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The Humanure Bank (idea)

Rob Meyer


Joined: Nov 14, 2011
Posts: 103
An idea just popped (pooped) into my head. I live in a very populated area, suburban bordering on urban. What I'm picturing is basically a public restroom, with a back yard. The purpose would be to have a community supported compost operation. This compost, once ready, could either be picked up by those who have made previous deposits, or the surplus distributed to local organic farms. Obviously there would be incredibly tremendous health regulations, and likely a good deal of dependency on education and community outreach, but what do you think? Could such a system ever come to be in our life times? In the same vein, what can we do to change the perceptions that society has surrounding composting human feces? In western culture, it's extremely taboo, viewed with disgust and fear. What are some ways we can start to chisel away at these preconceptions?
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I think the Chinese used to have public outhouses like that. I don't think our society is ready for it! Even organic is too weird for some people, permaculture is "that hippie religion." Public humanure deposit stations, way, way out there!


Idle dreamer

tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3096
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
one possible solution for breaching the taboo would be to start small and quietly. perfect a personal operation so that it hums along cleanly and safely. show somebody some finished product without letting on about the raw materials. over time, maybe mention what you're doing to a few people who seem likely to react well. don't go running your mouth. offer to help other folks get started (with construction, not relaxing the pertinent musculature).

as far as a public restroom, that seems like a distant, but achievable goal. at least where I'm at, it's a pretty serious challenge to keep any kind of public restroom clean enough that anybody but the truly desperate would use it. not an insurmountable problem, I guess, but a substantial one.

I've daydreamed about somewhat similar scenarios for closing nutrient loops on farms. maybe as part of a subscription or CSA, a return of some nutrients would earn a member a discount. or maybe something like food waste bins that are emptied regularly. collecting human waste and hauling it to the dump was actually one of the few paying jobs available in an Alaskan village I spent some time in. the pick-up service could include a supply of sawdust for covering the business.

something like that would have to start with a very few folks rather more enlightened than the general population, but starting small would certainly be prudent anyway.

and then there's the issue of pharmaceutical and heavy metal contamination. that could be a tough one, too.


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John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6573
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
135
I think another issue would be the 'lag time' to use shit on edible crops.
There is no definitive time set on safety issues, but 2 years is the number I hear most often.

              


Joined: Jan 13, 2010
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
the problem starts with the quality of your manure. ponder the fact that most if not all of the manure you would get is not certifiable organic and it's from a bunch of unhealthy drug infested quasi-vermin .

I like the idea, so it might be a fun experiment with some friendly competition. get a bunch of stalls set-up and see who can grow the most and highest brix on their own.

Andrew Ash


Joined: Apr 16, 2012
Posts: 24
Location: Chuluota, Florida
Dr Temp wrote:the problem starts with the quality of your manure. ponder the fact that most if not all of the manure you would get is not certifiable organic and it's from a bunch of unhealthy drug infested quasi-vermin .


This, in my opinion, would probably be the biggest consideration to such a system, even more so then the cultural taboo... Sure, it's definitely possible, but do you really WANT the stuff?
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3096
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
some similar ideas getting airtime on NPR today.

Farmer Says Manure Is Most Misunderstood Natural Resource. it isn't all about human shit, and the bits about animal manure aren't terribly inspiring. some fairly good stuff, though, and from a pretty mainstream outlet. maybe there's cause to be a bit more optimistic.
Megan Wantoch


Joined: Apr 03, 2012
Posts: 25
Location: Northern England
It could certainly be used for something, even if not deemed fit for food crops, and it would be, imo, a hugely preferable alternative to the current system which uses huge amounts of water, energy and money to convert a valuable resource into toxic waste.

I think we're a long, long way from getting the general populace to see it that way though. I agree that starting small (at home) is probably the way to go, although it does exclude people in urban situations with nowhere for a humanure pile.

Is there any such thing as communal compost in urban areas now? That seems like it would be easier to get people on board with. Could be another starting place.

R Scott


Joined: Apr 13, 2012
Posts: 2428
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
    
  28
The idea of large scale methane and biofuel production from algae fits in most people's comfort zone much more easily. It fits our current infrastructure easier, too.


"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi. "Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
Tom Notozy


Joined: May 05, 2012
Posts: 17
I am in Canada, within the OttawaRiver bioregion.
I commit to doing this, eventually, as "feedback" to an organic growing business.
It will happen as an internet show of global solidarity everywhere eventually, I believe.

Solemn first post.
Thanks permies.com.
wayne stephen
steward

Joined: Mar 11, 2012
Posts: 1736
Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
    
  92
We have a straight pipe system on this old farm property here , If you don't know - the gray water just flows out one pipe and the human waste straight out another. The gray water definitely in use for orchard irrigation via a swale system. The human waste has been flowing down a slope and into woodlands for at least 60 years. Pretty green strip it is. I recently planted willow sticks right there and they are growing . I will use for goat fodder , baskets , etc. So there is an agricultural use aside from food production . Rabbits like willow sticks in the winter too. The entire strip is thick with growth and this year I will cut and compost a large pile from it for top dressing - Big enough to heat a greenhouse when I purchase one - hopefully next year.


Permaculture is CPR for the planet !


Philip Smith


Joined: Apr 18, 2012
Posts: 14
Rob Meyer wrote:An idea just popped (pooped) into my head. I live in a very populated area, suburban bordering on urban. What I'm picturing is basically a public restroom, with a back yard. The purpose would be to have a community supported compost operation. This compost, once ready, could either be picked up by those who have made previous deposits, or the surplus distributed to local organic farms. Obviously there would be incredibly tremendous health regulations, and likely a good deal of dependency on education and community outreach, but what do you think? Could such a system ever come to be in our life times? In the same vein, what can we do to change the perceptions that society has surrounding composting human feces? In western culture, it's extremely taboo, viewed with disgust and fear. What are some ways we can start to chisel away at these preconceptions?


I"ve also been thinking a lot along those lines. It started with the thought ( dreaming about my Off -Grid house). I thought it would be cool to add a treadmill to batteries for solar? Every once in a blue moon when I can't stand myself any longer; I shut off the computer and go to a local gym. It's a big gym and cheap with all age groups. As I'm on the treadmill watching cooking shows; I can't help but observe all the wasted potential energy being wasted by people busting their asses on treadmills etc. . What if all these machines were hooked up to batteries. Florida has sun and net metering? Along the same lines RV PARKS? God knows like clockwork northerners, mid weterners,canadians are going to come to Florida and Stay in these parks during winter. I would venture to guess that many of these people come from an agrecultural backgrounds (monoculture)? All their greywater and waste water has to be disposed of somehow? If and that's a big If because I don't know anything about this stuff! Asumming that greywater and wastwater are both assets; then maybe these assets could be used in a more beneficial way? Permaculture/Foodforesting, or just reforesting? It could be a learning experience?
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2207
Location: FL
    
  58
Across the street from me is 75 acres of planted pines. In a few years they will all be mowed down to feed pulp and paper mills to end up as cardboard, greeting cards, and toilet paper. While the social taboo is intense in regards to the application of humanure on food crops, use on non-food crops bears consideration.

Some arithmetic:
75 acres x 43560 sqft = 3,267,000 sqft
a light application: 1 pound of humanure per sqft = 3,267,000 pounds, ~163 dump truck loads
heavy application: 5 pounds of finished humanure per sqft = 16,335,000 pounds, ~816 dump truck loads

16,335,000 pounds, 1/3 of that mass being regarded as waste = 5,445,000 pounds of waste currently being treated by municipal governments at great expense
the rest of the material can use the yard debris which is already being collected by that same municipal gubmint.
2 ;pounds of solids per day= 730 pounds/year produced by a typical adult in a year
7500 people can generate enough material to service 75 acres of timberland per year=100 people/acre

Current US population =311 Million souls
half the population using municipal sewer = 155 million souls
The volume of material produced by these 155 million souls could service 1.5 Million acres per year with a heavy application, or 7.5 Million acres with a light application.
Area of New Jersey = 5.5 million acres
Area of U.S. cotton planted for 2012 = 13.15 million acres

Potential uses/non-food crops
pulp wood/fuel wood/lumber wood
jatropha
switch grass
biofuels
biopolymers
flax
Guayule-natural rubber
ornamentals plants/flowers
industrial hemp





Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
http://farmwhisperer.com
Christian McMahon


Joined: Nov 20, 2011
Posts: 71
I am considering using humanure on property I plan to purchase. I expect I will use it to grow flowers to attract good bugs for the gardens. I have yet to read "The Humanure Handbook" so I am not savy on the ins and outs of it's production. Do you have to turn a Humanure Compost pile? That sounds a bit nasty to me.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3096
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
Christian McMahon wrote:Do you have to turn a Humanure Compost pile? That sounds a bit nasty to me.


nah. let worms do it. or soldier fly larvae. or both.

Christian McMahon wrote:I have yet to read "The Humanure Handbook" so I am not savy on the ins and outs of it's production.


check it out at the library. one skim through should be enough, so there's no need to keep it around as a reference. the author has some good ideas, but I think he falls short of a really elegant, effective solution.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6573
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
135
You can read the manual online in its entirety at the authors website.
There are also links to purchase either an e-book, or a paper copy.

http://humanurehandbook.com/contents.html

Roy Clarke


Joined: Feb 05, 2012
Posts: 121
I think another issue would be the 'lag time' to use shit on edible crops.
There is no definitive time set on safety issues, but 2 years is the number I hear most often.


I think 2 years has a lot to do with the time fungi need to do their bit of the composting cycle. I read that in China the poo is collected and taken straight out to be spread on the fields. Doesn't keep their population under control.
Megan Wantoch


Joined: Apr 03, 2012
Posts: 25
Location: Northern England
It does mean that raw salads haven't really caught on there :p

I might be weird, by I actually found the humanure handbook really good reading- was going to skim but ended up reading it all. I highly recommend it.

He lets his cure for one year, but he also monitors the temperature. If I remember right, he recommends leaving it for two if the source is suspect (eg. known disease in the humans producing the manure), the process is suspect (compost not reaching thermophilic stage), or if you just want to be extra safe. He uses his on everything including his lettuces.
 
 
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