Thermophilic Compost For Safety and Remediation

Preparedness is just not complete until you know what to do with the poop that hits the fan (or better yet before it has the chance to). We gotta get our poop in a scoop and bury it in moist carbon rich plant fluff. Now, I know you are looking through narrowed eyes thinking “Whaat?!”

We’re so used to the toilet, or for our wasted old food to go in the  trash bin that we may have not given it much thought. What other choice do we have than the way that we have been eliminating waste since the days of Roman civilization? Well, for one thing, the finished product of thermophilic compost is completely different from the inputs that undergo this biological process by being digested by microorganisms, heat, and thousands of little insect like invertebrates after it cools down. After a year or so, this pile transforms into a fertile agricultural resource. A business can be built around creating these resources as well as harvesting the heat energy, thus creating jobs. This resource closes the energy cycle between us and the land, giving back to the soil so it is not depleted, preventing plant disease. Reducing fuel loads in wilderness (7) while producing humus a resource that can hold nutrients and moisture in the soil. Plus, less water and fossil fuels are needed to transport the waste to a facility where it will need to be processed with chemicals that may end up in the environment. It saves wastes from going into a landfill. When using this method, there is no odor because the carbon filters it (8). The carbon materials soak up biological contaminates probably fixed in plant cell walls where it get destroyed or digested before it can get into the air, soil, or water (1). In-fact organisms in compost can even break down toxins into inert substances (2)! This industry has plenty of opportunity in identifying and finding uses (or properties) of bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, and small creatures that roam the dark corners of compost piles (2).

Are you as excited about this new idea as I am? Well, I guess we must ask ourselves, do we have enough time for a project like this. A couple of compost bins can be built with pallets that can be gifted from a grocery, department, or hardware stores. We’ll have to go and get sawdust, or make piles of leaves to rot and turn into leaf mold. Then there is the chore: once the four buckets are full, bring them to the compost pile, bury the contents within in the pile, cover it with the carbon material, and then rinse the buckets out over the pile. It sounds like this probably takes about 20 minutes once a week for a family of four (1). If you have the time, do you have the space?

Where can you keep a compost pile? You may need to set one up if the power goes out for an extended length of time, going camping, or if you are out a ways from your house in a barn or shop. I think it is advisable to locate it 150′ from a body of surface water like a river, pond, lake, or marsh. A flat well drained area that is in the sun can collect thermal energy in it’s mass. It’s also a good idea to shelter it from cold winds. A compost pile will not be active when frozen but will be ok when unthawed. You’ll want enough access to be able to cart a wheel barrel to it and have it a comfortable distance from the nearest door to your home. Try to look for a place that is not in direct line of sight of neighbors, and avoid putting under tree branches. That is the area where tree roots extend and they may try to grow into the pile. Evergreen trees have their own PH level going on, a compost pile may interfere with that (3).

Here is the basic set up. Start with bare ground, a lot of little creatures will join in the party from this channel, plus it allows airflow for everyone to breath (3). Thermophilic compost piles generally work better above ground (but is not limited to that) because the air flow is easier. Cover the bottom the the bin with 18″ of cover carbon materials like sawdust, hay, straw, dry grass clippings, weeds, or rotted leaves. Some small dead twigs or wood chips about 1″ or less will help aerate the pile, but may create a coarser texture of compost which can be sifted. Probably it would be good to start to add carbon cover materials around the sides as green and browns are added. The key is to bury the goods inside the compost (not resting on top) and cover it with lots of carbon materials. If you even think you smell anything, add more carbon. The ideal carbon to nitrogen ratio is 20-35 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Also, it is good to make sure the compost pile does not dry out. You will want at least two bins so while one is full and baking (it takes a while) You can start another (1).

How long does it take? This takes about a year, or a year an a half, if your really squeamish. Once you have a pile that is at least 3’x 3′ or 1 cubic meter it needs to get hot, go through a decomposition stage, and then it needs to cure. No turning is necessary and in fact it is better not to because then nothing will evaporate from it. This prevents gases like carbon, nitrogen, and methane from escaping into the air, and you save all that food for the organisms, less work for you, less inputs, and nice compost. Waiting for your compost to cure ensures that whatever pathogens that were not killed by heat and microorganisms, will suffer and dwindle because of a lack of a host (2).

Now you may be thinking, how do I make sure, sure my compost is sanitary? This is the part that amazes me. We’ve got the three things that happen biologically and insane case studies that need to be verified, because if it is really true, then we’re saved! The angel wings that have been holding back the wrath of evil all this time were the very little creatures many of us wash and try to scrub away. Not to say we shouldn’t wash our hands or anything, but lets just take a look at what happens in a compost pile. First off the good microorganisms found in the soil, carbon plant materials, or other inputs see the pathogens in our crap and wastes as competition, so that means they fight and even eat those bad buggers. Finally as the thermophilic bacteria gain energy they start to heat up their environment this allows the pile to reach temperatures of 35-450 C (95-113.0 F) to 45-550 C (113-131.0 F), which will kill stuff that doesn’t belong there from 1 week at lower temperatures to a couple hours at higher temperatures (2). There has been case studies where rats were exposed to soil with lead in it. the rats that were on the soil that was inoculated with compost did not suffer from lead toxicity as opposed to the control that had soil without microbes. Rest in peace poor fellow <:(5). Also there are records from an Austrian Farmer who was affected by the Chernobyl disaster who was helped by a microbiologist and  agriculture scientist named  Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer (6). Basically they sprayed compost tea on the spent green manure crop and tilled it under. The next year, the contaminants of cesium that were there before, were now gone!

Are you ready to get started? You may want a wooden box to hide the fact that you are pooping in a bucket, at least until the lid is lifted. Then you will need four buckets or so, about 5 gallons or 20 liters all the same size and shape to fit in the box., a toilet seat for the box, or a toilet seat (for a bucket), a steady supply of raw sawdust, grass clippings, or rotted leaves. You may want a lid remover in case the lid on the bucket gets stuck, a couple compost bins (YouTube DIY), a 20″ compost thermometer, and a pitch fork for harvesting the compost. You can click the blue links in this paragraph to get the items on Amazon, or you can follow this link to get most of what you need plus biodegradable bucket liners (if you prefer not to have to rinse buckets) as the Lovable Loo kit at humanurehandbook.com. If this was really interesting, you can reed the book for free, each chapter is a separate PDF with it’s own link (4). I’ll leave you with a little poem to sum everything up:

When you do your doo in the Lovable Loo, keep it all covered and it will provide for you too.

Bibliography:

1. http://humanurehandbook.com/manual.html (5/28/2016)

2. http://humanurehandbook.com/downloads/Chapter_3.pdf (5/28/2016)

3. http://compostguide.com/how-to-choose-a-compost-site/ (5/28/2016)

4. http://humanurehandbook.com/contents.html (5/28/2016)

5. http://permaculturenews.org/2006/04/22/compost-miracles/ (5/28/2016)

6. http://www.ibiblio.org/steved/Luebke/Luebke-compost2.html (5/28/2016)

7. http://www.stateforesters.org/about-action-plans/forest-trends/wildfire-fuel-loads-and-urbanization  (5/28/2016)

8.  http://news.mit.edu/2014/need-a-water-filter-peel-a-tree-branch-0226http://news.mit.edu/2014/need-a-water-filter-peel-a-tree-branch-0226 (5/28/2016)

Resources:

https://attra.ncat.org/index.php (5/28/2016)

John Kohler and his Info packed YouTube channel: Growing Your Greens, (5/28/2016)

 

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