All of us in the compost world are familiar with the carbon to nitrogen ratio when setting up a compost operation. There is also a different form of carbon called biochar that can enhance that process.
The US Biochar Initiative, defines biochar as a…. “fine-grained charcoal made by pyrolysis, the process of heating bio-mass with limited to no oxygen in a specially designed furnace …” This from of carbon has very high surface area, a huge amount of pore space, which allows it absorb odors, and hold onto water, ammonia, and methane.
Composting logistics and challenges
Ideally, in composting you get paid a decent fee to receive, process and create a quality product. But what happens when it doesn’t go quite right ? Maybe you have a solid contract for food waste, but now you’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material you need to process in a timely manner. You can only pre-mix and stockpile so much material. If you don’t process it fast enough, you can get tangled in regulatory issues.
This is where biochar comes in. While carbon products have been used for decades to clean up spills and contaminants, using charcoal in composting has been largely ignored. In many cases in the past, carbon was just too expensive. With newer, less expensive sources, it can now provide a lower cost option.
Biochar for composting operations Contact Us
To determine if biochar is right for your compost operation, you will need to figure out what works best with your specific set of feedstocks. For instance: Do you have extra liquid to deal with, materials that can go anaerobic quickly, or high levels of oils or grease? Do you need to stabilize and deodorize materials as they come in? Is your site in a pinch to get materials processed faster, so you can take on that next contract? All of these factors determine the cost effectiveness of adding biochar to your operation.
Research shows that composting with biochar can…
When added in at anywhere from 5-20% (by volume), biochar
- Accelerates the composting process
- Reduces nitrogen loss
- Reduces GHG emissions
- Reduces ammonia
- Reduces odor
- Eliminates most toxic organic compounds, pathogens and pests
As the compost cures, the pore space in biochar allows the compost to hold much higher populations of beneficial microorganisms. These benefits create higher quality compost, with better nutrients and higher value when you put it out for sale.
To learn more about how biochar can work for your operation, give us a call at 828-348-7992. We blend compost with biochar for our products. Once your customers see the end results, we think you will too.
Biochar for composting operations Contact Us
More information on composting with biochar can be found at International Biochar Initiative
References for composting with biochar
1. International Biochar Initiative (IBI) (2014a). Standardized Product Definition and Product
Testing Guidelines for Biochar That Is Used in Soil; accessed at http://www.biocharinternational.
2. Gajalakshmi, S.; Abbasi, S. A. (2008). Solid Waste Management by Composting: State of the Art.
Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology. 38:311‐400.
3. Jindo, K., Suto, K., Matsumoto, K., Garcia, C., Sonoki, T. and Sanchez‐Monedero, M.A. (2012).
Chemical and biochemical characterization of biochar‐blended composts prepared from poultry
manure. Bioresource Technology. 110:396‐404.
4. Dias, B.O., Silva, C.A., Higashikawa, F.S., Roig, A. and Sánchez‐Monedero, M.A. (2010). Use of
biochar as bulking agent for the composting of poultry manure: Effect on organic matter
degradation and humification. Bioresource Technology. 47:1239‐1246.
5. Fischer, D. and Glaser, B. (2012). Synergism between compost and biochar for sustainable soil
amelioration, management and organic waste, in S. Kumer (ed.), Management of Organic
Wastes, In Tech, pp 167 – 198.
6. Khan, N., Clark, I., Sánchez‐Monedero, M.A., Shea, S., Meier, S. and Bolan, N. (2013). Maturity
indices in co‐composting with biochar. 2nd International Conference on Solid Waste 2013:
Innovation in Technology and Management, Hong Kong.
7. Zhang, Lu, and Sun Xiangyang (2014). Changes in physical, chemical, and microbiological
properties during the two‐stage co‐composting of green waste with spent mushroom compost
and biochar. Bioresource Technology. 171:274 – 284.
8. Wang, C., Lu, H., Dong, D., Deng, H., Strong, P.J., Wang, H. and Wu, W. (2013). Insight into the
Effects of Biochar on Manure Composting: Evidence Supporting the Relationship between N2O
Emissions and Denitrifying Community. Environmental Science & Technology. 47:7341‐7349.
9. Sonoki, T., Furukawa, T., Jindo, K., Suto, K., Aoyama, M. and Sánchez‐Monedero, M.A. (2012).
Influence of biochar addition on methane metabolism during thermophilic phase in composting.
Journal of Basic Microbiology. 52:1‐5.
10. Lopez‐Cano, I., Roig, A., Cayuela, M.L., Alburquerque, J.A., Sanchez‐Monedero, M.A. (2015).
Biochar impact on olive mill waste composting. Proceedings of the III International Symposium
on Organic Matter Management and Compost Use in Horticulture. Murcia, Spain.
11. Steiner, C., Das, K.C., Melear, N. and Lakely, D. (2010) Reducing Nitrogen Loss During Poultry
Litter Composting Using Biochar. Journal of Environmental Quality. 39:1236‐1242.
12. Steiner, C., Melear, N., Harris, K. and Das, K.C. (2011). Biochar as bulking agent for poultry litter
composting. Carbon Management. 2:227‐230.
13. Sánchez‐García, M., Alburquerque, J.A., Sánchez‐Monedero, M.A., Roig, A., Cayuela, M.L. (2015).
Biochar accelerates organic matter degradation and enhances N mineralisation during
composting of poultry manure without a relevant impact on gas emissions. Bioresource
Technology 192, 272‐279.
14. International Biochar Initiative (IBI) (2014b). 2013 State of the Biochar Industry; accessed at