Can I Use Plastic Compost Bin?

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: General Composting Issues: Can I Use Plastic Compost Bin?
Author: Ecointerest (Ecointerest)
Saturday, June 27, 2015 - 5:01 pm
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Meghan, I have found any "tumbler" composting method has other problems, too. For example, the tumbler can only be turned easily if it is almost full. Otherwise there is so much weight in the bottom of the bin, it's too heavy to turn.
Yet, if the bin is almost full, when you do turn it, there is very little or no mixing of the contents.
Secondly, have you ever tried to empty the contents into a wheelbarrow? Very, very difficult I have found. You need two persons to perform this operation, ideally. One to position the wheelbarrow and one to turn the bin...or two persons for this if the bin is only half full.
Thirdly, the contents of a tumbler don't normally get to anywhere near thermophilic temperatures. The home/garden sized tumbler is too small for the bulk you need for it to heat up.
Often I have had people tell me it's better to turn a compost heap in windrows. If anyone finds this works for them, ok. But in reality, the "bin" method as advocated in the Humanure Handbook is by far the easiest, most effective, least problematic, most successful method I have come across....and it does work for me, as with so many others around the world.
I also compost food waste from a busy kitchen operation, using the very same Humanure technique, i.e., biological sponge on the bottom, with a saucer-depression in the ground. Lots of hay as the "bed" and around the sides to keep in warmth. (This also helps to keep out flies.)
Occasionally I will mix in chipped tree mulch. This has a very active fungal content that helps enormously in the composting process.
In short, keeping any composting process simple and aiming to reduce the physical work load will generally bring you successful results.
I will post a photograph of my bins if you or any one else is keen to see them.
Wishing you success in your endeavours.

Author: Meghan (Meghan)
Friday, June 26, 2015 - 3:47 pm
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I have been using a compost tumbler, and I have to say, it's a stressful method!

I have had a couple problems:

1. The first problem I ran into was ammonia odors. Knowing that I probably have too much nitrogen, I added steer manure (I realize this is a stable carbon source, and further microbial decomposition will be complicated), in hopes that it would add carbon, but also inoculate the pile. It worked! The odors disappeared until very recently (gone for a month).

2. The new problem I have are flies and gnats. There's a million flies and gnats, they found their way in through the vent holes. In an effort to disrupt their comfortable breeding grounds, I tumbled the pile. I'm not sure what to do from here.

3. The last problem (not associated with the tumbler) is that our sawdust, which is currently gerbil bedding, is too big. I will try to find sawdust. The bedding is not decomposing fast enough.

I was able to get the temperature up to 100F (granted ambient temps were 90F), even though the tumbler is small. It took roughly a months worth of poo/pee/sawdust. If I didn't live in my friends backyard, I would have a compost pile, but it's not feasible. I think I will switch to the garbage can method, especially now that the tumbler is nearly full. I do get leachate every time I dump the buckets, to absorb it I have laid straw on the bottom. But, this is how the flies became attracted to the tumbler.

(Message edited by Meghan on June 26, 2015)

(Message edited by Meghan on June 26, 2015)

Author: Rman (Rman)
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 11:07 pm
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One of the things I was wondering about with a bin system, albeit a wheelie garbage or a plastic conical, is whether a cover material such as straw or hay could line the outside of the space inside the container. With this material against the vent holes it should act as both a heat insulator and an odour filter. Don't know if it would take up too much space in the small container or if there are other strikes against it but it would be interesting to try, meaning someone else should try it because I am interested....and then tell me how it works out. Thank you in advance.

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Saturday, February 22, 2014 - 4:09 pm
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Nosheoltarsus, your trash bin does need holes in it to aerate the compost. I followed the directions from this site:
http://www4.uwm.edu/shwec/publications/cabinet/composting/G4020-02%20Can.pdf
The bigger container will just make it work better. You will probably want to eventually make an additional container so that the first one can age before using it for gardening.

Author: Nosheoltarsus (Nosheoltarsus)
Friday, February 21, 2014 - 1:55 am
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Demeter, I was attracted to this thread because I would like to use a 96 gal. plastic trash container. Someone, had said it would not work because the worms need access.

I have met someone that sells red wigglers, and the only mulch I have access to is tons of grass clippings.

Is there hope for me?
Should I make holes? How much moisture would you suggest? Thank you.

Author: Shadyseattle (Shadyseattle)
Saturday, February 01, 2014 - 2:23 pm
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"You still should let the compost mature after it heats up, thereby allowing fungi to break down any woody materials and finishing off the compost so plants like it."

Immediately after the thermophilic stage, can the contents be dumped into a Hacienda-type pile to finish, ie will they be 'safe to handle'?

I suppose they should stay in the Wheelie as long as there is any leachate coming out the drain. After dumping into the Hacienda-type pile, if I protect that pile from rain and don't add anything else to it, I suppose it will not produce any more leachate?

I can provide electric heat to the on-the-ground pile if necessary.

Author: Joe (Joe)
Saturday, February 01, 2014 - 12:24 pm
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The thermophilic stage of composting is only one stage. You still should let the compost mature after it heats up, thereby allowing fungi to break down any woody materials and finishing off the compost so plants like it.

Author: Shadyseattle (Shadyseattle)
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 - 6:15 pm
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In our sensitive area with limited space, I'm considering a container project somewhat like Demeter's but with all containers outdoors. I ran a test of a few gallons of leaves and wood shavings in an outdoor container heated by incandescent rope lights buried throughout the material. This morning the ambient temperature was about 40F -- and the Reotemp thermometer read 165F.

So, by adjusting the heat to the level that the thermophilic microbes like, could I skip the mesophilic stage?

I'd rather have a high electric bill than need a larger number of containers.

Author: Test2 (Test2)
Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 12:34 pm
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@Rohanjcp - the compost pile begins with a BIOLOGICAL SPONGE on the bottom - about 18 inches of weeds , grass, leaves. This sponge is in contact with the soil. You are not supposed to put human manure in direct contact with the soil !

Author: Joe (Joe)
Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 9:27 am
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The compost bin sits on the ground. That interface with soil is important. The soil will absorb any extra moisture while encouraging biological activity. It is not completely necessary for the bin to have a soil bottom, however. You can compost on concrete. But a soil base for back-yard and small-scale composters is recommended. Many people imagine that the compost pile is like an above ground septic tank and that it will leach into the ground water and create another mass epidemic like in 19th century England. But compost piles are aerobic and very biologically active. They are a blend of organic materials and become like sponges, craving moisture. They do not behave like latrine pits or septic tanks.

Author: Rohanjcp (Rohanjcp)
Monday, November 19, 2012 - 8:57 pm
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Thank you Ecointerest and Test2 for your replies. This isn't my own picture. It was just a photo of the smith and hawken composting bin for a reference.

Basically I have a small city backyard and am playing with the idea of how to get practically started. It seems that the 1st part of the humanure process is simple enough: collection of waste. The 2nd part is where I see a challenge- the composting bins and the aging process.

I do live at a foggy and humid area- SF bay area.

If it's alright, I would like to ask another question. The author mentions that his bin is raised above ground. Does anyone know what that means?

Thank you in advance.

Author: Test2 (Test2)
Monday, November 19, 2012 - 7:25 pm
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@Rohanjcp - If the bottom portion is such that worms and other soil dwellers can not migrate into and out of the pile as they please, it would be another negative.

Author: Ecointerest (Ecointerest)
Sunday, November 18, 2012 - 12:23 pm
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Rohanjcp, I see from the background ivy covering the wall that you probably live in a temperate climate, where the weather is predominantly cool.... is this correct conclusion?
The size of that plastic bin will not reach thermophilic temperatures.
Also, from a practical point of view, it is conical, i.e., narrow at the base and wider at the top. If you wanted to reuse the bin before the contents are sufficiently composted, you can't lift it off without disturbing the contents.
One solution to this, (you will be depending on leaving the contents to compost for at least 9 months at a relatively cool temperature, but the worms should do a good job of it), is to use a conical bin with the narrow end at the top.
Before adding to the bin, line it with something: orange, potato sack for example, or a garbage liner - so that when you lift off the bin, the contents will remain intact as a pile. You could even then put a fine-mesh wire around it to keep the dog, chicken or cat from disturbing it.
Of course, apply all the principle procedures of Humanure composting, e.g., cover material, hay/straw to allow air entry, etc.
Work it out for yourself whether this would be practical. How many such piles will your small back yard accommodate?

Author: Rohanjcp (Rohanjcp)
Sunday, November 18, 2012 - 1:18 am
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Hi i was wondering if it's possible to use a plastic compost bin like the one sold by smith hawken. I live in the city and only have a decent sized backyard.

compost bin

Author: Joe (Joe)
Monday, June 22, 2009 - 12:16 pm
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Nancybeetoo:

Anyone can upload images to this message board as long as they are no larger than 100 kb:

Author: Shush (Shush)
Saturday, June 20, 2009 - 12:50 pm
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Nancy: How many of you use no-sides piles? Maybe it depends what form of bio-mass you stack. I use lay-up sticks 50 to 60 inches long, and place one atop the other loosely to make about a 48 inch square actual pile of materials. When you've attained a heigth, remove the sticks, and max air will reach sides of pile.

Author: Nancybeetoo (Nancybeetoo)
Saturday, June 20, 2009 - 11:49 am
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Demeter,
Thank you for sharing the details. I find it fascinating to see the variation that people have developed to fit their own unique situations.

Joe, I wonder if there might be space on the website for people who do variations to post pictures along with a description of what they do.

That might offer alternatives and spur creativity for people who would like to do humanure but think they can't do exactly as you do it.

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Thursday, June 18, 2009 - 4:15 pm
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Nancy, I keep the bins in the garage. They are up on 2" wood blocks so the air can get to the bottom. I do keep a small aluminum pie pan under the active bin, just in case of leachate. I had some leachate to begin with, but now the only urine that goes into the composting bin is that which is collected when pooping. Inside, I have two containers, one for poop and one for pee. The pee container is a 2-gallon bucket with a cut-off 1 gallon container inside.
It takes about 36 hours to fill the pee container, including the cover material, so it gets emptied as often. I drain the "compost tea" into another bottle and use it to fertilize the lawn and garden right away. Sometimes, as the indoor bin gets nearly full, I'll pour the "tea" into the bin, which helps heat the mixture. The leaves which have been used for cover material for the pee go directly to the outdoor bin. There is a slight smell when it is emptied, but it gets covered right away.
The poop container gets emptied once a week.
I did have some fruit flies last fall, but other than that, flies are not a problem. I got rid of the fruit flies with an attractact bait trap.

Occasionally, as the bin gets warm, it smells a bit. That's an indicator for more cover material, which usually fixes the problem. I have also found that adding dried tansy leaves to the mix helps with deodorizing and insect repelling.

It takes some experimenting, but this particular setup works fine for me.

Author: Nancybeetoo (Nancybeetoo)
Thursday, June 18, 2009 - 2:11 pm
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Demeter,
may i ask where you keep them inside and do you have any trouble with flies, smells or leachate?

I love the idea of this small scale humanure which could be practiced by anybody anywhere.

Nancy

Author: Burra (Burra)
Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - 12:39 pm
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Thanks for that info about the eucalyptus, Eco! We have loads of them growing near us but I've been scared to add leaves or bark to any of the heaps.

I think I'm off on a leaf gathering expedition tomorrow...

Author: Ecointerest (Ecointerest)
Saturday, June 06, 2009 - 1:56 am
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I have made my "Lovable Loo," it's working well, and my compost pile is just beginning to warm up gradually. Expecting it to improve as the pile gets larger, is that right?
Initially covered with chipped mulch made from Eucalyptus top branches, leaves included. (The idea that Eucalyptus will in some way sterilise the compost is not true. Worms live in it happily and it composts very well.)
Was hoping that would provide enough insulation, but the weather is pretty wintery here now, lots of rain and wind. So I have acquired a bale of hay, and covering with that.
Anyway, very happy with results so far. Just want to show that each method of composting can have it's valid points. We are all free to experiment, as long as the outcome is safe from a health point of view. This Website and Forum has been an invaluable reference and learning experience. Thanks Jo.

Author: Joe (Joe)
Friday, June 05, 2009 - 1:29 pm
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Demeter - apparently your organic mix is better suited for smaller size bins. The Compost Science and Utilization study was NOT using humanure in the mix, I can assure you.

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Thursday, June 04, 2009 - 6:10 pm
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I do my preliminary composting in 30-gallon trash cans with holes drilled in them. They can and do get up to 110 degrees F even during the winter.

I have two bins plus an outdoor compost bin. The first indoor bin is for current additions. This is the one that heats up. The second one is aging and cooling down. I put the contents outside in the other bin when the contents at several locations in the bin test negative for _E. coli_. Currently that time needed is between 1 and 2 months.
This method works fine for destroying indicator species of Humanure bacteria. It might not be sufficient to kill some helminth eggs, but we are not harboring any helminths.

Author: Ecointerest (Ecointerest)
Thursday, June 04, 2009 - 4:36 pm
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Where a person just does not have the room or facility to build a large compost pile, I feel that a garbage bin can serve a good purpose: Although it will not get to the thermophilic stage, if you add compost worms and other local micro-organisms, then keep it stored for a year, then it will be well composted. Note, this is one year from the time the bin is full.
If the compost is then buried (say) 9-12 inches under the soil, for plants to grow from it, then you will have no problems at all with pollution or pathogens.

Author: Joe (Joe)
Thursday, June 04, 2009 - 2:48 pm
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The problem with the smaller bins is that they do not develop enough mass to become thermophilic. Compost Science and Utilization Journal published a study on this last year. A large pile of organic material, which was cooking in the pile, had been partially distributed into a number of commercial "back-yard" compost bins, all plastic if I remember correctly. None of them heated up inside the plastic bins. Clearly, the organic mass was a correct mixture for thermophilic composting as the larger pile was heating up nicely. But the same mix, when put into the smaller compost containers did not develop significant internal temperatures. There was some rise in temperatures due to solar exposure, but not enough to be considered thermophilic. The thermophilic response is important as it rapidly destroys pathogens.

Author: Nancybeetoo (Nancybeetoo)
Thursday, June 04, 2009 - 10:32 am
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It won't be big enough to hold the amount of humanure for the length of time that you need. With just one person adding to it I would guess that you will fill it up within 6 months.

At least that's my experience.

Author: Poobiepegpen (Poobiepegpen)
Thursday, June 04, 2009 - 12:51 am
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There is an existing compost bin -- a big plastic one the size of a large garbage can (or bigger) -- on my property that I would like to use. Can I put my humanure in there (along with kitchen scraps, etc.)? I can't seem to find the answer to this question as everyone seems to be building their own compost piles.

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