Min size for a compost bin

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Handbook - A Guide to Composting Human Manure: Min size for a compost bin
Author: Anonymous
Monday, May 21, 2001 - 11:30 am
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Anyone know the min size a compost bin should be to ensure that it gets good an hot? I have a 3' round one and am considering purchasing a second to use as my two bins... Is 3' round big enough?

Author: Stephen Linebaugh
Saturday, May 26, 2001 - 11:41 am
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I would say that 3' would be about the minimum you would want to use in order to achieve the thermophilic stage, but if you plan on adding to it on a daily basis, you will fill it up real quick.
My bins are 4'x4'x3' high. My family of four will fill one up in about 6 to 8 months.

Author: John Hamm
Friday, June 15, 2001 - 10:22 am
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I'm having excellent success with a Soilmaker Composter from Green Line Products. It is one of those black plastic units with a lift-off lid and sliding doors at the base, and I feel heat pouring out each time I remove the lid. The only problem is that it is filling up much too fast. It has a 30-inch square base and 24-inch fill height, giving it a 12 cubic foot capacity, only 1/4 that of a 4'x4'x3' bin. They list for $79, but the State of RI offers them twice a year at $25. Now I know why the guy in front of me bought seven. I think I'll switch to a large open bin and hope that it works anywhere near as well.

Author: Anonymous
Monday, June 18, 2001 - 7:27 pm
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I'm the original anonymous poster and am using one of the 3' round bins. Have about 6 buckets in it w/ cover material so far and it's not heating up above 90F or so. I'm using fir sawdust in the toilet and dry grass and leaves as cover material as well as some old compost in the bin itself. Any ideas?

Author: Stephen Linebaugh
Wednesday, June 20, 2001 - 8:12 am
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I would have to guess that there may not be enough mass at this point. Some more mass and more time mayby. Or, is there enough moisture?
JJ

Author: Joe Jenkins
Wednesday, June 20, 2001 - 10:43 am
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Oxygen is often the critical element that is missing when compost won't heat up. The commercial composting operations often pump air through the compost mass either by pushing the air through the mass or by pulling it through. Home composters can add coarse materials to create tiny interstitial air spaces. You can poke holes in the compost to introduce oxygen (use a pipe or stick), and then make sure the compost is damp enough. If it's too dry, nothing will happen. Also, a lack of nitogen, or a bad C:N ratio, will inhibit thermophilic activity. Sometimes it just takes time and patience and plain luck to get it going right.

Author: Jerry Hoffmeister (Jhoff)
Wednesday, June 20, 2001 - 11:28 am
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Maybe you could take a look at the composter I'm using - here's a link to it: https://www.rrpm.com/gardenin.htm
It's a (recycled) plastic cylinder w/ quite small holes in the sides and a (recycled) plastic top and bottom. I'm also thinking it's an oxygen issue since I also didn't use very coarse materials between "loads". Here in King County, WA, straw is hard to find. We have a bale coming on the weekend tho and I will try that. Problem now is that my bin is almost full. Sigh. PS - I finally figured out to post non-anonymously :)

Author: Jerry Hoffmeister (Jhoff)
Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 4:02 am
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Ok, got some straw, dumped 2 more buckets with straw below, around and on top of the new load. Now, the upper center (new poop) is at 110 F or so which if it maintains for a few weeks, should do the trick. My question is what about the bottom of the pile that didn't get so hot? How long should I let it sit before I use it?

Author: Joe Jenkins
Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 6:46 pm
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Construct the pile for a year if you can, and let it age another year. However long you construct the pile, you should let it age a year after that.

By the way, 110 degrees F is good.

Author: Jerry Hoffmeister (Jhoff)
Tuesday, June 26, 2001 - 8:52 pm
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Thanks! It was actually more like 115 or 120 this AM.

Author: Mercale
Monday, July 02, 2001 - 1:33 pm
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Hmm...can't wait until I figure out what you are all talking about. This would probably be another good community "experiment" for my group.

Author: Stephen Linebaugh
Tuesday, July 03, 2001 - 1:26 pm
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Wecome Mercale,
If you are are unsure what the discussions are about, you can read the Humanure Handbook which you can find on this site. Just go to the main page www.jenkinspublishing.com
and click "Humanure Handbook" There you can find the online version.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
Somebody here, most likely Joe, can give you answers or ideas.

Author: Tim Desmond
Wednesday, July 04, 2001 - 4:54 pm
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Hi. I am thinking about constructing a thermophilic toilet with a design that I am alittle unsure of. I wanted to build the compost bins, and put an outhouse over it (as a second story) and poop right onto the pile. If I add sawdust and hay after each use, as well as put veggie scraps in there, do you all think it will work?

Author: Stephen Linebaugh
Thursday, July 05, 2001 - 8:43 am
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Hi Tim, You are not alone with that idea. I and a few others have been contiplating it.
I will, no doubt, build one into the house that I am building. Some sort of solar design.
There are some examples in the "Humanure Handbook".

Author: Vivian Iskander
Monday, July 16, 2001 - 4:25 pm
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hello out there.
I am working in a rural community of Jamaica, trying to promote the use of composting latrines. Right now, i am looking at building double pit, concrete block latrines with each side measuring 3'x3'x3'. they will be above ground, with a superstructure on top. We do live in the rainiest part of the island, and each side of the latrine will have a 4" vent pipe (standard size ventilation for toilets down here). My questions are:
(1) does urine have to be diverted out of the pit or will the pile become too moist?
(2) does adding lime or ash adversely affect the decomposition?

thanks for the advice.

Author: Rob Canning
Thursday, July 19, 2001 - 12:40 am
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My understanding is that if enough absorbent material, such as sawdust, is added to a composting latrine, there is no need to divert urine into another container. As for adding ash and lime, my understanding, also from the Humanure Handbook, is that they are best put on the soil directly and not composted.

Author: Joe Jenkins
Sunday, July 22, 2001 - 10:42 pm
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Thanks, Rob. You hit the nail on the head.

Author: saths
Saturday, October 05, 2002 - 8:37 pm
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To Stephen Linbaugh,
Did you build a house with a compost bin or two in it?If so how is it working? Will you use it on your food crops?

Author: Srephen
Monday, October 07, 2002 - 10:47 pm
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No, I haven't gotten that far yet. It will probably be late next summer when I build the main house containing the composting chamber.

Author: Sasha McLean
Sunday, October 13, 2002 - 2:12 pm
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Hello. I have just finished reading the "Humanure Handbook". I think I would like to see if I could set up a thermophilic compost.
Given my circumstances it will be a challenge. I live in an apartment on the top floor of a house. This is a lovely arangement for me, and I am happy to trundle my compost down the stairs to the compost heap located in the first-floor people's garden. In the spring, I lug some of the new compost up to my large balcony garden.
As my apartment is only one large room, and I share my bathroom with the person who lives in the one large room at the other end of the hall, I cannot impose on her and locate my compost buckets in the bathroom. I do not wish to have them out in the middle of the floor of the room that is my own, as I do not wish to sleep, eat, study, and entertain with buckets of feces and urine and peat moss in plain veiw, even if these do not smell.
Is it possible for someone in my position to create a thermophilic compost? How would I do it? Could I somehow insulate vermi-composting bins so that they could safely overwinter on my balcony? How many would I need? Would I end up with buckets and buckets of decomposing material that I can neither process into healthful humanure, nor dispose of by more conventional means? How much materiel would I produce in the year to two years that would be needed before any of it was safe to be used?
The "Humanure Handbook" has re-sensitized me to the folly of flushing human excrement into our fresh water supply. It was not that I was unaware of the problem, just that I did not know what to do, and so tried to put it from my mind. It is awful and demoralizing to know that I am doing something crazy without being able to figure out how to change.
When I first got my period, a friend of my older sister's gave me a book (called "Whitewash") that elaborated on the environmental consequences of using disposible sanitary napkins. And so from my second period to this day, I have never used them. I use cloth napkins, and I water my house plants with the nutrient-rich water from my soak pot. That system has always worked well, and composting the rest of my 'waste' seems to me merely an extension of my current practice. But how can I do it?
Contrary to the emphasis placed on 'Feco-phobia'in the "Humanure Handbook", the problem I, and many of the people whose postings I have read, seem to be facing is one of logistics. I do not mean to suggest that feco-phobia does not exist, but only to say that in a world where most of us will at some points in our lives have to accustom ourselves to deal with changing diapers, cleaning out the cages of small pets, changing cat litter, picking up after dogs, cleaning the guano off car windscreens or dealing with the incontinences of the children, elderly or infirm people in our lives, the idea that we are not already used to getting up close and personal with excretia strikes me as odd.
My problem is what to do with the volume of excretia I and my guests are likely to produce, given how little space I have to call my own.
If I could find someone who could take my full buckets and add them to their compost pile, I could probably give away some of my books, move my clothing to a rack where one of the bookshelves used to be, and convert my closet into an earth closet. Housing is expensive and hard to find in large cities, and I do not want to move and leave my friendly house. This, rather than sqeamishness, is what inhibits me from being more environmentally responsible than I am at present. I suspect that there are many others in a similar position. What can be done? What can I do? Does anyone have any ideas?

Author: admin
Sunday, October 13, 2002 - 3:19 pm
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The obvious solution is for the municipality to come pick up your organic discards on a regular basis as is done with "garbage," and then compost it for you (and everyone else in your city). This seems like a workable solution for humanure recycling in the cities. Toilets would have to be re-designed to become collection devices, and cover materials could be provided by the municipality (such as ground newspapers and other paper products, ground leaves, etc.). Some areas of the world already collect all organic material *except* excrements. It would only be a small step to include excrements as well, as the collection and composting logistics are already in place (such as in Nova Scotia, Canada). Unfortunately, the Nova Scotians are clueless about excrement recycling, even though they do a great job with the recycling of their other organic materials. In short, Sasha, you, like myself, are ahead of your time. Frustrating, isn't it?

Author: saths
Sunday, October 13, 2002 - 7:18 pm
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Do some countries have a compost room in their houses? It seems like I read this somewhere.

Author: admin
Monday, October 14, 2002 - 9:24 am
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I thought I read somewhere that compost is made in basements in some Asian population centers, but I'm not sure of this. Certainly, compost toilets that are NSF certified (National Sanitation Foundation - such as a Clivus Multrum) constitute compost bins (of a sort) indoors.

Author: Anonymous
Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 9:16 pm
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I am working on a project for school and am wondering if anyone knows the average weight of human poop per day?

Author: Anonymous
Tuesday, December 14, 2004 - 12:08 pm
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If you want to get a compost heap going more quickly, add either compost from a hot pile or yogurt bacteria to a damp pile, mix well, & get out of the way.
I live alone so put out about 1 cat litter bucket-full of compostables a week, my pile didn't want to heat up, understandably. I did both of the above, & now it's hot, and cookin' right along.
For anyone who is concerned with smell when composting humanure - an inspector came out to harrass me last summer because "he had been told I was dumping raw sewage on my yard", he said. He was standing about 3' from the compost pile & remarked on how it didn't stink. Considering that I had put a bucket of humanure and kitchen materials on it that morning.... No, of course I didn't tell him I had. He has a copy of the book, but that doesn't mean he has read it! Even if he has, that doesn't mean he believes it, either.
I cover my bucketfulls with chopped leaves, grass, and so on when I add them to the compost pile. I use cottonwood sawdust from a local sawmill when using the potty, and that works pretty well.
I hope this helps someone....

Author: TCLynx
Saturday, December 03, 2005 - 2:40 pm
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I just read the book online last night. Now I'm all excited to compost again (I get that way every so often). Unfortunately, I'm currently traveling for a living and most hotel I know of don't have anything other than bowls of drinking water to excreat in. Granted most hotel drinking water is so poluted with so called disinfectants that one must then buy plastic bottles of water to drink out of.

But back to the subject, when no traveling I live in an appartment with only a patio outside for gardening activities so I'm pretty frustraited with lack of space to compost. And they keep sending me tons of junk mail that would probably provide ample cover material so long as I could get some good bulky fiberous material to mix at the composter.

Author: Larry
Saturday, December 03, 2005 - 9:32 pm
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Mr. Lynx raises a good issue. How can apartment dwellers compost humanure? Returning nutrients to the soil obviously requires land. But you don't necessarily need to own/rent the land. Be creative, search the neighorhood. Is there a vacant lot that could benefit from a compost pile and some attractive plants? Is there a community garden where you might rent a plot? Is there a city park where a communal compost area could be established to nurture the landscaping? Is there a school nearby with an odd corner for a compost pile? Perhaps other participants in this discussion group can suggest more alternatives for city folk.

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