Humanure – Untapped Black Gold
Tapping Into an Old Resource
You hear a lot about human “waste” treatment and disposal, a lot about animal manure treatment and use, and composting, but what you may not hear a lot about is human material composting and turning into humanure. Believe it or not, this is a real thing (and I will provide a bunch of links at the end of this post), and with just as many places talking about it, there are is an equal amount of methods for making it (humanure) and how to treat the human material. I have decided to get into trying to recycle the human material from my household (I still plan on doing a Kratky system, but space is still an issue, and doing humanure production is mostly outside where space is not much of an issue).
Mostly it seems to consist of needing to have a place to properly compost it (and I found a really good guide which I’ll put with the other links), being consistent with your composting efforts, and making sure to have the patience to age it properly (typically called maturing). In fact, I am in the process of sourcing materials to begin my family’s journey into humanure creation (and, as something for later on in this post, commoditization). Pallets to make the bins, sawdust for the cover material, and buckets to make the deposits in. If I can do this properly for two years, free compost! And I can include in meat, vegetable table scraps, shredded paper, tp, etc. and it’ll all be composted. This is exciting because it will not only reduce landfill waste, but after we start being able to use the compost (with a total of 3-4 bins depending on how long we let the pile mature) it also means one less thing I actually have to buy to do gardening. Though I still may buy top soil or fill dirt, that’s cheap compared to even just decent compost. This should also reduce my water bill as I am hooked up to a municipal water supply despite living in a fairly rural setting.
There is also a possibility that this could be commoditized via portable toilet rentals/pumping, septic tank pumping, etc. and other efforts to collect the goods from others (and get them to pay you for the privilege!) so that’s something else I’m looking into as a potential side-hustle. In fact, I just put out an ad to get people to let me for free (or a reasonable fee) haul away their old pallets and unused sawdust so I hopefully won’t even have to pay for those to build the bins to put the compost in (talk about function stacking amiright?)! However, to be able to sell the plethora of manure that I would eventually wind up with I would most likely need to make sure I correctly navigate any statutory hurdles (for which I’ll hire a paralegal or lawyer to advise me) in my state. While I’d like to side-step the State entirely, I also don’t want to wind up in jail. At the very least minimal compliance is a necessary step, even if it winds up feeding the beast.
Given the time-frame from making commoditization even remotely possible, I’m going to spend the time researching some other concerns folks in my network have shared with me (such as the presence of phosphates and insoluble salts in laundry detergents, sharps in portable toilets, etc.). There is also the possible of harvesting methane (biogas production) but it doesn’t look like a promising avenue at the moment (mostly safety compliance issues) on anything but a possibly super-massive scale, however, I think it may still be worth working into and maybe finding a good way to do this.
Links to Resources
Now for the list of links, some of which offer different considerations and methods for humanure production. I will indicate which one I am going to follow and let you all make up your minds which you like best.
Composting Human Waste: Using Human Waste As Compost
How to Safely Compost Human Waste
Compost Toilet System
Condensed Instruction Manual [PDF] the method presented here seems the least complicated so it’s the one I plan on using for my homestead.
Minimum size of humanure bin. While not an article or how-to per say, I believe it has some good information in it worth considering so I’m including it for informational purposes.
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