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Session 2: Fundamentals of the Composting Process Gary Felton
Session 2:
Fundamentals of the
Composting Process
Gary Felton

University of Maryland

Session 2: Fundamentals of the Composting Process Gary Felton University of Maryland

Learning Objectives

Part 1: Understand BIOLOGY of compost pile

Part 2: Learn factors used to control

composting process:

6 KEY PROCESS VARIABLES

BIOLOGY of compost pile • Part 2: Learn factors used to control composting process: 6 KEY
Why Biology? Because composting is a biologically driven and mediated process
Why Biology?
Because composting is a
biologically driven and
mediated process
Why Biology? Because composting is a biologically driven and mediated process
Why Biology? Because composting is a biologically driven and mediated process
Why Biology? Because composting is a biologically driven and mediated process
Why Biology? Because composting is a biologically driven and mediated process

The Composting Process

Water CO Heat 2 Odors? Feedstocks Microorganisms Compost Compost Oxygen Pile Water
Water
CO
Heat
2
Odors?
Feedstocks
Microorganisms
Compost
Compost
Oxygen
Pile
Water

Why Does Composting Happen?

Microbes consume feedstocks to obtain

energy & nutrients

Their activity creates heat

Heat gets trapped in pile

Accelerates process

to obtain energy & nutrients • Their activity creates heat • Heat gets trapped in pile
to obtain energy & nutrients • Their activity creates heat • Heat gets trapped in pile

The needs of composting organisms are

the same as those of all living things:

Food (energy)

Oxygen (something to respire)

Nutrients

Water

A hospitable environment

to respire) • Nutrients • Water • A hospitable environment - Temperature -Neutral chemical (pH) conditions

-Temperature -Neutral chemical (pH) conditions

to respire) • Nutrients • Water • A hospitable environment - Temperature -Neutral chemical (pH) conditions

Types of Organic Carbon

Types of Organic Carbon • Sugars, starches (1 s t to break down) • Proteins, fats

Sugars, starches (1 st to break down)

Proteins, fats (readily decomposable)

Cellulose, hemicellulose, chitin

(slower to degrade)

Lignin and lignocellulose (most

resistant to decay)

• Cellulose, hemicellulose, chitin (slower to degrade) • Lignin and lignocellulose (most resistant to decay)
• Cellulose, hemicellulose, chitin (slower to degrade) • Lignin and lignocellulose (most resistant to decay)

Microorganisms Involved in the Composting Process

Bacteria

Fungi

Actinomycetes

Microorganisms Involved in the Composting Process • Bacteria • Fungi • Actinomycetes
Microorganisms Involved in the Composting Process • Bacteria • Fungi • Actinomycetes
Microorganisms Involved in the Composting Process • Bacteria • Fungi • Actinomycetes

Bacteria

Smallest living organisms

Bacteria • Smallest living organisms – 250,000 – 500,000 fit inside “.” • 80-90% of microbes

250,000 – 500,000 fit inside “.”

80-90% of microbes in compost pile

Responsible for most of decomposition and

heat generation in compost

“.” • 80-90% of microbes in compost pile • Responsible for most of decomposition and heat
Fungi • Molds, yeasts, mushrooms • Numerous during mesophilic phases • When temperatures are high,

Fungi

Molds, yeasts, mushrooms

Numerous during mesophilic phases

When temperatures are high, most fungi live

in outer layer of compost

Break down tough organic debris

cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin

Can decompose materials too dry, acidic, or low in nitrogen for bacterial activity

cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin • Can decompose materials too dry, acidic, or low in nitrogen for bacterial
Actinomycetes • Cause earthy smell • Bacteria with filiments (resemble fungi) • Look like gray

Actinomycetes

Cause earthy smell

Bacteria with filiments (resemble fungi)

Look like gray spider webs

Degrade cellulose, lignin, chitin, proteins

Bark, woody stems, paper

Live in wider range of pH than other bacteria

Some species in thermophilic phase, others in curing phase

paper • Live in wider range of pH than other bacteria • Some species in thermophilic

How Many Microbes?

~3 trillion!

How Many Microbes? ~3 trillion!

Three Temperature Phases

of Composting

First: Mesophilic (68° 104°F; 20°- 40°C)

Second: Thermophilic (105°-150°F; 40.6°

65.6°C)

Third: Mesophilic (<105°F; <40.6°C)

40°C) • Second : Thermophilic (105°-150°F; 40.6° – 65.6°C) • Third : Mesophilic (<105°F; <40.6°C)
40°C) • Second : Thermophilic (105°-150°F; 40.6° – 65.6°C) • Third : Mesophilic (<105°F; <40.6°C)

Temperature

°F

158

140

122

104

86

68

50

32

Stages of Composting

Curing & Thermophilic Maturation Mesophilic
Curing &
Thermophilic
Maturation
Mesophilic

Time

Curing & Thermophilic Maturation Mesophilic Time ° C 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
Curing & Thermophilic Maturation Mesophilic Time ° C 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

°C

70

60

50

40

30

20

10

0

Typical Compost Pile Temperature Profile

Good bugs killed off

Typical Compost Pile Temperature Profile Good bugs killed off Weed seeds killed off Most pathogens killed
Typical Compost Pile Temperature Profile Good bugs killed off Weed seeds killed off Most pathogens killed

Weed seeds killed off

Typical Compost Pile Temperature Profile Good bugs killed off Weed seeds killed off Most pathogens killed

Most pathogens killed

Daily Temperature Variance in a Composter

170 160 150 140 130 120 Turned 110 100 (Temperature °F)
170
160
150
140
130
120
Turned
110
100
(Temperature
°F)
Variance in a Composter 170 160 150 140 130 120 Turned 110 100 (Temperature °F) 0

0

5

Variance in a Composter 170 160 150 140 130 120 Turned 110 100 (Temperature °F) 0

10

15

20

Day

25

30

35

40

Phase 1 Microbe Activity

Bacteria break down cellulose into glucose

Sugars, protein, starch

Makes temperatures in pile rise

into glucose – Sugars, protein, starch • Makes temperatures in pile rise • Produce endospores as

Produce endospores as pile heats up

into glucose – Sugars, protein, starch • Makes temperatures in pile rise • Produce endospores as

Endospores

Bacteria develop tough coating

Resists heat, drying, UV radiation, chemicals

Can survive next, hotter phase then return to active state when cool again

heat, drying, UV radiation, chemicals – Can survive next, hotter phase then return to active state

Phase 2 Activity

Thermophilic bacteria, fungi take over

Heat-intolerant microbes go dormant

Pathogens (human, plant) destroyed

Complex carbohydrates fully broken down

Some proteins are decomposed

Hemicelluloses (more resistant) decay

All this activity makes temperature

continue to rise!

proteins are decomposed • Hemicelluloses (more resistant) decay All this activity makes temperature continue to rise!
proteins are decomposed • Hemicelluloses (more resistant) decay All this activity makes temperature continue to rise!

Phase 3 Activity

Mesophilic microbes return to active state

Proteins and carbs diminish

Metabolic activity decreases

Temperatures in pile drop

Metabolic activity decreases • Temperatures in pile drop • Lignin (most resistant plant component) decayed by

Lignin (most resistant plant component)

decayed by actinomycetes, fungi

decreases • Temperatures in pile drop • Lignin (most resistant plant component) decayed by actinomycetes, fungi

Phase 3 cont.

Physical decomposers support microbes

Matter gets exposed to bacteria as arthropods forage

Allows microbial populations to increase

Arthropods: earthworms, mites, spiders, ants,

snails, sow bugs, slugs, nematodes,

springtails, centipedes, etc.

increase Arthropods: earthworms, mites, spiders, ants, snails, sow bugs, slugs, nematodes, springtails, centipedes, etc.
increase Arthropods: earthworms, mites, spiders, ants, snails, sow bugs, slugs, nematodes, springtails, centipedes, etc.
increase Arthropods: earthworms, mites, spiders, ants, snails, sow bugs, slugs, nematodes, springtails, centipedes, etc.

Temperature

Generalized Microbial Population

°C Dynamics During Composting 14 70 12 60 Bacteria Temperature 10 50 8 40 Actinomycetes
°C
Dynamics During Composting
14
70
12
60
Bacteria
Temperature
10
50
8
40
Actinomycetes
6
30
x
4
20
Fungi
10
2
0
0
0
Time
CFU's/g (# microbes)#Log

A simulation by Phil Leege based on:

Personal observations, Beffa, Blanc, Marilley, Fischer, Lyon and Aragno “Taxonomic and Metabolic Diversity during Composting” 1995; Jeong and Shin “Cellulosic Degradation in Bench-Scale Composting of Food Waste and Paper Mixture” 1997; Whitney and Lynch “The Importance of Lignocellulosic Compound in Composting” 1995, and others.

Lignocellulosic Compound in Composting” 1995, and others. ° F 158 140 122 104 86 68 50
Lignocellulosic Compound in Composting” 1995, and others. ° F 158 140 122 104 86 68 50

°F

158

140

122

104

86

68

50

32

23

Summary: Succession of Microbial

Communities During Composting

Mesophilic bacteria break down soluble, readily degradable compounds (sugars and starches)

Thermophilic bacteria break down proteins, fats;

work with actinomycetes to begin breaking down cellulose and hemicellulose

Actinomycetes and fungi are important during curing

phase in attacking most resistant compounds

and hemicellulose • Actinomycetes and fungi are important during curing phase in attacking most resistant compounds
and hemicellulose • Actinomycetes and fungi are important during curing phase in attacking most resistant compounds

Session 2

Fundamentals of Composting
Fundamentals of Composting

Part 2:

Key Process Variables

How Do We Control the Composting Process?

Water CO 2 Heat Odors? Feedstocks Microorganisms Compost Compost Oxygen Pile Water
Water
CO 2
Heat
Odors?
Feedstocks
Microorganisms
Compost
Compost
Oxygen
Pile
Water

The Key Process Variables

for Control of the Composting Process

1. Initial feedstock mix 2. Pile moisture 3. Pile aeration 4. Pile shape and size
1.
Initial feedstock mix
2.
Pile moisture
3.
Pile aeration
4.
Pile shape and size
5.
Pile temperature
6.
Composting retention time

The Key Process Variables

for Control of the Composting Process

Key Process Variables for Control of the Composting Process 1. Initial feedstock mix 2. Pile moisture

1.

Initial feedstock mix

2.

Pile moisture

3.

Pile aeration

4.

Pile shape and size

5.

Pile temperature

6.

Composting retention time

1. Feedstocks: Your Raw Materials

Chemical composition

Organic Matter, Nutrients, Degradability

Physical characteristics

Moisture, Bulk density, Heterogeneity

Other

Contamination, Cost, Availability, Regulations

characteristics • Moisture, Bulk density, Heterogeneity Other • Contamination, Cost, Availability, Regulations

What is Organic Matter?

What is Organic Matter? • Derived from living organisms • Always contains carbon • Source of

Derived from living organisms

Always contains carbon

Source of energy for decomposers

Contains various amounts of other elements

Nitrogen

Phosphorous

Oxygen, Hydrogen

Sulfur

K, Mg, Cu, Cl, etc.

amounts of other elements – Nitrogen – Phosphorous – Oxygen, Hydrogen – Sulfur – K, Mg,
amounts of other elements – Nitrogen – Phosphorous – Oxygen, Hydrogen – Sulfur – K, Mg,

Types of Organic Carbon

Types of Organic Carbon • Sugars, starches (1 s t to break down) • Proteins, fats

Sugars, starches (1 st to break down)

Proteins, fats (readily decomposable)

Cellulose, hemicellulose, chitin

(slower to degrade)

Lignin and lignocellulose (most

resistant to decay)

Do you remember which microbes break them

down?

to degrade) • Lignin and lignocellulose (most resistant to decay) Do you remember which microbes break
to degrade) • Lignin and lignocellulose (most resistant to decay) Do you remember which microbes break

Nitrogen

Second most important element

Found in

Amino acids

Proteins

Sources include

Found in – Amino acids – Proteins • Sources include – Fresh plant tissue (grass clippings,
Found in – Amino acids – Proteins • Sources include – Fresh plant tissue (grass clippings,

Fresh plant tissue (grass clippings, green leaves,

fruits and vegetables)

Animals wastes (manure, meat, feathers, hair, blood, etc)

(grass clippings, green leaves, fruits and vegetables) – Animals wastes (manure, meat, feathers, hair, blood, etc)

Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio (C:N)

Ratio of total mass of elemental carbon to total mass of elemental nitrogen

Expressed as how much more carbon than

nitrogen, with N = 1

Does NOT account for availability, which is affected by:

Degradability

Surface area

Particle size

C:N

C:N

C:N
• Does NOT account for availability, which is affected by: – Degradability – Surface area –

C:N Ratio

“Ideal” starting range: 25:1 - 35:1

High C:N

> 40:1 slows composting process (N limited)

Low C:N

< 20:1 results in net N release (as ammonia)

High C:N > 40:1 slows composting process (N limited) • Low C:N < 20:1 results in

Example of Feedstock C-N Ratios

Carbon Sources (est.)

Bark 100-130:1

Cardboard 200-500:1

Leaves 30-80:1

Mixed paper 150-200:1

Newspaper 560:1

Peanut shells 35:1

Peat moss

Pine needles

Sawdust 100-230:1

Triticale, oat, rye straw 70-90:1

Wood chips

Wheat straw 140-150:1

30-65:1

250:1

200-700:1

Nitrogen Sources (est.)

Alfalfa

13:1

Clover

23:1

Coffee grounds

20:1

Food scraps

15-25:1

Garden debris

20-60:1

Grass clippings

15-25:1

Alfalfa, timothy hay

15-25:1

Cow manure

20:1

Pig manure

5-7:1

Poultry manure

5-10:1

Horse, llama, donkey,

alpaca manure 15-25:1

Blood or bone meal

3-4:1

Physical Factors Affecting Decomposition

Particle Size

Structure

Porosity

Free Air Space

Permeability

Bulk Density

Decomposition • Particle Size • Structure • Porosity • Free Air Space • Permeability • Bulk
Decomposition • Particle Size • Structure • Porosity • Free Air Space • Permeability • Bulk
Particle Size and Shape • Decomposition happens on surface • Smaller particles = more surface

Particle Size and Shape

Decomposition happens on surface

Smaller particles = more surface area

Very fine particles prevent air flow

Rigid particles provide structure & help aerate

= more surface area • Very fine particles prevent air flow • Rigid particles provide structure

Particle Size

Particle Size Source: Mid-Scale Composting Manual
Particle Size Source: Mid-Scale Composting Manual

Source: Mid-Scale Composting Manual

Adapted from T. Richard

Particle Size and Porosity Effects on Aeration

T. Richard Particle Size and Porosity Effects on Aeration Loosely packed, well structured Tightly packed, uniform
T. Richard Particle Size and Porosity Effects on Aeration Loosely packed, well structured Tightly packed, uniform

Loosely packed,

well structured

Porosity Effects on Aeration Loosely packed, well structured Tightly packed, uniform particle size Loosely packed,

Tightly packed, uniform particle size

well structured Tightly packed, uniform particle size Loosely packed, uniform particle size Tightly packed, mixed
well structured Tightly packed, uniform particle size Loosely packed, uniform particle size Tightly packed, mixed
well structured Tightly packed, uniform particle size Loosely packed, uniform particle size Tightly packed, mixed

Loosely packed,

uniform particle size

Tightly packed, uniform particle size Loosely packed, uniform particle size Tightly packed, mixed particle sizes

Tightly packed, mixed particle sizes

Porosity and Free Air Space

Porosity = non-solid portion of pile

Determined by size and type of particles, and height of pile

Free Air Space (FAS) = portion of pore space not occupied by liquid

May vary in pile

Start > 50% porosity

Free Air Space (FAS) = portion of pore space not occupied by liquid • May vary
Free Air Space (FAS) = portion of pore space not occupied by liquid • May vary

Relationship of FAS to Pile Depth

Relationship of FAS to Pile Depth Free air space changes in pile due to compaction FAS

Free air space changes in pile due to compaction

Pile Depth Free air space changes in pile due to compaction FAS Water Solids FAS Water

FAS

Water

Solids

FAS

Water

Solids

40%

30%

30%

20%

40%

40%

Pile Structure/Porosity

liquid film

Pore

space
space

free air space

airflow

compost

particles

Bulk Density

Highly correlated with Free Air Space (FAS)

Measure of mass (weight) per unit volume

pounds/cubic foot, tons/cubic yard, kg/L

Examples

– pounds/cubic foot, tons/cubic yard, kg/L – Examples • Water: 62 lb/ft 3 , 1.44 ton/yd

Water: 62 lb/ft 3 , 1.44 ton/yd 3

Topsoil (dry): ~75 lb/ft 3 , ~1.73 ton/yd 3 Compost : ~44 lb/ft 3 , ~1200 lb/yd 3

Lower bulk density usually means greater

3 • Compost : ~44 lb/ft 3 , ~1200 lb/yd 3 Lower bulk density usually means

porosity and free air space

Non-Compacted Low Bulk Density

Non-Compacted Low Bulk Density Compacted High Bulk Density Lost pore volume

Compacted High Bulk Density

Lost pore volume
Lost pore volume

Initial Bulk Density & FAS

Rule of thumb for starting mix:

Below 800 lbs/cubic yard (475 kg/m 3 )

May not hold heat

Above 1000 lbs/cy (600 kg/m 3 )

increasingly difficult to aerate

Above 1200 lbs/cy (700 kg/m 3 )

Too dense

to aerate • Above 1200 lbs/cy (700 kg/m 3 ) – Too dense Starting FAS: above

Starting FAS: above 50% will assure good airflow

to aerate • Above 1200 lbs/cy (700 kg/m 3 ) – Too dense Starting FAS: above

Feedstock Summary

Each feedstock has certain attributes:

Carbon, nitrogen, moisture, bulk density, rigidity, pH,

homogeneity, consistency, putrescibility, pathogenicity, tip fee

The RECIPE is how feedstocks are combined

Composting system & site are designed and managed based on types, amounts of feedstocks

Regulations are always partly based on feedstock

site are designed and managed based on types, amounts of feedstocks • Regulations are always partly
site are designed and managed based on types, amounts of feedstocks • Regulations are always partly

The Key Process Variables

for Control of the Composting Process

Key Process Variables for Control of the Composting Process 1. Initial feedstock mix 2. Pile moisture

1.

Initial feedstock mix

2.

Pile moisture

3.

Pile aeration

4.

Pile shape and size

5.

Pile temperature

6.

Composting retention time

2. Pile Moisture

Required by microbes for life processes,

heating and cooling, place to live

Optimum is 45-60% moisture

> 65% means pore spaces filled

anaerobic conditions

< 40% fungus dominates

difficult to re-wet

< 35% dust problems

filled – anaerobic conditions • < 40% fungus dominates – difficult to re-wet • < 35%
filled – anaerobic conditions • < 40% fungus dominates – difficult to re-wet • < 35%
Moisture Composting consumes water – Better to start on high end – Adding water is

Moisture

Composting consumes water

Better to start on high end

Adding water is difficult

25 gallons per ton raises moisture content ~10%

Example:

3,000 yards of leaves = 1,000 tons

If they are at 40% moisture, need 25,000 gallons to raise them to 50% moisture

25 trips with a 1,000 gallon water truck!

If they are at 40% moisture, need 25,000 gallons to raise them to 50% moisture 25

The Key Process Variables

for Control of the Composting Process

Key Process Variables for Control of the Composting Process 1. Initial feedstock mix 2. Pile moisture

1.

Initial feedstock mix

2.

Pile moisture

3.

Pile aeration

4.

Pile shape and size

5.

Pile temperature

6.

Composting retention time

3. Pile Aeration • Aeration supplies oxygen • Ambient air is 21% oxygen • O

3. Pile Aeration

Aeration supplies oxygen

Ambient air is 21% oxygen

O 2 consumption increases with temperature

Compost organisms can survive 5% oxygen

Below 10% oxygen in pile, bacteria can start

switching to anaerobic respiration

Produces hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell)

Maintaining adequate oxygen will reduce odor complaints!

respiration – Produces hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell) Maintaining adequate oxygen will reduce odor complaints!

Aeration

Controlled by

Porosity (particle size)

Compaction (pile height and density)

Moisture

Without blowers, rely on

diffusion and convection

size) – Compaction (pile height and density) – Moisture • Without blowers, rely on diffusion and
size) – Compaction (pile height and density) – Moisture • Without blowers, rely on diffusion and

Convective Aeration

Warm

Air

Convective Aeration Warm Air Cooler Ambient air Cooler Ambient air
Cooler Ambient air Cooler Ambient air
Cooler
Ambient air
Cooler
Ambient air

Forced Aeration: Positive

Forced Aeration: Positive
Forced Aeration: Positive

Forced Aeration: Negative

Forced Aeration: Negative
Forced Aeration: Negative

Variables are Related…

Question:

As Bulk density goes up,

what happens to Porosity?

Variables are Related… Question: As Bulk density goes up, what happens to Porosity? ↑ Bulk Density

↑ Bulk Density = ? Porosity

Variables are Related… Question: As Bulk density goes up, what happens to Porosity? ↑ Bulk Density

Variables are Related…

Answer:

As Bulk Density goes up, Porosity goes down

↑ Bulk Density = ↓ Porosity

Variables are Related… Answer: As Bulk Density goes up, Porosity goes down ↑ Bulk Density =

Variables are Related…

Question:

Variables are Related… Question: As Moisture goes up, what happens to Aeration? ↑ Moisture = ?

As Moisture goes up, what happens to Aeration?

↑ Moisture = ? Aeration

Variables are Related… Question: As Moisture goes up, what happens to Aeration? ↑ Moisture = ?

Variables are Related…

Answer:

As Moisture goes up, Aeration goes

down

↑ Moisture = ↓ Aeration

Variables are Related… Answer: As Moisture goes up, Aeration goes down ↑ Moisture = ↓ Aeration

Variables are Related…

Question:

Variables are Related… Question: As Free Air Space goes up, what happens to Aeration? ↑ Free

As Free Air Space goes up, what happens to Aeration?

↑ Free Air Space = ? Aeration

Variables are Related… Question: As Free Air Space goes up, what happens to Aeration? ↑ Free

Variables are Related…

Answer:

As Free Air Space goes up, Aeration

goes up

↑ Free Air Space = ↑ Aeration

Variables are Related… Answer: As Free Air Space goes up, Aeration goes up ↑ Free Air

Turning Compost Piles:

Myths and Facts

Turning = Aeration

MYTH!

Oxygen introduced by turning may be

consumed within minutes in active pile

Passive or forced aeration is needed to

sustain oxygen levels after turning

Turning Compost Piles: Myths and Facts Turning increases porosity MYTH! Depending on feedstocks and type

Turning Compost Piles:

Myths and Facts

Turning increases porosity

MYTH!

Depending on feedstocks and type of turning

equipment, turning may reduce particle size and pore space

Pore space can increase after turning but it gradually decreases as materials resettle and

size and pore space Pore space can increase after turning but it gradually decreases as materials

compact

Turning Compost Piles: Myths and Facts Turning cools the pile MYTH! Cools it temporarily, followed

Turning Compost Piles:

Myths and Facts

Turning cools the pile

MYTH!

Cools it temporarily, followed by increase in temperature beyond pre-turning point

Exposes fresh surfaces for decomposition

Breaks up anaerobic pockets

Turning can have permanent cooling effect

during later phase of composting

decomposition – Breaks up anaerobic pockets Turning can have permanent cooling effect during later phase of
Turning Compost Piles: Myths and Facts Turning speeds decomposition FACT! • Releases trapped gases •

Turning Compost Piles:

Myths and Facts

Turning speeds decomposition

FACT!

Releases trapped gases

Exposes fresh surfaces

Breaks apart anaerobic lumps

Redistributes moisture, nutrients, microbes

gases • Exposes fresh surfaces • Breaks apart anaerobic lumps • Redistributes moisture, nutrients, microbes

The Key Process Variables

for Control of The Composting Process

Key Process Variables for Control of The Composting Process 1. Initial feedstock mix 2. Pile moisture

1.

Initial feedstock mix

2.

Pile moisture

3.

Pile aeration

4.

Pile shape and size

5.

Pile temperature

6.

Composting retention time

4. Pile Shape and Size

Smaller piles allow for greater air flow,

especially to center of pile

Larger piles retain temperatures

Too large compacts bottom of pile

You can have a Bigger pile if:

Have good structure (sticks)

Higher C:N

Lower Bulk Density

Equipment should match pile size

pile if: – Have good structure (sticks) – Higher C:N – Lower Bulk Density • Equipment

Can Use Shape to Capture or Shed Water

Can Use Shape to Capture or Shed Water

The Key Process Variables

for Control of The Composting Process

Key Process Variables for Control of The Composting Process 1. Initial feedstock mix 2. Pile moisture

1.

Initial feedstock mix

2.

Pile moisture

3.

Pile aeration

4.

Pile shape and size

5.

Pile temperature

6.

Composting retention time

5. Temperature

5. Temperature • Higher temps result in faster breakdown • > 160 o F (71°C) lose

Higher temps result in faster breakdown

> 160 o F (71°C) lose microbial diversity, composting actually slows

Most weeds and pathogens killed at temps 131 o F (55 o C) or higher

diversity, composting actually slows • Most weeds and pathogens killed at temps 131 o F (55

PFRP

Process to Further Reduce Pathogens

Time and Temperature requirements to assure pathogen reduction

Aerated Static Pile and In-vessel:

131°F (55°C) or higher for 3 days

Turned windrow:

131F (55°C) or higher for 15 days or

more with 5 turnings

131°F (55°C) or higher for 3 days • Turned windrow: – 131F (55°C) or higher for

Temperature

°F

158

140

122

104

86

68

50

32

PFRP

°C

70

70

60

50

40

30

20

10

0

131 o F Curing & Thermophilic Maturation
131
o F
Curing &
Thermophilic
Maturation

Mesophilic

Time

C 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 131 o F Curing & Thermophilic Maturation
C 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 131 o F Curing & Thermophilic Maturation

Mesophilic

6. Time

a few days to 2 weeks

Thermophilic

3 weeks to several months

Curing and maturation

– 3 weeks to several months • Curing and maturation – 1 to several months –

1 to several months

eliminates inhibitors to seed germination and crop

growth

months • Curing and maturation – 1 to several months – eliminates inhibitors to seed germination

When Is Pile Done?

Temperature of pile is <10° warmer than ambient temperature

About 1/3 of its original volume

Can’t recognize the original materials

It is a dark color

Smells earthy (not like ammonia or rotten eggs)

Stability (activity diminished) vs maturity (will grow plants)

Testing for doneness (lab and facility tests)

• Stability (activity diminished) vs maturity (will grow plants) • Testing for doneness (lab and facility

Summary

Key Initial Parameters for Thermophilic Composting

Condition Reasonable range Preferred range Moisture % C:N Oxygen % Temperature o F pH o

Condition

Reasonable range

Preferred range

Moisture %

C:N

Oxygen %

Temperature o F

pH

o C

Particle size

Porosity:

Bulk density lbs/ yd 3

(kg/l)

Free Air Space %

40 65

20:1 60:1

Greater than 5

113 160

45 -- 71

5.5 9.0

1/8 to 2 inches

.3-5 cm

Less than 1200

(.7)

40-60

50 60

25:1 40:1

Greater than 10

120 150

49 -- 66

6.5 8.0

Depends on feedstocks

and use for compost

800-1000

(.45-.6)

50-60

10 120 — 150 49 -- 66 6.5 — 8.0 Depends on feedstocks and use for
10 120 — 150 49 -- 66 6.5 — 8.0 Depends on feedstocks and use for