The amount of food and yard waste people throw out each year is 100 lbs and 230 lbs respectively. In order to reduce the load and dependence on landfills which are quickly fililng up, we can compost our waste and turn it into nutrient rich soil.
Composting is not rocket science, it is actually quite simple. The first step is to accumulate materials which can be found all around us. Some common ones are ashes, kitchen scraps, grass clippings, hay or straw, leaves, newspapers, pine needles, sawdust, and weeds. Materials to avoid include colored paper, diseased plants, nonbiodegradeable items, pet litter, and toxic chemicals. Start with an activator such as manure or a little bit of compost from another pile. This will provide a nitrogen-protein source that will feed the microcommunity. Whether you decide to heap your compost or create a bin is up to you. At Mama Roja we have both types and both are relatively easy. The compost pile is a heap with a tarp to cover it from the rain and keep heat inside. Since the bathrooms are composting toliets there are bins by each baño in order to make contributions. The bathroom system is ¨dry¨ which means that only #2s can be deposited inot the buckets. A layer of sawdust is then applied to control odor. All peeing or #1s are done outside. This was strange for me at first but now I pretty much ¨pop a squat¨ anywhere.
This type of composting is different from the traditional because it produces human manure. Human waste is typically know as discarded feces and urine but human manure is not waste anymore, it is an organic material rich in soil nutrients. When human waste is collected and mixed with sewage from industries, hospitals, etc. it can create significant environmental problems. Returning what orginated from the soil back into the soil is the whole idea.
The four stages of composting are mesophilic phase, thermophilic phase, the cooling phase, and the curing phase. When organic refuse if piled, mesophilic bacteria proliferate, raising the temperature up to 111 degrees F. The second stage is where the thermophilic bacteria take over and the temperature can reach 125 degrees F. Depending on the size of the compost pile, this can last for a few days, weeks, or months. After the heating period, the cooling phase takes place, where the micro organisms that were chased away by the thermophilic bacteria migrate back and work on digesting resistant organic materials. The final stage of composting is the curing period, which provides a saftey net for pathogen destruction. This can be as long as a year after the thermophilic stage.
By the main bathroom, there is a 3 compost bin system. The one farthest to the right is ready to use for the garden, the middle is active, which means fresh deposits are still being added, and the one of the left is curing. When dumping the bucket from the bathroom into the pile, a hole is first created in the center with a pitch fork so that the fresh ingredients go right into the hot core to cook. Next, the hole is covered back up and dry leaves are layered on top.
We built a new bin over by the girls bathroom because the one by the chick coop is in its final stage so no more deposits can be made. Change the way you look at your waste!