Tag Archives: hot composting

Not So Hot Compost

Not So Hot Compost

The reasons for the pile not working are easily solvable.

First: the pile is predominantly manure.  A working pile needs to have three times as much carbon as nitrogen.  He mentions activators, but in this situation they won’t help at all.

He needs shredded leaves as his browns.  I can’t tell if there’s any food scraps in there, added to the center and covered with a fresh layer of browns (shredded leaves).

Second, the pile is super dense and airflow is limited.  He needs browns.

Third, there is no reason at all to turn the pile, ever.  By doing so, the heat from the center is randomly redistributed, making the pile (the thermophilic critters) lose momentum.  Do less, reap the results.

Composting with Grass Clippings

Composting with Grass Clippings

This video is great for its simplicity and the fact that it really works like this.

Pile stuff up, get it wet and that’s it.

I like that there’s no bin or tumbler being used- just a heap in the yard will do it.

I don’t have any grass, but this makes me want to go get some nearby just to add some more diversity to my piles.

Thermal kill temperatures obtained!

compost temp 131After a huge storm last weekend, tons of leaves came down on the block.  By Monday they had dried out and I was there for the sweeping.

I put my shredder to use and converted 3 bags of leaves into one full, dense bag of shredded brown fuel.

I added a bunch of leftovers, the compost toilet bucket, weeds I picked from the side yard, and cat food that the picky guy doesn’t want to eat anymore.

On a side note, my cat seems to only want the cheap processed crap.  I tried feeding him some super good stuff with real meat in it, and he doesn’t want it!

Anyway, it makes great fuel.  My pile has been at or above 131 F for a few days now.  Yay!

According to Jenkins, Gotaas, and numerous others, complete pathogen destruction takes place in a well-managed compost pile arriving at the temperature of 62 C (144 F) for one hour, 50 C (122 F) for one day, 46 C (115 F) for one week or 43 C (109.4 F) for one month.

To achieve these temperatures, all you need is at least a 3′ x 3′ x 3′ compost bin with well-shredded leaves and food scraps.  Emptying your compost toilet in there will guarantee these temperatures.

As with anything it takes practice, but once you do it once, you’ll keep nailing it.  And it feels pretty good. 🙂

Huge compost bin sighting!

I was walking around the other day and found these massive 5′ x 5′ x 5′ compost bins.

I hope they don’t always look this inactive!  There’s a lot of potential here.

The “death” of a compost bin is when branches are tossed in… while they are organic and will break down, they will take forever to do so in that form and just take up space.

To the left of these bins is a nice pile of wood chips, and it was good to see that the wood chips were not present in the bins… sawdust yes, wood shavings not really, wood chips no way.

If the nature area wanted to (and maybe they do on a scheduled basis), there was plenty of material in the immediate vicinity of which to get both bins full of ready-to-compost material.

I’ll definitely be checking this out over time to see how it’s getting used.  I’m guessing the trickier component is finding the right green materials…definitely the opposite of my situation!


My Compost Pile is Sinking!

Just the other week, I had filled the bin up to the edge with new material…and I look out there today after forgetting about it and it’s dropped nearly a foot!

This is what I love about compost piles- I’ve been adding material to this thing on a weekly basis and it’s just a bottomless pit of degradation.

With the summertime coming on, I can only imagine this process will kick up a few more notches still.

Steaming Piles of Compost

Steaming Piles of Compost

Good short clip showing the steam… probably the coolest part of composting through the cold months.

How to do it?  Have a pile at least 3’x3’x3′ in size, comprised of half shredded browns (preferably leaves).  Add the food scraps, cover with more browns, moisten, cover the pile with a tarp or lots of straw.

When the Left-Hand doesn’t know what the Right-Hand (PLA) is doing.

originally found here: http://woodsend.org/2013/09/left-hand-doesnt-right-hand-pla-doing/

American and European consumers are very familiar with PLA widely marketed as compostable for just about everything from chip-bags to golf-tees.  This renowned PLA, a biological plastic made from a “left-hand” lactic-acid molecule, also has a quirk:  it requires a pre-heat phase before it will actually biodegrade. That trait is referred to as Tg or “glassy transition” in the trade.  Tg is a feature of all plastics and can occur over a very wide range of temperatures, but none as convenient as PLA’s at 55-58°C, making it eligible to be called compostable,- that is, if the compostability test is conducted at or just above the Tg  temperature.

To be certified compostable means a standard is upheld such as ASTM 6400 for USA or EN 13432 for Europe. Coincidentally, these rules require compost test vessels to be held at 58°C during the entire test, referred to as industrial conditions. “This requirement effectively eliminates the Tg variable from being part of the test”, says Brinton.  Brinton’s lab has experimented with clients in attempts to create blends of L-PLA  possessing lower Tg for routine composting,- mostly unsuccessfully. “The temperature barrier of PLA is synthetic, not natural”, comments Brinton, “and now many people believe industrial composting is the only real composting”.

The Tg trait of bioplastic might go unnoticed were it not for the entrance of a cousin to PLA, right hand “D-PLA”. Tests conducted at Woods End labs on the right-hand enantiomer created by the Product Development Center at the  University of Maine, show this same material which appears identical to PLA-L has none of the high temperature Tg limits.  “This means it is compostable under any circumstance, just like leaves and hay and grass clippings.” says Brinton who has confirmed in trials that it decomposes rapidly even at room temperature. Therefore, the enforced distinction of “industrial” vs. “other” composting that is used to define the market for L-PLA, “well that distinction can eventually go away”, says Brinton.

Woods End admits there is a question if D-PLA has suitable properties for food packaging, and if not, what its best use would be as a consumer compostable product. Also, L-PLA is recylable and being a true bio-based plastic presents a good life-cycle profile especially if it can be made from non-food sources. Both products have a future. In any event, thinking outside artificial Tg limits should allow the industry to re-focus on composting as an inclusive and not exclusive trait in nature.

This is probably the most interesting composting related article I’ve read in quite some time, and it raises tons of questions.  I hope D-PLA is as magical as it sounds.
When composting bioplastics at home, it’s no easy task…I’d say that most composters would have a difficult time breaking it down in any reasonable amount of time, and the initial pre-heat phase this article describes must be part of the problem.
Without a massive and semi well-managed volume of material, it’s hard to obtain the 58C/136F for long enough to get the PLA started with decomposition.
If D-PLA really is “just like leaves and hay”, that will change the game altogether.  Is it as strong as the current PLA being used for garbage/compost bags?  Does it store on the shelf for as long without falling apart?
If D-PLA breaks down just like leaves do, let’s hope it’s safe.  Keep testing this one, University of Maine…