Hot Water from Compost (video)

Hot water from mulch compost water heater compost geothermal decomposition

Another great video from Green Power Science showing just how hot piles of organic material can get…even when you do nothing!

Posted in General | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Worm Bin Organisms

Worm Bin Organisms

Posted in General, Vermicomposting | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting Pickier with Plastics

[ reposted from ]

After reading a fair bit of material regarding microplastics in compost, I’ve decided to become more strict on what I contribute to my compost piles.

Up to this point, I’ve been experimenting with how much of an item will compost, even when I’m aware it contains some plastic.

For example, I’ve added quite a few ice cream cartons, chinese food containers, paper cups, and fast food waste that I dumpstered from several establishments.

The plan has been to pick out the plastic skeletons that remain when I screen my finished product…I’ve been doing that for a long time, with the most common example being the occasional produce sticker that I missed.

What’s the big deal anyway?  I’m not going to use my compost to grow anything at this point… I’d rather just use it for horticultural purposes.

If I throw “away” the chinese food carton, it gets landfilled and does nothing forever.

While it’s not as visibly obvious as pieces of styrofoam floating in a puddle or plastic bags dancing with the wind, microplastics in the environment are contaminating everything.

 A 2011 study by Woods End Laboratory states that all plastic-coated paper products (single or double coated) leave a trail of microplastics, whether the lining is made from LDPE, PET or clay with binders.

I screen plastic bits from my compost with a 1/4″ sieve, but there’s no way I will be able to remove strands of polyethylene that are 100 microns in size.

I never thought about it like that, but it makes perfect sense and I wish I would have realized this sooner.

Keep plastic coated paper products out of your compost.

The only exceptions are products certified as compostable.

Composting facilties need to ban all plastic coated paper products from entering their faciltiies, which can’t be easy.

Between the plastic garbage gyres, the plastic bag dilemma and now this huge contributor to plastics working their way up the food chain, we have a very serious problem to solve.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Help Support a Community Composting Project!

[ original posting found here:   or here via google translate: ]

Recently, a gentleman by the name of Michal Vavrik emailed me asking for support with his sustainability project in his hometown of Zilina, Slovakia.

Michal is proposing a project that will utilize a communal compost bin for 12 households to share.  He has received approval from the Department of Environment, and if it goes well I can see that this model will spread.

Utilizing a shared compost bin in a mutually agreed upon location is the best scenario… a huge chunk of residencies are cramped apartments or spaces without a backyard or area to process food waste.

Composting is a great gateway into other forms of waste reduction, and the reality is that it’s simple to do with a little practice.

Kudos to Michal for taking on an essential project… let’s hope he wins the project!

Vote for him by clicking here:

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Plastic in Compost Bad ? Should I Use it?

Is Plastic in Compost Bad ? Should I Use it?

My question for Sonoma Compost first of all, is why they don’t accept meat and dairy (or cardboard???).  They must have specific recipes.

This seems kind of crazy as there’s absolutely nothing wrong with composting this stuff, and they have plenty of massive windrows that must be generating hefty thermophilic temperatures.

I’m not surprised they don’t accept compostable plastics.

It’s such a drag that they haven’t been a great solution so far, but they just haven’t.

Reportedly there have been a few companies selling their “compostable” plastic bags to use that ended up not being compostable at all… what a mess.

Anyway, John makes a lot of good points in this video.

Minimize your plastic consumption.

The easiest way to sum up what he’s saying: Aim to create compost with little to no plastic in it.  Aim to acquire compost with little to no plastic, but if it has a piece or two in it, don’t freak out about it.

My views have changed on this topic recently, as I’ve been reading more about microplastics in compost.  I plan on writing a few reflections on this topic.

If I was forced to make up a new year’s resolution (which I never do), it would be that I’m not going to experiment with picking out plastics anymore.  I’ll screen out the plastic remnants from food packaging the best I can, but I’m not going to add any new plastic-coated items going forward.

Posted in General | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Can you Compost Indoors with a Bin or Tumbler?

Depending on where you live, composting in the winter can be a real drag.

Every winter I receive emails asking if it’s possible to compost indoors.

The answer is pretty simple- If composting with worms, yes.  If you want to keep a compost tumbler or compost bin in your basement or the garage…no.

Well, I guess you can do what you want really, depending on your tolerance for other forms of life sharing your space.  Remember that compost piles are ecosystems full of life.

Materials break down year round…decomposition slows in the winter, but not enough to warrant bringing a composting system indoors.

Here’s the factors that come into play when trying to compost in the basement/indoors:

1) Mice.  Compost piles are nice, warm places to live…this can invite mice.  A compost tumbler can most likely avoid this issue, but then there’s…

2) Ants/flies/other critters.  Chances are they will find the compost pile.  They can enter a compost tumbler through the air holes.  If your compost tumbler doesn’t have air holes, return it and get another one.

3) Pests aside, composting indoors can allow for leachate to run from the bottom.  This would be a fun challenge, as with a good 12″ of fluffy browns in the bottom of the pile, this should sponge everything up… but you may still see a little bit depending on what you’re adding.

4) While composting shouldn’t cause any odor issues, a restricted space with that much material increases your chances that you will smell something.  Now that I’m naming all these reasons discouraging you from trying, it makes me want to try it.

5) Mess.  For this reason I’d say a compost bin is out of the question.  What do you do when you have finished material you’d like to remove?

Keep your composting system outdoors (unless you decide to start vermicomposting).

Stash enough cover material to last your weekly trips outside for the winter.  This could be as little as just a few bags of leaves.

Your pile will still shrink as time goes on, just not as noticeably as it does in the months well above freezing.

If you need to compost indoors for space constraints, leave it to the worms.  Otherwise, set something up outdoors.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Failure of the Wilmington Compost Facility Underscores Need for a Locally Based and Diverse Composting Infrastructure (article by Neil Seldman)

The content that follows was written by Neil Seldman and originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

Go directly to the link above to check it out.  I’m reposting simply because hopefully more people will read it that way and it’s an important topic to discuss if we’re to move in the right direction with one of our biggest waste issues.


The rapid increase in community-scale composting in the Mid-Atlantic is sorely needed. The recent closing of the Wilmington Organics Recycling Center in Delaware, due to the loss of its operating permit, has pushed the need for a distributed and diverse composting infrastructure to the fore. Source separated food discard programs from New York City to Washington, DC, are now scrambling to find alternative sites to tip their loads.

The Wilmington Organics Recycling Center was at the center of expanded food discard collections in the Mid-Atlantic region. Developed, sited, permitted, financed and built by The Peninsula Compost Group (TPCG), the facility was designed to receive 600 tons per day of source separated organic materials from government institutions, grocery chains, schools, food processors, sports venues, restaurants, and other large food waste generators.

A separate company, named the Peninsula Compost Company (PCC), was set up to own the plant. Its original members included the EDiS Company and Greenhull Compost LLC (both of Wilmington, Delaware), as well as the developers, TPCG. The facility commenced operations in late 2009 composting around 200 tons per day.

For the first two years, TPCG was the managing and operations partner. During that time there were no verified odor complaints or Notices of Violation from the State of Delaware and the compost produced met every Federal and State standard for unrestricted use.

However, the anticipated ramp-up to 600 tons per day of incoming food waste did not occur as anticipated, placing economic strains on the facility. In 2011, Waste Management Inc. (WMI) approached PCC seeking to participate as an investor in the project and to provide food and wood waste to fill the facility’s capacity.

This overture and ensuing transaction were welcomed given WMI’s interest in accelerating organics recycling services and developing value-added compost-based products in the Mid-Atlantic. WMI invested millions into buying the largest individual ownership share of PCC.

When WMI announced this strategic investment in PCC in May 2011, it touted the facility’s ability to add over 200,000 tons to the company’s processing capacity. Despite incentives to increase the volume of organics processed, WMI was unable to help PCC reach the plant’s 600 ton-per-day capacity and the material delivered by all haulers was too often contaminated.

In mid-February 2012 – within a year of WMI’s investment – TPCG was removed as the operations manager and eliminated as voting members, a step that made WMI the majority voting member of PCC, with the largest controlling interest.

However, WMI maintains it never could and still cannot control PCC. This is counterintuitive given that all of the Wilmington plant management people were direct employees of PCC, a company that WMI dominated with a majority of the voting shares.

Between mid 2012 and its closure in fall 2014, the facility received hundreds of odor complaints, Notices of Violation from the State of Delaware, and complaints about plastic and glass contamination in the compost.

Although W.L. Gore and Associates, the technology provider, and a number of well-known independent compost consultants and experts made recommendations that would have resolved those issues, most of those suggestions were apparently not acted upon.

As a result, the operations continued to suffer from contamination and odor problems. Odors reached area neighborhoods and businesses, even though sufficient buffer areas existed. On October 20, 2014, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, in the face of permit violations, refused to renew the facility’s permit, thus shutting down operations. (Click here for DNREC’s closure order and here for its press release.)

All active composting of existing material onsite must to be completed by January 16, 2015. By March 31st, all compost and related waste must be removed. The facility’s closure has not only crippled business and local government food waste diversion programs, but has also given commercial food waste composting a bad name.

Andrew DiSabatino, Jr., Managing Partner of PCC, reported that the Wilmington Peninsula plant would not be reopened. Another plant that had been planned for the southern part of Prince George’s County, Maryland, is unlikely to move forward.

One industry consultant wondered if WMI’s goal was to shut down the plant in order to eliminate competition with its regional landfills. Yet, why wouldn’t WMI want to clean up the Wilmington Organics Recycling Center – a facility they partly owned with the largest controlling interest – in order to secure on-going capacity for the growing food waste composting sector?

Consider that the lack of wood waste was one of the most critical problems facing the Wilmington Organics Recycling Center. (Wood waste was needed as a source of carbon to balance the highly nitrogenous food waste.) WMI could have delivered adequate carbon materials for composting but did not; its Tullytown, Pennsylvania landfill (~55 miles from Wilmington) receives tens of thousands of tons of yard and wood waste, for which it earns landfill tip fees.

According to WMI spokesperson, John Hambrose, WMI remains committed to organics recycling and is involved in numerous other projects and operations across the U.S and Canada. WMI, for example, is a partner in Harvest Power’s wet anaerobic digester project in London, Ontario. That facility accepts 67,000 metric tons of material a year and generates 285 megawatts of electricity and other products.

Hambrose points out that WMI has made significant investments to increase its capacity to manage organic material. “Our customers want this service so we invest in facilities that will help us meet the demand for composting services. WMI invests to succeed.” WMI operates 39 yard trimming and food waste facilities in the U.S. Referring to the growing ‘zero waste to landfill’ movement, Hambrose stated, “We need composting capacity to build our business.”  Indeed, WMI used the Wilmington facility to successfully win the bid to transfer New York City’s organics.

Is there too much reliance on distant far-away facilities? ILSR’s Composting Makes $en$e Director, Brenda Platt, who has been trained as a compost facility operator in Maryland, thinks so. “There is not enough focus on home composting and small-scale farm and community sites, followed by onsite institutional systems and then development of medium sized private and public operations for remaining organics,” she asserted. “One beauty of composting is that it can be small-scale, large-scale, and everything in between. We need more emphasis on locally based systems as the priority.”

No matter what scale the facility, proper management and quality control are essential.  As noted by Nora Goldstein of BioCycle Magazine, “What is key in compost manufacturing at any scale is production of a high quality compost as that opens doors to a wide range of markets and end uses — from growing food to managing storm water and erosion. This requires clean incoming feedstock.

Indeed, cities could be developing closed loop local systems to recycle food waste into compost to green neighborhoods and enhance the health of urban soils. Compost is increasingly valued for its ability to improve water retention in soil, treat non-point source pollution, and cut sedimentation run-off via green infrastructure such as raingardens and bioswales. Centralized, far-away and large-scale facilities make it harder to return finished compost back to the community for use.

The good news is that there is huge potential to expand composting at the local level. ILSR’s 2014 report, Growing Local Fertility: A Guide to Community Composting, describes successful initiatives in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Programs range from urban to rural and include demonstration/training sites, schools, universities, pedal-powered collection systems, worker-owned cooperatives, community gardens, and farms employing multiple composting techniques. At recent forums in Baltimore (sponsored by BioCycle and ILSR) and Philadelphia (sponsored by the City Council), community-scale composters spoke before enthusiastic audiences.

If implemented, a decentralized approach – one that combines home and community-scale composting with on-farm and medium-sized operations – would create jobs, reduce private and public sector costs for managing waste, and better tie compost to healthy soils and local food production, thereby reinforcing a community culture of sustainability and engaged environmental stewardship. Moreover, with a diverse infrastructure, problems at one site will not disrupt the whole system.

For further information on the benefits of composting, composting basics, national and state statistics, model programs, policy opportunities, and a discussion of community-scale composting, see ILSR’s 2014 report State of Composting in the US: What, Why, Where & How.

To learn more about our Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders composter-training project (a collaborative project with ECO City Farms), please email us at

-Neil Seldman


This article was produced under ILSR’s Composting Makes $en$e Project, which is advancing composting in order to create jobs, enhance soils, protect the climate, and reduce waste.


I’d like to hear about what suggestions were made by consultants and experts to keep the facility open.  It’s suspicious that the site was working fine for its first few years until Waste Management stepped in.

At a certain point, there’s just too much volume to handle and this site is proof of that.

I don’t think Waste Management solely sabotaged the facility in order to eliminate landfill competition, simply due to the fact that their composting services allow them to make plenty of money as well.  Perhaps it’s an added bonus, though.

If Waste Management is actually committed to organics recycling and “invests to succeed”, then WORC would still be operating today.  Then again, their forays into healthcare and medical waste processing have failed, too.  Maybe they weren’t committed.

They could have provided plenty of brown materials for the site, but I think that the surrounding towns could have done the same thing just by providing brown materials from street cleaning.

Composting needs to be a multi-pronged effort in order to work.  I would prefer that everyone makes their own compost at home, but I think that’s a tall order to ask people to do without serious education.

Curbside organics collection definitely makes sense, but where is it going to be hauled away to?  I feel like this is the main obstacle in the way at the moment.  Come on investors, get going on building a network of indoor composting facilities.  You’ll make money hand over fist and take care of the primary waste issue surrounding our country today.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Reasons Why I Screen My Compost with a Sifter

5 Reasons Why I Screen My Compost with a Sifter

Posted in General | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Toter Trash Can Continuous Flow Compost Bin Review

Toter Trash Can Continuous Flow Compost Bin Review

The toter can idea is pretty decent, but with a few adjustments this could work even better.

First, the capacity isn’t there… this is why he’s only hitting 90 degrees.  Although I don’t know how many days it’s been since he added materials, I can say that it won’t get too much hotter than where it is.

This is due to not enough volume and not enough airflow.

Toter should reduce the size of the collection chamber on the bottom and aerate the side panels.  If this could have over 55 gallons of capacity up top, I would recommend it.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Loveable Loo – Like a Turd that Won’t Flush

The Loveable Loo – Like a Turd that Won't Flush

If you don’t have the time or interest to build your own, this new design is built like a tank!

Posted in General, Humanure | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment