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Rethinking Composting
Old 08-25-2010, 05:35 PM   #1
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Rethinking Composting

We've been composting for years to save on garbage collection costs.

For the last year, we've been using this 35-gallon bin


and today I emptied it for the first time. I shouldn't have let it get so heavy -- it was about half full. After rolling it to my compost dump location, I had to rig up rope to a tree just to be able to tip it up.

Anyway, after an entire year of effort, I'm figuring that the volume was so small, that I may as well put the vegetable scraps down the garbage disposal and into our septic tank.

What do you think?
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Old 08-25-2010, 05:40 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
We've been composting for years to save on garbage collection costs.

For the last year, we've been using this 35-gallon bin


and today I emptied it for the first time. I shouldn't have let it get so heavy -- it was about half full. After rolling it to my compost dump location, I had to rig up rope to a tree just to be able to tip it up.

Anyway, after an entire year of effort, I'm figuring that the volume was so small, that I may as well put the vegetable scraps down the garbage disposal and into our septic tank.

What do you think?
Composting it might put off when you next have to pump your tank, as well as cutting down on plumbing jobs. Anyway, that stuff is really gold, I can't see any downside to doing the composting. The barrel is not an eyesore, Lena will feel good about your efforts when she puts it on her roses, and a man needs as much of that as he can garner.

Do the work with your shirt off, that might potentiate the effect.

Ha
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Old 08-25-2010, 05:46 PM   #3
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I prefer to avoid using the disposal on the sink. Typically for two people the need for pumping septic is about seven years. Using a disposal unit to dump stuff into the septic is considered equal to one addition person per household.

You decide.
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Old 08-25-2010, 06:06 PM   #4
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Yeah, I'd rather toss it than put it down the disposal. I think some people badly overuse disposals. Does it really increase garbage collection costs? I'm not sure I've ever lived somewhere that they've charged based on volume, or else I've never gone over the minimum level. I have to haul mine to a dumpster now, but I'd probably have to make as many garbage runs anyway because of the smell of non-compostibles.
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Old 08-25-2010, 07:45 PM   #5
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Woot has
Ecomposter with Spider Base

for $99.99 until 10:00 PST tonite

www-dot-woot-dot-com (don't know if I can link)
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Old 08-25-2010, 07:50 PM   #6
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We just collect scraps in a plastic quart container and then dump them in the back yard in low area in the trees behind the garage. Our results are a couple of avocado trees, watermelon vines, some squash vines, a few stunted tomatoes, and fewer mosquitos as the low spot has filled up. No turning, no science, no thought.

BTW, our garbage disposal quit working about 3 years ago and we have never fixed/replaced it, so nothing non-liquid goes down our kitchen sink.
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Old 08-25-2010, 08:00 PM   #7
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I use the LOL method at my old family place. We toss everything in a pile off in the trees about 50 yards from the house (to avoid rodentia, raccoons, etc near the house).
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Old 08-25-2010, 08:41 PM   #8
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For me I plan to keep composting. Fresh water is a scarce resource, apparently from the looks of my compost bin maggots are not. The compost instructions said to only use it for fruits and vegetables, but yesterday I dumped some old tortillas in there and today they are completely gone. Evidently even the maggots don't like broccoli though.

The composter saves water, a little electricity, and gives us a little more exercise having to walk out to it. Plus I just like the idea of recycling food scraps on our premises.

The composter was step one. Building some vegetable gardens was step two which I haven't gotten to yet. But when I get around to the gardens I'll have some great compost for them.
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Old 08-25-2010, 08:46 PM   #9
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I use modified LOL method. I stockpile leaves in the fall, so as I add a bunch of green/veg scraps to the pile, I layer it with the dry leaves. I keep it moist, and once the pile is big enough, it starts cooking. This is all best done in an inconspicuous spot. I keep the pile somewhat contained with a huge open plastic holey tube on end, then when the pile is formed, I just lift up the tube and put it down where I want to start the next pile.
If I want it to cook faster I use a pitchfork to turn the cooking pile into the empty tube, mixing it up that way. In this way I never have to lift more than a pitchfork's worth of stuff.
Besides generating less garbage, I figure I'm saving some bucks on organic fertilizer. I still have to use fertilizer, but probably not as much. Plus I have so many worms in the garden it's almost like a horror movie. This is a good thing.
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Old 08-25-2010, 08:50 PM   #10
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I use the LOL / Martha method, too, in nonfreezing weather. A couple times a year I flip it with my front end loader. In the winter we use the garbage disposal into the septic tank. We don't eat much meat, so no bones or meat scraps in the compost pile - no stink and minimal animal scavenging. .
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Old 08-25-2010, 08:52 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
We've been composting for years to save on garbage collection costs.
Anyway, after an entire year of effort, I'm figuring that the volume was so small, that I may as well put the vegetable scraps down the garbage disposal and into our septic tank.
What do you think?
We've been composting to reduce the amount of waste that we put into the landfill. This year Hawaii was actually very close to shipping its solid waste to the Mainland.

Small volumes are what families make, especially if you're not able to add a lot of grass clippings (we get ours from neighbor's green waste cans). Most of our food waste goes to our worms, so about the only food waste we compost is papaya seeds (they sterilize worms, of all things) and citrus (which worms don't especially care for).

However if you put food waste down your sink then you're putting that much more of a load on your septic system. You'll end up having to pump it that much more often or, even worse, after a large party it may end up overloaded/blocked. I'd rather deal with a compost barrel than a septic tank.

Most of your composting challenges seem to come from bears and other critters. Maybe more containers would keep things lighter & more manageable, or maybe there's a better bear-proof alternative container?
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Old 08-25-2010, 09:46 PM   #12
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However if you put food waste down your sink then you're putting that much more of a load on your septic system. You'll end up having to pump it that much more often or, even worse, after a large party it may end up overloaded/blocked. I'd rather deal with a compost barrel than a septic tank.
Well, this has been my thinking, but looking at the small volume of compost after a whole year, and comparing it mentally with the amount of space in the septic tank is what got me reevaluating.

Composting is more difficult for us because of the bears and other wildlife. If we just dump it outside, we are feeding those animals, which isn't good. The bin is inside our shed, with a drain added in the floor so that the compost "tea" drips out instead of onto the floor.

Also, our low-carb lifestyle has meant less compostable waste (no banana peels, tortillas, apple cores, etc.).

Quote:
I'm not sure I've ever lived somewhere that they've charged based on volume,
We've got a great system here: "Blue Bags." You pay for $8 per special bag, and they pick it up any time for free. We don't use weekly service. When the bag is full we take it out to the street (in our racoon-proof can), so we usually only have to take it out once per month.
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Old 08-25-2010, 10:55 PM   #13
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Well, this has been my thinking, but looking at the small volume of compost after a whole year, and comparing it mentally with the amount of space in the septic tank is what got me reevaluating.
Gosh, the volume that goes into our worm bin must be at least 10x what's left after a couple months. Maybe even 50x-100x. I guess the key is figuring out how many gallons you're sluicing into the septic tank now compared to how many more gallons you'd be putting in there. Then you could estimate how much more often you'd have to pump it, and that would lead to a cost estimate of how much you're paying yourself to wrestle with compost bins (and bears).

But hey, that's another thought. What about a worm bin? Swap a couple trays around every 3-4 months, or switch between wooden bins. The leachate (both compost & worms) is great fertilizer, too.
http://www.amazon.com/Worms-Eat-My-G...2794979&sr=1-1

I'm jealous of your septic system-- I'm paying over $100/month for a municipal sewer that I'd stop using in a heartbeat if I could get our back slope certified as a leach field. But that would probably take a quarry drill and a pallet of C-4.

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Also, our low-carb lifestyle has meant less compostable waste (no banana peels, tortillas, apple cores, etc.).
Jeff "Ultimate Cheapskate" Yeager would point out that you may not be composting as much as you could:
How to compost almost anything | Yahoo! Green

Of course this just raises the volume of compost, and I'm not certain that would make you feel it's more worthwhile.
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Old 08-26-2010, 01:15 AM   #14
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+1 on the worm bin. They're utterly awesome, and the transformation from waste to worm poop will make your garden shine. Plus, they're low-odor, so you can keep them in your garage with little problem (to avoid bear intrusions).

As someone with on-site sewage disposal experience, I'd say -- put as little as possible down your septic. They're really expensive to replace, if you have the space for it. I'd consider it a highly valuable household system, it's not something I'd take a risk with. Also, worms are going to give you so much more.
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Old 08-26-2010, 01:17 AM   #15
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Any suggestions on how to get started with a worm bin? Where do you get your worms from?
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Old 08-26-2010, 07:40 AM   #16
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Do you guys compost citrus? I always thought that was a no-no.
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Old 08-26-2010, 07:49 AM   #17
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I'm jealous of your septic system-- I'm paying over $100/month for a municipal sewer that I'd stop using in a heartbeat if I could get our back slope certified as a leach field. But that would probably take a quarry drill and a pallet of C-4.
What about an aerobic system? No leach field required.
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Old 08-26-2010, 09:02 AM   #18
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Note that the amount of liquid that goes into the septic tank isn't that important, because that all goes out into the leach fields.



So I figure that all that matters is the final decomposed size of the solid stuff, and I'm guessing that the decrease in size in the tank will be the same as the decrease in size in a compost bin.

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Do you guys compost citrus? I always thought that was a no-no.
It's true that it slows down composition, but because our primary goal was not to produce compost, we did compost citrus. That is, we didn't care how long it took to breakdown.
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Old 08-26-2010, 09:13 AM   #19
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So I figure that all that matters is the final decomposed size of the solid stuff, and I'm guessing that the decrease in size in the tank will be the same as the decrease in size in a compost bin.
I suspect that's not going to be the case. The solids in compost are not immersed in liquid, allowing them to shrink in size substantially through both decomposition and evaporation. It seems logical those same solids in a septic tank are going to be substantially larger without the added benefit of evaporation.
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Old 08-26-2010, 10:15 AM   #20
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Any suggestions on how to get started with a worm bin? Where do you get your worms from?
Find a business like this in your area, or research on Craigslist:
Waikiki Worm Co.: Home

The "Worms Eat My Garbage" book goes into great detail about the worm species you want but they're mostly found at the surface of the soil on pig farms & cow pastures. Getting them on your own is literally a crappy job so we took a two-hour class. $20 later we left with a one-gallon pot filled with sliced-up papaya rinds & shredded newspaper, along with a golf-ball-size squirm of worms.

Over the course of a year they ate and bred to the point where we filled a Can-O-Worms (Waikiki Worm Co.: Can-O-Worms) with 3-4 handsfuls of them. Since then they've easily tripled or quadrupled in numbers. Our worms are all blues (as far as we know) but the reds are thought to be more hardy. We haven't noticed any problems.

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Do you guys compost citrus? I always thought that was a no-no.
Papaya rinds, mango, naval/tangerine/mandarin orange peels-- no problem in the compost or the vermipost. Grape stems don't compost. Some teabags don't vermipost but they compost just fine. I'm told that worms eat citrus last but I've never tried to verify it. Papaya seeds are an issue because they survive the composting process even if they're frozen before being added to the bin. I've never had anything else survive vermiposting or composting, not even tomato seeds.

We don't have to worry about bears or raccoons, but we have found mongoose and field mice "aerating" our compost bin for us. We mostly stay out of each other's way, and I figure if they're happy with the compost then they won't try to get into the house.

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What about an aerobic system? No leach field required.
Aw, man, now I'm going to have to research that. From the local newspaper's website:
Quote:
Recently announced projects to bring Honolulu into compliance with sewage standards are expected to lead to 3 percent to 5 percent sewer fee increases each year for about 25 years, according to the city. That means the average single-family home's sewer bill could rise from $91 a month today to between $191 and $308 a month, excluding inflation, in 2035.
Ironically the lot next door is a sewage pumping station. But as a planned community we're probably not allowed to have the city "disconnect" us from the sewer system.

I'm about "this close" to shelling out the bucks for submetering the sprinkler system, and it would appear that the payback period will be getting substantially shorter than I'd calculated. I'm already seriously tempted to re-plumb the kitchen sink and the washing machine to the sprinkler supply pipe...
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