Humanure Composting using multiple 55...

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: General Composting Issues: Humanure Composting using multiple 55 gallon barrels
Author: David_omick (David_omick)
Saturday, October 02, 2010 - 11:03 pm
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Md,
Forgot to mention this in my reply: Urination during defecation is fine with this system, so some urine does go into the barrels--an appropriate amount for the quantity of compost in the barrels. It's been our observation that this system produces compost with nutritive value comparable to thermophilic composting in large bins. Our veggies grow like they're on steroids.

Author: David_omick (David_omick)
Saturday, October 02, 2010 - 10:51 pm
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Md,
Glad you enjoyed our website. Regarding your first question, we separate urine because the barrels don't have the capacity to handle our daily urine output. The underlying idea behind this design is to develop a relatively simple bucket type system that might be approved by regulators. One of their concerns is preventing leachate from contacting native soil. This is why the barrels have no drain holes and consequently excess liquid is an issue. Regarding your second question, we don't use a compost pile with this system. We just apply the compost directly from the barrels to trees, shrubs, etc. However, if we plan to use the compost on vegetables, we let it age in a pile outside the barrels for a year, as a safety margin.

Author: Md_heath (Md_heath)
Saturday, October 02, 2010 - 12:16 pm
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David Omic, I have now read, I think, every page of your excellent web site. I am wondering why you do urine separation? It seems to conflict with your design principles by not being simple enough. Since composting with both urine and feces produces a far better compost for use on plants and eliminates handling two materials, what is the advantage you see that drives you to separate the two? Second, I am wondering why you use both the barrel composting and a compost pile? Why not use just the compost pile for everything?

Author: Nancybeetoo (Nancybeetoo)
Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - 12:17 pm
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David-

Good to see you here. I have seen your system and like the simplicity and neatness of it.

It seems like the two basic approaches to humanure composting are the container method and the large outdoor pile.

Both offer benefits and both are in use.

I guess the bottom line is that both work. And that is a very good thing because it offers ways to compost humanure that can be used in a variety of situations.

Author: David_omick (David_omick)
Monday, September 27, 2010 - 1:17 pm
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I'm new to this forum, but have been designing and using composting toilets for the past 20+ years. Folks interested in composting in 55 gallon drums might like to see the system we've been using for the past 5 years with great success. We hope it's a step in the direction of eventually gaining regulatory acceptance for a simple, low cost bucket toilet. It's on our website at: http://www.omick.net/composting_toilets/current_toilet.htm

Author: Ecointerest (Ecointerest)
Monday, March 15, 2010 - 5:46 pm
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I am in favour of keeping things simple. Any unnecessary work, like turning a heap, worrying about getting enough air into it, ultimately proves to be superfluous.
If you layer the straw or hay up the sides of the barrel, putting your humanure into the central depression, this allows air to get down the sides into the pile. It also provides sufficient insulation, at least for the worms to have a comfortable warmth.
Once the lower layers get more compacted, the worms will burrow down into this and provide all the aeration they require, even without any holes drilled into the side of the drum.
I agree with Demeter on the time factor and feel that this is very safe if you are finding difficulty getting thermophilic conditions.

Author: Knothead (Knothead)
Saturday, March 13, 2010 - 8:55 pm
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When I decided to start using a bucket head, I made a tumbler from a plastic drum. It's got lots of ventilation and I've experimented with lots of different combinations of materials but so far it's never heated up.
I ended up making a regular pile after I read Joe's book and it's working great.
I still would like to use the tumbler for something but I think I am going to have to actually empty it, add the stuff to the big pile and start over.
Demeter or anyone, if you could tell me what I could use and how much to make it get hot, I would really appreciate it. Using a tumbler seems to be a lot more difficult than I thought.
I have a couple of piles, the tumbler, and two worm boxes. I often find myself at a loss when deciding where to put stuff.
All the humanure obviously goes into the big pile and I also add vegetable stuff that sometimes score from a produce stand. But I've been sharing our own kitchen scraps and algae from the pond between the worms and the tumbler.
I'm not sure I'm managing things as well as I could.

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Saturday, March 13, 2010 - 7:27 pm
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You should drill holes in the sides of the barrel as well as the bottom and the lid. With practice as to ratio of carbon to nitrogen, the contents will heat up just fine. The barrel needs to be at least three quarters full for the heating to happen, but then it will stay hot until you stop adding to it. My test results indicate that after two months from the last addition, _E. coli_ is at a safe level (less than 2 cfu/ml of what was actual feces). At this time you should let the contents age for another year before using it on your vegetable garden. They can age in the barrel or in an outdoor bin. Do not seal the barrel, and add some worms if you like. They love it!

Author: Utopian (Utopian)
Saturday, March 13, 2010 - 4:12 pm
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The volume of the barrel will be too small to heat up well. In addition, it's likely that the solid walls of the barrel will reduce oxygenation of the material. For those two reasons, I'd assume that the compost will require a longer time before it is usable.

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Saturday, March 13, 2010 - 2:32 pm
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You really do not want the leachate to go onto the ground! Ideally, you have enough sponge in the barrel to absorb the liquid. If not, set it on blocks in a tub to collect the leachate and pour it over the barrel contents when needed. Eventually you will find how much filler you need to minimize leachate.

I minimize leachate by collecting most (but not all) urine in a separate container filled with cover material. This liquid can be used as is to fertilize the yard and flower beds. Just don't keep emptying it in the same place.

Author: Danilo (Danilo)
Saturday, March 13, 2010 - 10:18 am
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I would collect any surplus liquid and then return back to the compost. After the barrel is full I would also add a little soil with earthworms.

If you mean, airproof sealed barrel, I think this is not good idea, because without air, the contents in the barrel will rot. I would rather cover the content in a barrel with a thick layer of straw.

Old topics about 55 gallon drum/barrel
http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/messages/messages/4/1337.html

Author: Nickko (Nickko)
Thursday, March 11, 2010 - 8:31 am
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I am in the process of setting up a humanure composting system using 55 gallon plastic barrels
instead of building a wooden bin. I would greatly appreciate any comments, criticisms, opinions and suggestions to improve what I am doing.
The idea is to create a 3ft x 8 ft. gravel bed for any surplus liquid and set the barrels which have small holes in the bottom, on the bed.
The first barrel would then be quarter filled with a composting bed of straw and sawdust.
Weekly deposits from the toilet buckets would then be made in this barrel and each deposit covered with straw. After weeks or months, when full, this barrel would then be sealed and left to compost, and I would start over with the next barrel. Is there anything that I have omitted or forgotten, to ensure that all works as it is supposed to.
All comments would be appreciated.

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