Make Money in the Recycling Business
Evolved to understand human excrement as a natural resource rather than a waste material. Where we had human waste, they had night soil. We produced waste and pollution they produced soil nutrients and food. It's clear that Asians have been more advanced than the western world in this regard. And they should be, since they've been working on developing sustainable agriculture for four thousand years on the same land. For four thousand years these people have worked the same land with little or no chemical fertilizers and, in many cases, have produced greater crop yields than western farmers, who are quickly destroying the soils of their own countries through depletion and erosion. Why aren't we following the Asian example of agronutrient recycling It's certainly not for a lack of information. Dr. F. H. King wrote an interesting book, published in 1910 titled Farmers of Forty Centuries.4 Dr. King (D.Sc.) was a former chief of the Division of Soil Management of the U.S. Department of...
Quality landscaping can be a substantial investment. If you landscape your entire property, assuming you live on a typical suburban lot, you'll spend between 10,000 and 30,000 on materials and that much again in labor if you hire the work out to licensed professionals. However, you can spend much less on materials if you use what's on site and tap the waste stream for materials such as broken concrete and salvaged timbers. The trick is to have a satisfying, durable end result that justifies what you've put into it in terms of both time and money. In the following sections, I help you get an idea of how much time and money you can expect to devote to a sustainable landscaping project.
Sheet mulching is the practice of killing weeds by smothering them. Hoe out any surface weeds, cover the soil with two or three layers of corrugated cardboard salvaged from the waste stream (buy it from recyclers or gather it up from dumpsters behind stores). Overlap the cardboard and wet it down thoroughly, and then cover the whole funny-looking mess with at least 4 inches of organic mulch (wood chips, for example). Leave everything in place for a few months, if you can. Sheet mulching has proved to be more effective than herbicides, which can also take months to kill weeds fully. See Chapter 16 for an illustration of sheet mulching.
FftNG In the old days, we built steps (and walls) of railroad ties. They were a waste-stream product, having been removed from railroad tracks when they became split or just old. Railroad ties have downsides, though. They're heavy and difficult to cut and even worse, they're soaked with creosote, which is a health hazard. Their overall nastiness makes railroad ties a bad choice. Landscape ties, which aren't perfect but provide choices including pressure-treated wood, recycled plastic, melted plastic from automobiles, and rot-resistant wood timber made from sustainably harvested or urban trees. Of the bunch, this last choice, made from trees such as black locust, white oak, cedar, or cypress, is a sustainable choice because these ties tend to be local, are possibly a waste-stream item, aren't chemically treated, and aren't plastic.
Nonliving turf worsens the urban heat island effect, uses materials that are made from fossil fuels (and may contain toxic elements), eliminates even the paltry life-giving benefits of real grass, and creates a potential waste-stream nightmare at the end of its service. Throw in the fact that synthetic turf does require some water to keep it clean, contributes to stormwater pollution because it offers no biofiltration, and gets dangerously hot in summer, and you can see that plastic lawns are a very bad idea.
Ir To reduce the environmental impact of your pathway, use bricks or paver blocks securely set on sand (so that they can be reused) or high-volume fly ir ll ash concrete (which uses a waste-stream product and reduces production of carbon dioxide). For low-traffic paths, consider stepping stones made from urbanite (salvaged concrete). For more information, refer to Using safe, sustainable materials, earlier in this chapter.
We in the United States each waste about a thousand pounds of humanure every year, which is discarded into sewers and septic systems throughout the land. Much of the discarded humanure finds its final resting place in a landfill, along with the other solid waste we Americans discard, which, coincidentally, also amounts to about a thousand pounds per person per year. For a population of 290 million people, that adds up to nearly 290 million tons of solid waste personally discarded by us every year, at least half of which would be valuable as an agricultural resource. This is not to suggest that sewage should be used to produce food crops. Sewage consists of humanure collected with hazardous materials such as industrial, medical and chemical wastes, all carried in a common waterborne waste stream. Or in the words of Gary Gardner (State of the World 1998), Tens of thousands of toxic substances and chemical compounds used in industrial economies, including PCBs, pesticides, dioxins, heavy...
Also be sure to recycle where appropriate. For example, send green waste to the local composting operation instead of mixing it with other materials in a trash bin (call your local trash hauler or municipal solid waste department to find out about the options that are available in your area). Separate recyclable metals, concrete, and soil, all of which may be of value to others even if you can't use them. Craigslist, Freecycle.com, and the local classifieds and bulletin boards are ways to find homes for these useful castoffs.
Many waste materials such as household wastes have an initial low pH, often around 5, due to a high content of short chain fatty acids, and pH can decrease further due to release of organic acids during decomposition (Tuomela et al., 2000). During successful and fully developed composting, the pH often rises to 8-9 due to microbial respiration and loss of CO2. Presence of short chain fatty acids under acidic conditions and their absence when the compost turn alkaline indicate that they are a key factor regulating pH in compost (Beck-Friis et al., 2001). In the transition from mesophilic to thermophilic conditions, a lag phase of stagnation or decline in microbial activity is seen (Beck-Friis et al., 2001 Schloss et al., 2003). This has been noted to coincide with low pH, and Beck-Friis et al. (2001) observed a change in pH from acidic to alkaline conditions when the temperature rose from mesophilic to thermophilic conditions. An explanation for this lag phase could be that microbial...
Perhaps one of the most ancient wastewater treatment methods known to humans are waste stabilization ponds, also known as oxidation ponds or lagoons. They're often found in small rural areas where land is available and cheap. Such ponds tend to be only a meter to a meter and a half deep, but vary in size and depth and can be three or more meters deep.14 They utilize natural processes to treat waste materials, relying on algae, bacteria and zooplankton to reduce the organic content of the wastewater. A healthy lagoon will appear green in color because of the dense algae population. These lagoons require about one acre for every 200 people served. Mechanically aerated lagoons only need 1 3 to 1 10 the land that unaerated stabilization ponds require. It's a good idea to have several smaller lagoons in series rather than one big one normally, a minimum of three cells are used. Sludge collects in the bottom of the lagoons, and may have to be removed every five or ten years and disposed of...
Waste stabilization ponds, or lagoons, large shallow ponds widely used in North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia, involve the use of both beneficial bacteria and algae in the decomposition of organic waste materials. Although they can breed mosquitoes, they can be designed and managed well enough to yield pathogen-free waste water. However, they typically yield water with low concentrations of both pathogenic viruses and bacteria (see Figure 7.4).
Allow me to make a radical suggestion humanure is not dangerous. More specifically, it is not any more dangerous than the body from which it is excreted. The danger lies in what we do with humanure, not in the material itself. To use an analogy, a glass jar is not dangerous either. However, if we smash it on the kitchen floor and walk on it with bare feet, we will be harmed. If we use a glass jar improperly and dangerously, we will suffer for it, but that's no reason to condemn glass jars. When we discard humanure as a waste material and pollute our soil and water supplies with it, we are using it improperly, and that is where the danger lies. When we constructively recycle humanure by composting, it enriches our soil, and, like a glass jar, actually makes life easier for us. For example, a recently published book on the topic of recycling human waste begins with the following disclaimer Recycling human waste can be extremely dangerous to your health, the health of your community and...
Ferent from those in starch or glycogen. This difference prevents our bodies from digesting cellulose. However, even though we do not digest it, cellulose and other indigestible polymers, such as lignin and pectins, play an important nutritional role as dietary fiber. The fiber absorbs water in the intestines and helps move waste material through the colon. High fiber diets are recommended to help rcducc the risk of colon cancer.
In reality, some kind of smaller bin is handy for taking household waste from the kitchen to the heap. Whether you keep this kitchen bin indoors or out is up to you. Indoors is more convenient, but you will need to empty it often to make sure that you avoid any problems with flies and smells. Some fancy designs, such as ceramic crocks, or cheaper plastic versions, come with carbon filters that are supposed to stop smells escaping.
US household garbage adds up to more than 200 million tons a year, or roughly 5 pounds (2 kg) per person per day, of which about a quarter is recycled. Only about ten percent of British household waste is recycled, which puts the UK near the bottom of the European league. Some countries, like Germany and Denmark, do much better, although a few are even worse. Most waste is incinerated or ends up in landfill, yet about half of all household waste could be composted. At the same time, every year gardeners around the world buy millions of tons of growing media, soil conditioners, and mulching materials, much of it based on peat. A high proportion of this could be replaced, free of charge, if gardeners started recycling what they now simply throw away.
In general, maximal mass reduction is desirable during composting of waste products. However, the objective of these experiments was to produce a growing medium while mass reduction was not a goal. Mass losses during composting of different materials such as deep litter or household waste are found in a wide range from about 40 to 80 (Sommer and Dahl, 1999 Eklind and Kirchmann, 2000b). The mass losses in these experiments were found within the lower end of this range. Mass losses are most importantly dependent on composting time and type of material (Eklind and Kirchmann, 2000b). To obtain even lower mass losses more stable structural materials could be considered. The mineralisation in treatment 1 in experiment I followed a pattern often observed during decomposition in compost (Eklind and Kirchmann, 2000b). Initially the NH4+ content increased due to the microbial decomposition of readily available N rich compounds. After the first three weeks the NH4+ content declined, most likely...
I want to make doubly sure you got the message of this chapter, so I'd like to summarize the critical facts about compost. You need blended compost made from at least five different ingredients. Buy and mix several different types of compost together if you buy instead of make your compost. Most commercial composts have only one or two ingredients because they are merely leftover waste materials or byproducts from an industrial or commercial operation. By themselves, they do not make a good ingredient in Mel's Mix.
The simplest and smallest plastic bins are formed from one moulded piece of plastic, with a lid. Waste material goes in at the top and, to get at the finished compost, you lift off the whole bin. Although some plastic bins are green, the free or cheap ones tend to be black. For those gardeners who object to plastic bins on environmental grounds, it's usually possible to get bins made of recycled plastic. There are other points that you may want to consider
There are four general ways to deal with human excrement. The first is to dispose of it as a waste material. People do this by defecating in drinking water supplies, or in outhouses or latrines. Most of this waste ends up dumped, incinerated, buried in the ground, or discharged into waterways. This book, therefore, is not about recycling night soil by raw applications to land, which is a practice that should be discouraged when sanitary alternatives, such as composting, are available.
MS I'm not suggesting we have a mass cultural change in toilet habits. I'm suggesting that, for starters, we need to change the way we understand our habits. Most people have never heard of such a thing as a nutrient cycle. Many people don't even know about compost. Recycling humanure is just not something people think about. I'm simply suggesting that we begin considering new approaches to the age-old problem of what to do with human excrement. We also need to start thinking a bit more about how we live on this planet, because our survival as a species depends on our relationship with the Earth. The Netherlands was one of the first countries to mandate large scale source separation of organic material for composting, having done so since 1994 in at least five European countries, such separation is common.2 Since 1993, in Germany, for example, discarded waste material must contain less than 5 organic matter, otherwise the material has to be recycled, mainly by composting.3 In England...
The squandering of our water resources, and pollution from sewage and synthetic fertilizers, results in part from the belief that humanure and food scraps are waste materials rather than recyclable natural resources. There is, however, an alternative. Humanure can undergo a process of bacterial digestion and then be returned to the soil. This process is usually known as composting. This is the missing link in the human nutrient recycling process.
Urbanite is the ultimate waste-stream material, with no environmental impact other than transport. It can be stained or used as is, and it makes a lovely surface. Urbanite is available nearly everywhere look for demolition projects in your neighborhood or call contractors to find out who's planning to generate some waste concrete.
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