Image credit: Compost Mania
This rather space-age looking contraption is the BioPod Plus, a commercially available grub composter.
Using the larvae of the black soldier fly (yeah, sounds yucky doesn’t it?), it can transform organic waste like whole dead fish, vegetable scraps, manure and even human feces into protein and plant food in a matter of days. The end result is not so much compost, but rather a liquid plant food, and a whole ton of grubs that can then be fed to chickens, fish or even wild birds. Some say they can even be a great feedstock for biodiesel.
This video on grub composting shows just how fast these things work. And for anyone that feels icky about touching live grubs, the BioPod is designed so that mature grubs “auto harvest” into a separate collection bucket.
It’s a pretty neat solution, especially for any DIY aquaponics enthusiasts out there.
Image credit: greengardenvienna / Flickr
Compost tumblers offer a convenient, labor-saving alternative to turning a hot compost heap—and they help to break down compost a lot faster than a cool heap too. They work by allowing the gardener to turn the unit regularly and easily, mixing up the contents and providing oxygen to the microorganisms it contains. (They can be a great solution for folks with back problems.)
The number of commercially available designs is astounding, ranging from cool-looking balls, to “hybrid” tumbler and rainwater catchment units. Compost Mania has a comprehensive selection of compost tumblers available online, and most garden centers and hardware stores will stock a few examples.
But be warned—most commercial tumblers do not come cheap. ($250 seems to be a typical starting price.) DIY enthusiasts may want to check out this video/post on how to build your own compost tumbler.
This one is probably not for the squeamish. But with astounding amounts of fresh water being flushed down the toilet everyday, and fertilizer becoming an ever-more-precious resource, more and more people are turning to the idea of human waste as a valuable commodity.
If you want to start small, just go ahead and pee on your heap. Urine is a great compost activator, and a source of phosphate and nitrogen. But ladies, you should know that male pee may be better for the heap than female pee. (At least we boys are good for something…)
But for those who take the idea of composting human waste seriously, a composting toilet is the way to go. The humanure system was pioneered by Joseph Jenkins of The Humanure Handbook.
In The Humanure Handbook, waste is transported regularly from the household to the compost heap and then turned to ensure a hot decomposition.
Jenkins sells a “Loveable Loo” (video shown here) that is supposed to make waste collection and transportation relatively hassle free.
Anyone wanting to attempt humanure composting or composting toilets should do some reading first, and establish their comfort zone in terms of contact with poop, and safety.
Most composting toilet advocates suggest the end result should not be used on parts of plants that will be eaten directly (eg carrots or lettuce), but rather fruit trees or bushes where no contact between poop and food is likely to happen. You should also do some research into legalities and planning issues in your area, although there are plenty of people with humanure toilets in the heart of the city.
Image credit: nationalrural / Flickr
Finally, it’s worth noting that you don’t have to do it all yourself. Yes, there are many wonderful—and surprisingly easy—ways to incorporate composting into your own garden, or even indoors for the gardenless.
But with municipal composting taking off in cities around the world, you may be able to simply have your organic waste collected along with your recycling. (And if you can’t, you should raise a stink with your local authorities until you can.)
Although you won’t get to use the free soil improver with municipal composting, and you’ll miss out on all the fun of reflecting on compost as a form of animal husbandry, you’ll still sleep better knowing that your waste food isn’t contributing to landfill runoff or methane emissions.
And if you wonder what happens to the scraps that are collected, check out the awesome behind-the-scenes video on large-scale composting shown here. It actually makes it look like a lot of fun.
Feel free to share your own tips with readers in the comments.