Taking Composting To The Next Level

Home Biogas

Sponsored Post – from HomeBiogas

This blog was written by Caleb Crow, an Austinite who is getting the HomeBiogas system set up in his own backyard.

Sure, you’re green, drive a hybrid, eat vegan, and solar power your learning thermostat, but do you compost? Vermi, static, or tumbler? OK maybe you compost, but do you biogas?

I recently learned about the HomeBiogas 2.0 as an improvement to my at-home composting. We Texans are always looking for better ways to do things; innovation is a Texan core value, and I had to learn more.

Some Background

There are two, maybe three, main types of composting for those of us that do not have curbside collection by the city – static pile, tumblers, and worms. The most common of these in local urban areas is the fast-acting, small footprint, low-maintenance tumbler, the urban composting workhorse, which serves as the entry point to composting for the masses. I, like many others, have done this successfully for years. The City of Austin even offers a rebate so that the tumbler is practically free!

I hear the cries of “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” so what’s broken about composting? Specifically urban composting, is broken a little, or at least, there’s certainly room for improvement that the HomeBiogas 2.0 solves.

Composting

Composting is dirty

No offense to my trusted tumbler that has served me for years, but it’s filthy. My wife refuses to touch it, but it requires tumbling, which requires putting your hands on it and turning it over and over, between 5-10 rotations. This seems fine in the store with a pristine tumbler, before there’s months of old food leaking down the side.

Dirty Tumbler

The exterior dirt results from little holes around the frame that are there by design to let the system breathe once the food material inside starts to break down. These holes aren’t that large, but black sludge leaks out of them. After the first few months, tumbling requires gloves and it’s not simply a matter of hosing it down, it’s a systemic problem of tumblers.

It’s also heavy when it gets full, or even half full (half empty for the optimist), and you really have to lean in to get proper footing and rest your whole upper body on a black sludge covered panel of a compost tumbler. Don’t wear your Sunday best. Also, word of warning, sometimes there are maggots in the handles.

Composting attracts bugs

Composting is great and everyone should do it because of the trash reduction from the landfill and the resulting compost you generate over time for your yard and/or garden, but the bugs don’t seem to know my compost from their dinner. Stupid bugs. If you maintain a tumbler or static pile, you’ll also have bugs.

Compost Tumbler

I capitalize on this in the spring by feeding the local wrens fly larvae for their little babies. It’s gratifying to watch the momma wren hop down to the tumbler and collect a fly larva and fly back up to the nest. It’s also kind of gross to scoop out a plate full of fly larvae. Gratifyingly gross, pride-inducing gross.

Wren

Composting is limited

Urban composting has frustrating limits on how much food waste I can divert from the landfill. Unfortunately, cats and other vermin (hi cat people!) are attracted to the smells of delicious animal leftovers. You really don’t want to attract all the critters to your yard so it’s advised to leave meat, bones, and dairy out.  I’m a Texan; meat and dairy is how I subsist!

A biogas digester processes what you’re composting now, cleans up the bugs, requires no tumbling or turning, and can take your carnivorous food wastes.

OK, OK! I hear you – you’re vegan and don’t have meat, fish, oil, bones or fats, you don’t mind getting dirty, maybe you enjoy the exercise from lifting the tumbler, and like bugs. Well you still need to consider the benefit of harvesting the methane that results from decomposition.

Decomposition releases methane

It’s chemistry; your food releases methane when it decomposes in the landfill and carbon dioxide when it decomposes in a compost pile, greenhouse gases all around. Without getting too far into the weeds about it, understand that composting is better for the environment than decomp in a landfill, but capturing the biogas from anaerobic digestion is a superior third option.

Think about it; we pay to have gas piped into our houses while simultaneously paying someone else to haul off our waste that could make gas. There’s an efficiency or resource use problem in there. If I have methane, or the ability to produce it, can’t I save on both ends of the gas and trash collection service? Yes. Yes, I can!

The natural process of methane release is both a problem and an opportunity. It’s a problem in a landfill where methane release is some 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, but it’s also a beneficial fuel that we combust at home for all sorts of uses. It makes sense to harvest our own.

HomeBiogas to the rescue

Home Biogas

I’ve been testing it out, and you can transition your at-home composting to upcycling in a biogas digester that’s clean, doesn’t require tumbling, keeps the bugs at bay, and supplies natural gas.

Or you may want supplement what you’re already doing to capture the things that shouldn’t go in a tumbler including animal waste if you have it (again, take note cat people).

Oh, and remember that rebate I mentioned from the City of Austin? You can use it on your HomeBiogas appliance as well!

Whether you’re just getting started or an experienced composter, the HomeBiogas 2.0 is a quick, simple upgrade. And then, when someone asks, do you even compost? You can confidently respond – I do better than compost…  I make biogas.

Want to learn more about Home Biogas? They’ll be exhibiting their system at the Tiny House and Simple Living Jamboree, August 23rd-26th, booth #224.  For more information on the HomeBiogas 2.0 system, please visit www.homebiogas.com and for more info on the Tiny House and Simple Living Jamboree, visit www.tinyhousejamboree.com.


Please note – editorials and sponsored posts are written by guest writers to inform and educate the community on a variety of different viewpoints, as well as to share information about local eco-friendly businesses and organizations. However, they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Austin EcoNetwork.

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