Ecochill compostable coolers are environmentally friendly insulations for the thermal protection of temperature-sensitive products during parcel shipping. Ecochill is made with organic wood from natural and sustainable sources, allowing it to be fully compostable. Municipalities that offer commercial composting provide the most rapid composting means due to their expertise and equipment facilities. However, this study aims to determine the composting rate that is easily achievable in a residential composter for individuals who desire to maintain their own compost bins and use the biomass for home gardening purposes. Healthy compost bins maintain a necessary carbon ratio, such as wood and paper, to nitrogen, such as vegetable scraps.
Performance testing determined the composting speed for the Ecochill insulation pads using a residential composter at two different carbon ratios. Ecochill, a brown carbon material, was tested at 25% and 50% quantities by weight. Various green vegetable scraps were the nitrogen source. The results demonstrated that when the temperature was maintained above 80oF and providing adequate ventilation and humidity, the Ecochill insulation pads fully composted after four weeks. The final soil product had densities and granulometry measurements comparable to potting and gardening soil.
A commercially available home composter, Home Outdoor IM4000 Tumbling Composter 37 gallons with dual chambers (FCMP Outdoor) was used as the composter, Figure 1. The green nitrogen sources contained 10% onion peels, 20% lettuce, 20% melon, and 50% potato peels inside each chamber. Ecochill E8 and E11 insulation pads (The Illuminate Group) were torn into smaller pieces and placed inside each chamber. Chamber one contained 25% Ecochill, and chamber two contained 50% Ecochill by weight. Each chamber was equipped with a temperature probe, TMC6-HD (Onset Computer Corporation, Pocasset, MA, USA), which records within an accuracy of +/- 0.5°C. The probes were connected to a temperature logger HOBO® brand MX2303 data loggers (Onset Computer Corporation, Pocasset, MA, USA), which records within an accuracy of +/- 0.25°C.
On a weekly basis, the composter was rotated to promote aeration, and one liter of water was added. Weekly, samples from both chambers were collected for analysis. Each sample was air-dried, photographed, and analyzed for density and granulometry. The study was conducted for four weeks.
During the four-week study, both chambers internal temperature containing 50% Ecochill and 25% Ecochill recorded an average of 82.5oF, Figure 2.
The compost mix density in each chamber rapidly increased over the four weeks, indicating the materials were breaking down into a more standard soil consistency, as seen in Figure 3. By week four, both chambers had a measured soil density of 325-445 kg/m3, equivalent to standard potting soil for plants and gardening of 325 to 365 kg/m3.
The granulometry analysis demonstrated that both chambers contained a coarse soil of at least 60% particles smaller than 6 mm within two weeks. By the fourth week, more than 85% of both compost chambers were composed of particles smaller than 3mm, which would be classified as potting soil, see Figures 4 and 5.
Figure 6 illustrates the four-week evolution from an Ecochill insulation pad into usable garden soil. The images on the left are from the sample’s pulled from the 50% Ecochill chamber. The images on the right are from the 25% Ecochill chamber.
Ecochill insulation pads can be used in 25% or 50% weight ratios as the carbon material for a quick and straightforward home composting system. With a minimal weekly effort to add water and rotate a home composter, Ecochill produces usable soil within four weeks. The resulting compost has density and granulometry factors similar to a rich potting soil used for ornamental plants and gardens.
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