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Anaerobic/Hot Humanure Processing

 
pollinator
Posts: 157
Location: Zone 7a, 42", Fairfax VA Piedmont (clay, acidic, shady)
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Hello, I know most compost toilets and piles are aerobic to aid in breakdown.  However, I was curious if you could use a 55-gallon black plastic drum to hold the material (after first collecting it in a smaller bucket with a carbon cover material like wood-chips).  I'm fairly sure a drum in the summer here could get up to the temperature needed to kill parasites (maybe i could put up some reflectix to reflect the sun back on to the drum like a mini solar cooker), as long as it was sealed.

I figure doing it this way might be safer than just having a big pile covered with wood-chips, and would also look nicer in suburbia.  Perhaps I am being over-paranoid, but I don't like the idea of a big pile that wildlife and my dog could get into.
 
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Hey, Josh....the science that happens with humanure creates a kind of gas that should not be enclosed in a container.  Often in septic systems, sewer systems it's called sewer gas and it can be very dangerous as far as being flammable, dangerous to breathe.  It could conceivably expand your container to the point where taking off the top, unscrewing it, could be dangerous.

There are some really good threads here about composting toilets, several different ways to handle it, but no closed containers.  As far as looks go, there is the option to compost the paper separately, or really, really cover it all up with lots of coverage material, like mowed weeds or sawdust.  But the main problem I always had was with gnats and flies in the summer, and it slows way down in the winter.  It's really the biological critters that are working on the contents.  Liquids can get out of balance depending on visitors tipping the system, someone needs to keep an eye on the balance of carbons to contents to liquids.

I would highly recommend looking into worms in a large plastic container with a lid that is not air tight, with at a minimum an exit pipe of at least 2", with rock at the outgoing end to keep large contents from leaving the container , where you can manually add the contents from a bucket, add water to make sure it's damp enough.  

Ideally it can connect to a flush toilet where the 3" or 4" pipe coming out of a house goes into the container, and the outgoing pipe handles black water headed down pipes to a trench of bark chips and landscape plants only, not food plants.

I used the worms from my own place, about 75 for planned usage for 2 people, lined the container with native soil, leaving the center open with a few bark chips for starters.  Within 6 months  it turned into the most amazing, no-odor setup I've ever had.  The worms have multiplied beyond counting, they've doubled in size and they are ecstatically happy.   I keep it shaded in the summer, it doesn't freeze hard in my winter, but there are ways to handle that with insulation outside the box, and another box over that.

https://permies.com/t/80/17877/Humanure-flushing-toilets-worm-farms#1020045
 
Josh Garbo
pollinator
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Location: Zone 7a, 42", Fairfax VA Piedmont (clay, acidic, shady)
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Thanks Cristo, I will check that out.  I certainly do not want to make an inadvertent biogas digestor!  

Incidentally, this would only be for solid wastes, as I have a septic tank for liquids (and haven't bothered with greywater).

I have IBC Totes too; probably would not be hard to bury them somewhat and then throw a black tarp over to keep them warmer in the winter.
 
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Location: Romania
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My sewage is aerobic wich is a lot faster  and somme anaerobic processes happen also .
This sewage has virtually nothing that builds up ,i never have to drain it and plants do the filtration.
I then chop the weeds there and make compost from the weeds or use them as mulch.
Lately ive planted a few Paulownia Tomentosa along the sewage trench .These are the fastest growing trees in the world and i will harvest them for wood.

20190830_091141.jpg
Paulownia Tomentosa
Paulownia Tomentosa
20190702_141305.jpg
Paulownia Tomentosa transplants
Paulownia Tomentosa transplants
 
Josh Garbo
pollinator
Posts: 157
Location: Zone 7a, 42", Fairfax VA Piedmont (clay, acidic, shady)
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forest garden fungi urban chicken woodworking homestead
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I can't really retrofit my home toilet septic line too well; however, I wondered if this could be done on a smaller scale with an inside worm box.  That would help with worm survival and also make human usage more pleasant (no one wants to sit in a cold outhouse during the winter!).  Wonder if a 4ft wide/long, 2ft high box (with a bucket toilet on top) would work.  That would be 32 sq ft of wood chips and worms, with drainage on the bottom (the drainage could get gross).  I'd probably limit the liquid waste going in to the system, unless the worms like it damp.  Then I'd add soil, decomposing wood chips, leaves (in fall), and maybe cardboard to the pile.
 
pollinator
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Josh Garbo wrote: I was curious if you could use a 55-gallon black plastic drum to hold the material (after first collecting it in a smaller bucket with a carbon cover material like wood-chips).  I'm fairly sure a drum in the summer here could get up to the temperature needed to kill parasites (maybe i could put up some reflectix to reflect the sun back on to the drum like a mini solar cooker), as long as it was sealed.



Josh,

After seeing another local homeowner's set-up in a covered trash barrel, I adopted this very simple system.  My volume is low because it's just me.  The other guy built a solar concentrator for his - a clear transparent box for his trash bin.  I just put mine in an obscure but handy spot with lots of sunshine and made sure the lid was adequately fastened.  Mine is all moist solids as I pee into a different bucket.  

It cooks hot, but is not anaerobic.  Any time I peek in, there is lovely fibrous, lacy mycelia doing its job.  
I also use a tight fitting lid on the 5 gallon bucket and wood chips/sawdust adequate to keep flying insects out.  I had gnats once when I first started, till I refined it.



They're cheap, and I've got several extras, having to buy them online this last time, shipping costs were a built in cost and I bought more than I would need.  I'd be willing to mail you one, if you'd like.

I see there is now a different, but much more expensive flexible sealing lid -
https://rsquality.com/lid-for-5-gallon-bucket/?sku=56932&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI7ZaE9sa95gIVDorICh2Gkg79EAkYAyABEgLgVPD_BwE
 
Josh Garbo
pollinator
Posts: 157
Location: Zone 7a, 42", Fairfax VA Piedmont (clay, acidic, shady)
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forest garden fungi urban chicken woodworking homestead
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Hi Ruth, thanks for the offer, but I'm happy to order some too. Does it compost completely sealed?

Current idea is to use a large IBC tote, with top open, drainage holes in bottom opening into a small pit, lots of worms, screen on top (but open to accept rain), black tarp over it in winter for warmth, maybe some grass seeds in there during summer.
 
gardener
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Location: SoCal USA
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We have a thread to a flushable toilet system that uses vermicompost and can look very nice here: https://permies.com/t/37192/Vermicomposting-Flush-Toilet  which points to an article at https://www.permaculture.co.uk/readers-solutions/how-make-vermicomposting-flush-toilet which can use IBC totes, you fill it with carbon and worms and then the toilet flushes onto that and there's a drain at the bottom for excess water, and the worms go to work for you. You could cover/decorate the system so neighbors would be none the wiser. The drainage of excess fluids would be contaminated though, so unless you handle that properly by directing it into a septic tank I think you'd have potential issues.

I'm personally a fan of the Humanure setup, and putting a compost bin in the back yard takes a 5'x10' space if you make 2 sides to alternate each year (one 5x5 space can handle 4-5 people) and you just put sides on it to keep pets out, and a wire screen on top if you have lots of rodent issues. I used chicken wire on mine, and one year doing Humanure it worked great, hitting temps of 130F the day after each deposit, and dropping to 115-120F 4-5 days later. 24 hours at 122F I think will kill off all pathogens per Joe Jenkins' book. There is no smell if you cover the pile properly, I used free mulch from the city and weeds. The mulch I would pour on a 1/2"x1/2" wire mesh sifter I made, to sort out the small bits/fines that I used as cover material inside, and the larger bits would be the cover after each deposit. The only smell inside was the mulch, no poop/pee smell and outside it was the same (which is a sore point for me with Paul's book, which does a major disservice to Humanure in the comparison chart but I digress).

I think Humanure is the simplest, most tested option which also has the least "what is that" factor for neighbors- all they see is a compost pile in the back and you can make it from free pallets, or cheap t-post corners with chicken wire attached to sides and top, or spend a lot of money on a plastic contraption if that's your thing. No need to use anaerobic storage, which some research suggests can take up to 4-6 years to guarantee 100% pathogen death (assuming you have ring worms when you use it, their eggs are the toughest by far when not using heat). I'd rather limit storage time, so you don't have a row of barrels accumulating on the property that you'd have to avoid or worse explain to others. Again a compost pile needs no explanation and if you follow the most basic steps in the Humanure setup it will kill off any pathogens and not smell, and pets can't bother it with some wire/board sides/top.

edit: typos
 
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