drop tubes to the bottom of the pile.

I once installed a house toilet digestor called a "Carrousel" (brand name) that at the time, I found to be one of the best indoor composting, waterless toilets available. It had aeration tubes going through each of 4 separate chambers and it had an optional fan and heater available.

It had a separate access door for dumping in kitchen scraps and dry materials (C) although these materials could be dumped in through the toilet. It also had a vent pipe such as a conventional water toilet has.

When each chamber was full, one would spin the inner collection tub or carrousel to the next empty chamber. By the time the 4th chamber was full and if all things went smoothly, the first chamber would be ready for garden use or ready to be put into an outside compost pile for further decompositon.

I installed a urine run-off tube directly to the conventional drain as we found out that the urine was not always dissapating as fast as it went in.

Other than that, the unit worked beautifully.

Here's a link to a good overview of both aerobic and anaerobic digestion process':
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/compost/chapter1.html

Author: H. Barton (Aaytch)
Monday, April 23, 2007 - 8:25 am
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Anaerobic "composting" is of course self contradictory. More importantly, it would be excessively slow... the equivalent of burying manure underground... and subject to all sorts of pollution problems.

It is interesting however to see that "in situ" (pun intended) composting might work. I want to know whether it's possible to add some additional cover to a bucket and simply set it aside. No composting "pile" at all. Again, why does there need to be a large volume? To kick-start the process, maybe it would help to transplant a scoop from a bucket that is already "hot" to a fresh bucket.

Author: Patrick (Pcinca)
Sunday, April 22, 2007 - 5:20 pm
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I read an article years ago in Mother Earth News Magazine about a 4 person holdhold that did an experiment to see how long their composting bucket could go before needing emptying.

They used every biodegrading trick known: micro-orgainsim ecology, worms, meely bugs (sowbugs), etc., insulation for keeping the temp up, adding kitchen scraps, shredded paper, on and on.

The skeptics guessed a short time span, but the bucket did not need emptying (far from it) at the time of printing- over a year after the project started!

I'm trying to track-down that article so I can post a link to it. It was an interesting read and a good object lesson in how efficient a properly set up digestion system can be.

One note here, there has been talk of needing good aeration for proper digestion, but as it turns out, anerobic bacteria (no oxygen) are very efficient at decompostition also. If one wants to expidite a decomposition process ("speed composting"), the compost bucket, pile, heap needs to be turned regularly to aerate, but letting the micro-organisms do their thing will work good also.

Worms and bugs know how to come up for air and they eat along the way and bring oxygen trails back down with them and they will avoid the bacterial "hotspots" of the pile until it cools down- smart critters!

Author: H. Barton (Aaytch)
Sunday, April 22, 2007 - 7:35 am
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admin said: ""In-vessel" composting is well established using large "vessels" that are computer controlled for air injection and temperature control"

If the bucket had a wire mesh liner that lifted the bulk of the material from the bottom and sides of the bucket so that air could circulate, perhaps there would be no need for air injection. I just don't see why a compost pile has to be large for it to work properly.

Author: Paula Allred
Sunday, July 28, 2002 - 11:42 pm
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I've purchased and read Joe's wonderful Humanure Book. I've built a new shed and a nice new commode for my composting bucket toilet . It is working great - one month of use and no odor or problems. Because there is little use of this (only 1 or 2 people 1 or 2 days a week during the summer) I won't have much each year to compost. Would it be possible to compost right in the buckets ? I'll probably only have 5 buckets/year. I've browsed the Humanure book again but couldn't find a reference. Did I miss it? Any advice would be helpful.

Thanks,
Paula in Kalamazoo

Author: joe
Monday, July 29, 2002 - 9:21 am
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I don't think you will have much luck composting in a bucket. A more aerobic environment such as an outdoor (or even indoor) pile will work, however. You may want to have just a small compost bin outside. It would be a good place to put weeds and grass clippings as well as food scraps, too.

Author: Anonymous
Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 8:58 am
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Joe-how should anyone make a small indoor bin?-what size is OK.Should it be made of pallets. I've seen 2' ones. Would they be OK?

Author: Joe
Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 7:42 pm
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I meant that composting works indoors as well as outdoors. Many large scale commercial composting operations are indoors. A humanure composting bin should be outdoors, however.

Author: e0richt
Tuesday, March 11, 2003 - 4:53 pm
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I was looking for an alternative to the "normal" toilet that would require a hook up to my septic tank and happened across the "Humanure Handbook". I downloaded and read that book that evening with tremendous fascination. I am skeptical but am interested in trying this out... Has anyone tried composting using a commercial bin??

Author: Jon Janssen
Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 12:33 pm
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Is it safe to put my own solid waste directly into a food garden, without composting?
Would putting it in a black sealed container and leaving it in the sun, make it safe?
I'll be buying the book when I can openly compost, but I'd like to recycle now if it can be done safely.

Author: admin
Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 4:33 pm
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NO.

NO.

The book is available free online (go to Home, then to Humanure page and find link). Read the pathogen chapter (chapter 7).

Author: Jon
Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 10:05 pm
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thanks, and thanks for making the book available online and free. (go biointensive!)

Author: Terry Sommers
Monday, September 22, 2003 - 12:35 am
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can anyone tell me what the long term effects are of using urine in compost, especially if i intend to use the compost to grow vegetables (i'm thinking too much salt in the soil)....?

thx
Terry Sommers, Taiwan

Author: Anonymous
Monday, September 22, 2003 - 6:54 pm
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There was an issue with sodium buildup in Closed
Ecology life support systems(Celss)research by
NASA,but they found that by reducing the sodium
in the soap that they used,in fact they switched
to a potassium based soap and reducing the sodium
content of astronauts meals,they achieved accept-
able levels...Human have no need for added salt in
their foods,eating a variety of plant foods will
supply optimum sodium...eating excessive amounts
of salt is not good for you and the taste for salt
is acquired and easily reduced and unacquired..

Author: Joe Jenkins
Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - 11:06 am
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Compost loves urine.

Author: Nancy Wilde
Saturday, February 07, 2004 - 1:35 pm
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What about vomit and menstrual blood? What about spit and other nasty phlegm when one of the family has a cold? When using the Humanure method, what does one do with these "items?" Can they go into the "toilet" just as they do in a conventional system? If not, where does one dispose of these "items" if they want to get more involved with recycling and simplifying their lives? Thank you! BTW, Absolutely GREAT book!

Author: admin
Saturday, February 07, 2004 - 5:47 pm
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It all goes into the toilet and into the compost pile.

Author: Amy Priest
Friday, May 07, 2004 - 12:15 pm
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Menstrual blood can go straight onto a garden without being composted. I guess if someone has a dangerous pathogen in their body, then it would be safer to compost the blood first, but generally it can go straight onto the garden or other plants. Why buy blood meal at the garden store if you have a supply of "waste" blood every month? If you use cloth menstrual pads, the soaking water can go on the compost pile or onto the garden. One can also use a menstrual cup (Keeper or Diva Cup, both available online) if you don't want to use cloth pads.

Author: Keith Christensen
Tuesday, December 21, 2004 - 2:05 am
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I am using an old cooler (about 5 gallon size) to compost most of my kitchen scraps and hamster cage refuse. I live in a 2 bedroom apartment with just a balcony with some house plants. This summer the rain from a typhoon (huricane here in Okinawa, JPN) filled up my operation and we got some smelly amonia anorobic workers had a blast! Mostly we do not get smell from it though and since we don't produce too much from our cooking it is an okay size for us. After the rain from the storms I attatched the lid to it, and us a scrap piece of wood to regulate the air flow, of course this has also helped keep it hot during the night by leaving a crack and wide open on those sunny days with no chance of rain. By the way I haven't checked your website for it, is this book available in Japanese? Haven't seen it in any bookstores here or in the library. Love the book and loved the reaction from my brother when I showed it to him! Keep up the good work.

Author: admin
Tuesday, December 21, 2004 - 1:40 pm
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The Humanure Handbook is available in Korean, but not yet Japanese. http://greenreview.co.kr/

Author: Keith Christensen
Tuesday, December 21, 2004 - 10:03 pm
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Maybe I can talk my wife (mother tongue -Japanese) into assisting with a chapter here and there, I'll get right on it and send you her notes. Someone might be able to use them for personal use or work on them for publishing? It's much more acceptable in JPN than USA to talk about humanure as fertilizer. In fact I saw a show about a company that does it on the main island -comercial operation, high speed low drag. Thanks again! Keith

Author: Andy Collins
Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 3:33 pm
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Going back to the issue of salt in urine and humanure - has anyone measured the electrical conductivity of their finished compost? (to establish the salt content)

It seems some organic gardeners of long experience advise against the use of 'animal manures' for greenhouse cultivation due to their salt content. On the other hand, there is ample evidence here of tremendous vegetable-growing success with humanure.

Even so, theoretically at least there is a potential problem with salinity build-up over an extended period of cultivation with humanure - maybe exacerbated by soils that don't drain well and salt-sensitive crops (carrots, strawberries, beans and onions, apparently)

Maybe this just isn't a big deal, but I'd be interested to know if anyone has had a problem that they suspect could be due to salt build-up? It would be good to clarify this issue.

Author: Wayne
Sunday, November 27, 2005 - 10:33 am
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The recent post to this thread reminded me of the original question about "composting in a 5 gallon bucket" and the need for "a more aerobic environment". Practicalities aside, would it work (theoretically) if you attached a container of compressed air (or oxygen) to each bucket? Just wondering what specific ingredients would need to be added in approximately what amounts to turn each bucket of humanure into a bucket of finished compost. If it could be done, it would eleminate the "weak link" in the process (i.e. emptying the buckets and maintaining the compost bin).

Author: admin
Sunday, November 27, 2005 - 11:00 am
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Theoretically, it would work. "In-vessel" composting is well established using large "vessels" that are computer controlled for air injection and temperature control. I think this can be done on a smaller scale, too, especially with regard to toilets that are designed for large-scale use, such as at festivals, refugee camps, etc. Toilets used on an individual family level would probably not collect material fast enough to allow for the batch type composting that this system requires. However, toilet material collected from individual homes, such as at an eco-village, by a composting service (like normal trash collection - and they would also collect other organic materials) could be composted in a vessel about the size of a dumpster. Composting success could be ensured with air injection, leachate recirculation, etc., in the vessel.

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