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Old 26-01-2020, 12:50   #1
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Composting Head - Solids Disposal at Marinas

As we contemplate the installation of a composting head, and with being regularly in a marina for the first time in years as we replenish the cruising funds...

I've seen a couple of comments lately about marinas refusing liveaboard status to boats with composting heads as they are concerned about solids disposal and exposure of marina personnel to human fecal matter.

I can see their point, if you dispose of your solids bucket contents in the marina trash receptacle as soon as it gets full then your last deposits will not be composted.

Has anybody here got first-hand experience with this issue? Any resolution you could work out with the marina?

I could see having two buckets, and continuing composting on the full one for 'x' days or weeks (that means stirring and oxygen, so not a sit and forget item). Or double-bagging and sealing. Disposal as green waste after composting. Agreement simply not to dispose of at marina. Lots of options, but curious what others have run into.

Disposal at sea and in remote places seems pretty straightforward, it's more the uptight marinas I might need to inhabit for the next year that are the question.

Thanks for any experience.
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Old 26-01-2020, 15:23   #2
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Re: Composting Head - Solids Disposal at Marinas

Composting is a misnomer for these heads. They are really dessicating heads. Composting actually takes months and, if used regularly, they simply don't have the holding capacity to go that long without emptying. The ideal disposal solution would be to dump the contents in the head at the marina, assuming they are hooked to a working sewage treatmett facility or septic system. Bagging the contents and disposing in a dumpster is no different, in fact better than throwing diapers in the trash. See no health problems for marina workers unless they are in the habit of dumpster diving for their meals.
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Old 26-01-2020, 15:37   #3
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Re: Composting Head - Solids Disposal at Marinas

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...Bagging the contents and disposing in a dumpster is no different, in fact better than throwing diapers in the trash. ....
Yes, understand the distinction of composting vs. desiccating, and indeed, if you dump immediately after it gets full the last deposits are not really even desiccated.

Will have to remember that example if confronted, it is no worse than a bucket-full of disposable diapers.
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Old 26-01-2020, 15:45   #4
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Re: Composting Head - Solids Disposal at Marinas

Are you actually dealing with a marina that does this Dsanduril? I've only ever read about one or two such places here on these interwebs. I've never actually experienced such a thing, nor do I know of any real life example. Only hear about it here...

First off, I'd go to the marina and see if there are any notices or signs indicating they don't allow composters to dump. You're likely worrying about a non-existent problem.

If you are in one of those odd-ball marinas, well... I'm not sure what can be done. If they are that anal () so as to post signs banning the practice, then I doubt they'll be interested in striking a side deal -- but I guess you can try. Unless they're inspecting the trash bags that get tossed into the dumpster, I really doubt anyone will notice. How would they?

It's certainly not a significant health concern; way less than used diapers or feminine hygiene products. And what about all the dog poop that gets dumped?

If it bothers you, it's certainly possible to allow the material to further compost in a separate bin. roverhi is correct, these heads are more accurately described as dessicators, not composters. But they do begin the composting process. Time solves the problem.
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Old 26-01-2020, 16:12   #5
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Re: Composting Head - Solids Disposal at Marinas

No, I currently am not dealing with the issue directly. Have just read a few comments here and elsewhere, no idea how factual they are (or if it is just trolling), but want to get a general sense from people who may have encountered the issue.

As I said, we're looking at being in a marina for a while, and will probably switch to a composter while there, just want to be educated on any issues.

Thanks to your posts and a few others the heads themselves aren't too much of a mystery, so now starting to look at the external factors that might come into play.
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Old 26-01-2020, 16:36   #6
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Re: Composting Head - Solids Disposal at Marinas

Have absolutely no experience with marinas in relation to composting heads...but do have experience with OSHA/CDC/DOT regulations as they pertain to bio waste and the disposal of said solids and/or fluids. Bagging, double or triple does not meet CDC or OSHA requirements for human bio waste disposal, and any employee who is asked to handle even properly contained materials must have appropriate training.
In real life I have been exposed to several cases that involved fines, one was at the max of $10k (but I believe it was pled down to around $4k)
All it takes is a single employee who refuses to *touch* that, bagged or not.
I don't understand why diapers are permitted when bagged waste can be a $10k health code violation??
Related - where I work is tobacco free, and some sneak a chew and use water bottles, leaving them lying around. Many, myself included, refuse to pick them up during cleanup. When pressed I state it is a biohazard, I have not received proper training, am not provided with proper protective gear, that dasani bottle doesn't appear to be CDC or OSHA approved for biowaste, etc. Supervisors don't like it, but you can't be fired over it.
As composting heads become more popular, it's just a matter of time until trash service companies raise a stink over it. There again, when I commercially hauled waste to the landfill it would have been a severe fine for knowingly dumping hazardous materials (including biowaste) without the proper permits. Landfill hits trash service, trash service hits the marina, marina hits the vessel owner. *__It* flows downhill
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Old 26-01-2020, 17:23   #7
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Re: Composting Head - Solids Disposal at Marinas

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Originally Posted by Dsanduril View Post
No, I currently am not dealing with the issue directly. Have just read a few comments here and elsewhere, no idea how factual they are (or if it is just trolling), but want to get a general sense from people who may have encountered the issue.

As I said, we're looking at being in a marina for a while, and will probably switch to a composter while there, just want to be educated on any issues.

Thanks to your posts and a few others the heads themselves aren't too much of a mystery, so now starting to look at the external factors that might come into play.
Always glad to help where I can. If I can assist further, don't hesitate to ask.

Like I say, I doubt if you'll encounter any issue at all so I wouldn't go looking for the problem. I wouldn't raise it with the marina if they aren't proactively banning the practice.

Adeline, I appreciate your perspective, but the fact is that there are plenty of more disagreeable things that get dumped in the standard garbage stream already. It's ridiculous to ban the material that comes out of composters, and unless people are checking through the garbage bins, I really don't see how it would even be noticed.
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Old 26-01-2020, 18:16   #8
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Re: Composting Head - Solids Disposal at Marinas

First, I am in the process of installing a composting toilet as part of a larger refit.

But this topic brings up a memory. 20-years ago I purchased a cabin that had been built in the 1920s. I replaced the old cess pool with a septic system. The old cesspool was nothing more than a large round pit lined with local field stones collected from the hillside. The removal cost was doubled as the county considered the stones a mild form of hazardous waste that required special handling and disposal. Not "Love Canal" hazmat-suit waste, but not ordinary rocks either. And that was 20+ years ago in rural Colorado. I can imagine that marinas in places like California might have an interesting viewpoint.

Doesn't dissuade me, but it is something to think about. Reminder to stay under the radar I guess, which is a good idea regardless of topic.
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Old 26-01-2020, 18:16   #9
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Re: Composting Head - Solids Disposal at Marinas

Yes, certainly won't raise the question unless asked, but suspect I will be around here. For liveaboards they usually want to see a contract with the pump-out boat that comes around once a week (or as scheduled) to empty holding tanks that are expected to get some use. And the reality that many liveaboards don't move the boat enough even to get to the pump-out. So will have to explain "no holding tank - composting head".

I also get the bio-hazard argument from an employer's perspective. At the same time our waste disposal company sends around specific instructions that diapers, pet waste, and feminine hygiene products are supposed to be disposed of in the garbage (as opposed to the recycling or the compost/green waste). Does that mean the waste removal employees get the appropriate bio-hazard training? And in that case disposal of "compost" waste direct to the dumpster and not in the smaller cans on the dock would be OK? The smaller cans are emptied by marina employees, the dumpster is handled only by the waste company employees.

I'll cross all of these bridges when I get a specific marina in my sights, just wanted to see if it seemed like many people run into the problem after reading a few posts about it. Hoping it's all just a tempest in a teapot.
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Old 26-01-2020, 18:38   #10
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Re: Composting Head - Solids Disposal at Marinas

I go straight for the dumpster with my dessicating head. I would never just drop that into a barrel someone has to empty. Let the truck empty that out and haul it away.

Throwing it into a trash barrel is disrespectful and is a lot like a derelict boat. It ruins it for everyone else.
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Old 26-01-2020, 19:16   #11
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Re: Composting Head - Solids Disposal at Marinas

Dsanduril,

We replaced one of our two heads with a Nature's Head in 2015. [We are full time cruisers/liveaboards.]

We only have experience in SE Alaska since installation of the 'composter' and have never had an issue with any of the communities here.

We wintered in Petersburg in 2017-18, and also keep a full time livaboard slip in Wrangell [since 2014] so we can come and go as we please. We are on record with both having a 'composter' onboard. [It is interesting to note that we receive more inquires from fellow boaters than any other source...]

Wrangell has a fixed pumpout facility; Petersburg claimed not to have a facility when we were there. [And the only others I can think of off the top of my head are Juneau [Auke Bay] and Ketchikan. [There may be others we don't know about...]

It is worth noting that most communities here in SE AK also ask pet owners to either wash up the dock after their pet [overboard disposal] or bag it up and drop it in the trash...

We have an excellent rep and rapport with all the SE communities we have visited, and haven't received any pushback or concerns from anyone to date...

Our marina contingency plan [this could work in SE AK anyway...] would be to take it deep into the woods and deal with it as though we were camping...

It would be nice to complete a composting cycle, but that would be difficult at this latitude as we doubt we could conveniently maintain the requisite minimum temperature of 55°F year around— or even consistently in the summer for that matter...

Of course, the 'compost' can also be disposed of 3+ miles offshore as well... [I am not aware of any NDZs here in SE AK...]

We also make sure anyone who cares knows we maintain a blog page on this topic with many more details. [This typically eliminates follow-up questions from any concerned parties- perhaps because we are being transparent?]

In case any of this is useful for you in making your decision. Please feel free to PM me if you have further detailed questions.

Cheers! Bill
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Old 26-01-2020, 19:18   #12
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Re: Composting Head - Solids Disposal at Marinas

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I go straight for the dumpster with my dessicating head. I would never just drop that into a barrel someone has to empty. Let the truck empty that out and haul it away.

Throwing it into a trash barrel is disrespectful and is a lot like a derelict boat. It ruins it for everyone else.
Absolutely agreed [and practiced...]
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Old 26-01-2020, 20:35   #13
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Re: Composting Head - Solids Disposal at Marinas

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Yes, certainly won't raise the question unless asked, but suspect I will be around here. For liveaboards they usually want to see a contract with the pump-out boat that comes around once a week (or as scheduled) to empty holding tanks that are expected to get some use. And the reality that many liveaboards don't move the boat enough even to get to the pump-out. So will have to explain "no holding tank - composting head".

I also get the bio-hazard argument from an employer's perspective. At the same time our waste disposal company sends around specific instructions that diapers, pet waste, and feminine hygiene products are supposed to be disposed of in the garbage (as opposed to the recycling or the compost/green waste). Does that mean the waste removal employees get the appropriate bio-hazard training? And in that case disposal of "compost" waste direct to the dumpster and not in the smaller cans on the dock would be OK? The smaller cans are emptied by marina employees, the dumpster is handled only by the waste company employees.

I'll cross all of these bridges when I get a specific marina in my sights, just wanted to see if it seemed like many people run into the problem after reading a few posts about it. Hoping it's all just a tempest in a teapot.
Having been the operator of said disposal truck I can say that I did NOT receive biohazard training UNLESS it was a biohazard load. At that point there was very brief load specific training, mostly leaning towards the regulations that covered transport and disposal. Garbage trucks are not allowed to transport biohazard as a rule, training is not mandatory.
I can tell you that the county landfill requires 24hr advance notice (plus permits) for hazardous loads. I can also count on one hand the times I was able to empty ANY load WITHOUT the supervision of a landfill employee (they are watching what is being dumped). A permitted hazmat load does not dump in the same area as regular refuse, and has specific procedures required preparing the area, receiving, and burying the material.
There are far worse things being thrown in landfills, including lead acid batteries, lithium, diapers, etc. Insulation (large quantities) and asbestos (any quantity + 24hr advance notice/approval) require permits. Diapers especially I consider far more dangerous than any composting head...but I don't make the rules.
Just keep in mind we live in an era when I, as a driver, could be fined because a construction crew put broken pieces of asbestos tile in with lumber during a demolition. They failed to mention a layer of fiberglass under the wallboard. Even a fast food restaurant dumping grease in dumpster, it happens and when it hits the pile at the landfill Mr. Employee watching pulls out his little book, my company gets charged, who in turn goes to the source.
Oddly enough I did carry many loads for the county water treatment center (sewage plant) as they have to clean the sludge from the ponds periodically. Sludge = processed human waste - looks and smells like river mud, surprisingly clean. For those interested, it goes to the county landfill where it's mixed accordingly with the cover dirt. Knowing that, I would think a composting head being emptied into a dumpster shouldn't be an issue, but having dealt with the beurocratic system I am sure it will be once it gets popular enough to notice.
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Old 26-01-2020, 20:35   #14
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Re: Composting Head - Solids Disposal at Marinas

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I go straight for the dumpster with my dessicating head. I would never just drop that into a barrel someone has to empty. Let the truck empty that out and haul it away.

Throwing it into a trash barrel is disrespectful and is a lot like a derelict boat. It ruins it for everyone else.
Good advice. Completely agree.

Like I said, take it to the dumpster. Unless the bin is being actively monitored, or staff is pawing through the contents, it's going to be virtually impossible to know what's in your trash bag.

Personally, I dislike disposing of my end product in any garbage system. It is definitely the last option for me. I've only had to do it a very few times in the near decade I've had this head. The vast majority of the time it gets dumped at sea, or somewhere remote on land. The dumpster is the last resort, but I have no issue doing so when needed.
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Old 26-01-2020, 20:46   #15
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Re: Composting Head - Solids Disposal at Marinas

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...Knowing that, I would think a composting head being emptied into a dumpster shouldn't be an issue, but having dealt with the beurocratic system I am sure it will be once it gets popular enough to notice.
I suspect you are right on all counts here Adeline. Which is why I would never raise the question with the marina (not that the OP is going to).

What I'd love to see, and would be a smarter regulatory response, is to institute some sort of proper collection service at the marinas. As the popularity of these heads grows it only makes rational sense to do this, just as was done with liquid effluent.

Pump out services are widely available (at least in some areas). There's no reason a similar collection system could not be put in place to take compost head material. If anything, it should be a lot easier to manage.

But I realize this would be a rational response, and governments are not always particularly rational.
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