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Humanure Composting Basics

Although most of the world's humanure is quickly flushed down a drain, or discarded into the environment as a pollutant, it could instead be converted, through composting, into lush vegetative growth, and used to feed humanity.

The humanure process involves a compost toilet, a compost bin and cover material. Toilet instructions are simple. There are a variety of ways to make a humanure toilet (or you can buy one). Everyone wonders about "emptying the toilet receptacle." How horrible can that be? Well, here's the procedure:

 

humanure about to be emptied into a compost bin

Here are two receptacles of humanure ready to be added to the compost bin (look at photos of the toilet process). The bin is covered with a wire mesh to keep out vermin such as dogs, racoons, stray chickens, etc.

 

wire covering humanure compost bin

This is a close-up of the bin and the wire. There is a 20" compost thermometer in the center of the pile, but it is not visible in this photo.

Take a look at a video clip showing the active compost bin:

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humanure compost bin

The wire is set aside, the compost thermometer removed, and the cover material is spread aside in all directions using a picthfork to create a depression in the top center of the compost pile. Note that there remains a thick layer of cover material surrounding the compost on all four sides. Spreading the compost in all directions and leaving a thick layer of cover material on the periphery allows you to keep the compost pile somewhat flat, thereby increasing the volume that the bin will hold. It also allows the compost to be collected without runoff, splashback, or the "Matterhorn Effect" (i.e. a peaked pile). The fresh toilet/kitchen/garden/yard material is added to the center of the pile where the temperatures are hottest. The cooler periphery provides a place for earthworms and other macroorganisms to escape the heat of the thermophilic center, while happily munching away on whatever looks good.

Take a look at a video clip showing the heat in the active compost bin:

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humanure compost

This is a photo from a previous year when the cover materials at that time were primarily weeds. The same procedure was used at that time.

 

humanure compost pile

The fresh humanure from the humanure toilet is now added to the center of the pile. What you are looking at is four 5-gallon receptacles worth of humanure (a week's worth for a family of four) added to the bin all at once. It's easier to carry two receptacles than to carry one, and when using a four receptacle system, a family of four adults will only have to empty the receptacles once a week - a Sunday afternoon 20 minute job from start to finish.

YouTube Video: Adding humanure toilet contents to a compost bin:

WATCH HUMANURE VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE

 

humanure compost

The empty receptacles are rinsed out with water and the rinse water is poured on the compost pile. The receptacles are then scrubbed with a long-handled toilet brush and a couple drops of dish soap. Do not use "anti-bacterial" soap. You are trying to feed bacteria, not kill them. The wash water is also poured on the compost pile. This compost bin has a rain barrel water collection system for convenient receptacle washing. In the winter months, the rain barrel is drained to prevent freeze damage. A gallon milk jug filled with water is instead carried out with the receptacles in the winter. One gallon of water will clean two receptacles. More bin photos

 

humanure compost

The cover material that had been pushed aside is now pulled back over the fresh compost, using the pitchfork.

 

humanure compost

More cover material is added to keep a clean layer over the compost at all times. In this case, straw is being used, although hay, weeds, leaves or grass clippings also make good cover materials. The cover materials will change with the seasons depending on what is available. Compost prefers green, live materials, but hay, straw or dried leaves work well, too. A variety of cover materials can be used in one bin. It should be pointed out that not only humanure is added to this compost bin. All of the compostable kitchen residues, food scraps, and whatnot are also composted in this bin, including small animal mortalities (fish scraps, dead chickens, etc.). All meat, fat, bones, etc., that you are commonly, and erroneously told "not to compost" are added to the bin as well. This bin already contains the carcasses of several dozen fish, at least one chicken, and one opossum (caught red-handed in the chicken coop and dispatched to the compost pile).

 

humanure compost

The wire is placed back over the top of the compost bin and the thermometer inserted back into the top center of the pile. This wire is a scrap piece of fence casually thrown over the bin.

 

humanure compost

You can see the wire and the thermometer better in this photo. The thermometer is the little gray dot in the middle of the compost.

 

humanure compost

This is a photo of the entire bin. The near side is being aged. It has not been added to for three months when this photo was taken. There is no need for wire over it. It maintained high temperatures (110-120 degrees F) for two months after fresh material was no longer added. This side was completely filled by the date of the summer solstice.

Take a look at a video clip showing these compost bins:

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humanure compost

The near side of this bin (the one we just emptied into) has already been added to for three months. It will hold nine more months worth of humanure and food materials, hay, weeds, leaves, grass clippings, etc. from a family of four. Smaller families or individuals may need a smaller bin size. The phenomenon of compost includes an incredible amount of shrinkage. As long as there is thermophilic (hot) microbiological activity , the compost will shrink, shrink and shrink some more. In order to ensure thermophilic activity, all urine and fecal material should be added to the compost pile. Do not segregate urine from your humanure toilet. Also include all toilet paper, toilet paper tubes, and everything else you can compost from your home, if possible.

Look at a video clip showing the compost being dug from a finished bin:

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The purposes for composting humanure include preventing water pollution, recycling human excrement to prevent fecal contamination of the environment, and recovering soil nutrients for the purpose of growing food. The compost produced in the above-illustrated method has all been used to grow food for a family -- a process that is the result of 28 years of continuous experience by the author of the Humanure Handbook. Photos of the author's garden below illustrate the benefit of fertile soil.

Take a look at a video clip showing the compost being added to a garden:

 

WATCH HUMANURE VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE

 

humanure composted garden

humanue compost garden

 

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