I have some broken sheet rock (wall board?). Is this good for the compost pile? Or does it have harmful chemicals in it? I have acid soil.
not for acid soil, tho small amounts prolly won't hurt - no chems I know of nowadays, just gypsum, tho the thicker fire resistant stuff sometimes has spun glass fibres [like fibreglas] - composting is the current way to deal w/ waste gyproc actually, at least here in Canada
Sheet Rock, Plaster Board, Gypsum Board, Dry Wall or what ever it is called should not be put into your soil. In addition to the gypsum there are binders, adhesives, extenders, fiberglass fibers added for strength, a lot of things you should not leave in your soil for the next generations.
Main problem is the paper adhesives,
We live in a world that uses all kinds of toxins to various degrees. I think in the long run it's better to use what's at hand to help us grow food as opposed to importing stuff that is entirely non-toxic or 'natural'. If something is so toxic that it shouldn't be on or in the ground then it shouldn't be in the house, either. I rather doubt wallboard fits that description, and it is quite handy for smothering weeds. If you don't use it then it goes to the landfill to slowly leach into the groundwater in any case. Kimm, how about what comes out of our non-talking ends? That is toxic when it's mixed with water and hidden from air, but if we leave it on top of the ground with a few leaves over it's no problem.
You could use almost anything in your soil, coal, oil, aresenic, cyanide, plastic, old car bodies, asbestos, all things that come from natural sources and once were living organisms, but reason tells us that would not be good. You should only put into your soil stuff that will make that soil better, not just anything that was once living. Human waste should not be put into your soil unless it is first properly treated to remove any potential pathogens that may infect you and others. Few of us have the proper process available to do that even though there are numerous books available that spell out the how.
The compost pile is not a garbage pile.
Our reason is often just a hodgepodge of facts, half-facts, sometimes facts, anecdotes, cronish wisdom, farmer's lore, and etc. For instance, I have no idea what or which or in what concentrations plants will take up toxins into their own tissues. As an obvious example, the toxic bacteria that reside in fresh human feces do not survive being metabolized inside a plant, if they even survive one day exposed to air and temperatures outside the comfort zone. My gut feeling is that many toxic chemicals are either rendered inert in healthy soil conditions or eventually released to the atmosphere. Extremely large inputs of anything in the garden soil is ultimately harmful as it throws the soil environment out of balance. One doesn't want to add exclusively seaweed, or sand, or sheep manure, etc. Doubtful things like coal ash, burnt magazines, cardboard and so on wouldn't be used at all except if there is some obvious advantage, like using sheetrock to smother weeds and contain moisture. The gain from those benefits are likely to greatly outwiegh the possible small amount of additives. No one is suggesting putting a mansion's worth of wallboard in a small garden. That would be as stupid as dumping two feet of fresh horse manure over one's garden. The point is that in this world such choices do have to be made. Stuff is all around us , toxic to varying degrees in various circumstances. Like I said, if it shouldn't be in the garden, it shouldn't be in the house nor the landfill. Perhaps it shouldn't have been manufactured in the first place, which means we shouldn't have bought it. Our responsibilities go a heck of a lot farther than the compost pile; what goes in that pile should be determined by where the dollar went earlier.
I think some of the pathogens can survive exposed to air and outdoor temperatures, and the problem with them is not what the plants take up, but what gets splashed onto their leaves. (Remember the E. coli cases from - I think - lettuce?) So that kind of thing should not be done in vegetable gardens, unless as Kimmsr said you have the wherewithall to destroy the pathogens first.
I like your point that if something is so toxic that it shouldn't be on the ground then it shouldn't be in our homes. Except that some of the things in our homes are not toxic if used properly. For example, I'm not sure, but there may be something in a computer that would be toxic if it leached into the ground. It's our responsibility to find out how to dispose of things properly.
Yes, I'm aware there exist various vectors for live human pathogens. However, conditions have to be just right for it to happen. Very simple precautions will avoid them - the first and simplest being not to put very fresh human feces in close proximity to plants that will be eaten raw. This is not how e.coli generaly gets spread around in the commercial food supply even in those 'dangerous' third world countries. It happens when the pathogens are present in high concentrations in surface or ground water. The lettuce was getting washed in contaminated water. Not surprisingly, water gets contaminated when we allow fresh feces to float away. As in toilets, for example. That can lead to ground water contamination because of the anaerobic condition, although concentration are unlikely to get high enough to cause epedimic. Still, the waste of good fertilizer is inexcusable. Outhouses or other silly methods can lead in severe conditions to widespread surface water contamination, but it's not likely in temperate latitudes where the water and air are too cold much of the time to be friendly to the pathogens. If the feces spend even a short time exposed to air and soil microbes the pathogens die. Thermophyllic piles are not necessary, and it's been proven time and again by many cultures, including our own in former times. How are we going to have billions of people living and eating on this planet when we are deathly afraid of our own crap?
I prefer to err on the side of caution. I don't know a lot about the subject but have just done some research. Just for one example:
Hepatitis A virus from human feces can remain in the soil for over 3 months.
To destroy it, the temperature must be held at 90 degrees C (194 degrees F) for 1-1/2 minutes. "Under refrigeration or freezing conditions, the virus remains intact and infectious for *several years*." So being in a temperate climate is no safeguard.
This is just one example. There may be others. That's why I prefer to play it safe.
Here is a link that might be useful: Hepatitis A Virus
This discussion has occured many times before on GW, but I don't mind rehashing some of it. Simple logic: you don't have hepititus, so you aren't going to get from your own dung, even if you ate it fresh (which people often do because of lack of hygine). People with such obvious feces-born infections clearly have to be isolated regardless, that is how diseases are controlled. So my theory is that one cannot be contaminated by one's own dung, and since households are in close proximity in any case it folows that a houshold is not going to be contaminated by using the dung as fertilizer. What I would be leery of is the old indiscrimanate practice of spreading the nightsoil of entire towns and small cities on fields, as it would be very difficult to know whether or not a sick person has contributed to the mix. Even so, that practice was common in the US less than a hundred years ago and yet such epidemics in the rural areas recieving the dung were very rare I believe it's fair to say. Rural areas now often have severely contaminated drinking water from chem ferts and pesticides. I'd rather take a smal chance on hepetitus or amoaebic dysentery if I had to make a choice.
Sorry, I didn't realize this was old stuff.
My point is that most of us are not totally informed on all the possible pathogens that could be in our own feces. I used hepatitis A just as an example of one that survives in the environment; if it does, there could be others. I don't know.
Also, a hundred years ago, I don't think there was as much of an understanding of different illnesses, nor as much reporting of them, as there is today. So, while there may not have been epidemics, there could have been some people getting sick.
But I understand your point. I just prefer to be overly cautious.
I would like to see more municipalities doing something to get the energy or fertilizer out of solid wastes.
You could be a carrier of a pathogen and have no symptoms of the disease. In the early 1900's a young Irish lass named Mary Mallone worked as a cook for several familys and members of those families came down with typhus and becasue of that food service workers are now required to wash their hands after using the rest room. Watch them sometime and you will learn how not to wash your hands.