Saturday, December 15, 2012

Garbage Flow Chart

I finally found a program that will make flowcharts that have automatic tracking of arrows. It's called LucidChart and it is available at the Google App Store. It integrates with Chrome and Google Drive, and allows for collaboration. You have to buy the program if you want to increase the size of the document beyond a normal letter page, or want more than 60 boxes on your flowchart. Boxes snap to a grid pretty intelligently, and arrows can be straight or 3rd order B├ęzier curves. I loved working with it.

With this program i was finally able to make a flowchart of the Garbage streams in my house. We have 7 or 8 depending on how you count. Printer paper, Shreddables, Kitchen Waste, Bird Waste, Yard Waste, Recycling, Trash, and possibly Old Food. Old food can get fed to the dog, go in the food waste bin or go in the trash. Bird waste gets separated into stuff that can be fed to outside birds or compostables. With All the different trash streams our trash is kept down to less than a bag per week.

Earlier this spring I measured how much paper we were producing. It came out to about 7 pounds/week. This includes junk mail, boxes from Costco  boxes containing soda (diet soda being our primary beverage), and printer paper produced by my at-home office. Corrugated boxes I cut into 2-4 inch strips with a box cutter, and then put it into my 12-page cross-cut shredder. Putting it through this workload dulled out the teeth my last one in about 2 years.

Garbage Streams at our house. Most garbage ends up staying on my property. Recycling stream not  shown.

Hot, Cool and Cold and Compost

Two nights ago was the first hard freeze in College Park. I woke up at about 8am, went outside and there was frost on every shadowed patch of ground. The sun had already started melting the grass it touched. The planters around the yard were frozen four inches in, and my currently running compost batch was mostly frozen to the bottom of the bin.

When I opened it up, it seemed much more wet than it should be. Then I thought about frozen fruit. Freezing breaks the cell walls of most living organisms (most organisms that can survive freezing have some chemical in their cells besides water which keeps ice crystals from forming). So during freezing of the compost, the cells in the grass, kitchen scraps etc, break apart, releasing the water contained in those cells. I ended up adding brown matter to the mix to absorb the water, and keep the pile form going anaerobic (the stinky black slime that occurs when there isn't enough turning and therefore oxygen).

In the best compost piles, the pile stays hot enough that it doesn't freeze during the winter. Because I have a tumbler composter, the pile can freeze from the bottom and top. Also because it is well-mixed, the compost proceeds faster than a pile, so even if I added enough stuff to make it hot, it would quickly shrink in size to the point where it could no longer sustain the reactions to keep it hot. So my compost kind of goes dormant in the winter.

So I learned something, Warm weather is good for compost - it speeds up reactions. Cool weather is bad, it's like putting food in the fridge, it just stays cool, and decomposes very slowly. Cold, or freezing weather can be good because it breaks apart cells to make it easier to decompose later.