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Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Ingenious Sun-Mar “Bio-Drum”

In an earlier post about “Sun-Mar” and their amazing products I did a sort of general overview of the company and its products – the Composting Toilet and the Garden Composter. But the fact of the matter is, when I first came across information about Sun-Mar on the Internet, I was shocked that in all the time I have been “surfing the net” I've never once heard about something like this. I mean quite frankly, in all my years of keeping an ear and an eye out for technology that was environmentally sound – this goes back to when I saw things like solar cookers, bio-gas plants and solar cells on a field trip to Auroville, back in the 5th grade – something like one of Sun-Mar's Composting Toilets would have and should have stood out like a sore thumb. But nothing. I mean, even in the last 15 years, since the advent of cable television and the wonderful world of the Discovery Channel, not a single show, not even an environmental show about it. So I thought I'd do my bit to spread the word in my little neck of the woods on the Internet, if nothing else, just so people know that there is such a thing as being able to deal with your waste in a positive way. Now, I don't want to make it sound like Sun-Mar invented the notion of composting, but I did want to point out that of the numerous experiments at composting that I've seen people have a go at, this is by far the most simple, logical and overall solution to anyone's composting needs. People have always been composting, whether in large shed-like storage bins, or in a little pile in the back of the garden, but the ingenuity of Sun-Mar's “Bio-Drum” was so astounding that I gasped when I first looked at the website and saw how they were making it happen. It was too easy to do, and that fact alone left me wondering about how this product wasn't more popular, let alone being more widely available. Seriously, if you put all the money people spend purchasing products that massage their scalp while they watch TV and fret about their apparently obese 'love handles', it would go a lot further in so many more ways for them, for you, and for me.

Sun-Mar's One-Stop Composting Chamber

The idea of putting compost in a drum and being able to rotate it to promote more aeration and better composting is brilliant. However, when you add an inner drum that allows a Sun-Mar product owner to simply continue rotating the drum to extract the composted material – Sun-Mar's patented “Autoflow” technology – it's sheer genius! Seriously, I know so many well-meaning, potential environmentalists who are unfortunately too rooted to a “civilized” existence to have to deal with anything that can be labeled “trash”, let alone “human waste”, who would love to use a system like this that doesn't require them to get their hands dirty. For the rest of us – now that I have conveniently switched sides in the last few years – a neat-and-tidy system like this is just a bonus. The fact that both the Sun-Mar Composting Toilets and Garden Composters aim to deal very effectively with the odor generated during the process of bio-degradation is a huge enough deal already. I still can't get over how ingenious the system of putting your waste inside a drum, which has another drum inside of it which collects and removes the finished compost is. But, a little more detail on this technology in a bit. Being made of hard, durable plastic compounds, Sun-Mar's products are “Pest Proof”, keeping out everything from rats to racoons, as advertised in the symbol.

What is Composting?

Not wanting to get too much into something as general as “composting” I thought I'd try and spend a little time on some of the apparent changes in what I always regarded to be compost-pile-worthy. Growing up, we seemed to have been told to keep compost to things like leaf-cuttings, cut grass, assorted trimming and shavings, and whatever you kept throwing out of your kitchen in the form of peels, shells, and cores without the seeds. I did wonder about why most people seemed to refrain from adding leftovers and other rotting foodstuff to their compost piles, but the more I thought about the things we do put in our food – I'm thinking of food coloring, additives, emulsifiers and a whole host of things on your average piece of packaged food – it kind of seemed to make sense that while we can ignore the ill-effects of these things on our bodies, the helpful bacteria and microbes would probably not be as likely to make this allowance. Still, it didn't quite make sense, or seem to sit well with the overall logic of composting if what we eat, no matter how chemical-ridden, artificial and unhealthy, was going to sit aside and rot to everyone's inconvenience. Well, it was a pleasure to see Sun-Mar list a couple of leftovers that could be thrown into a compost pile, like “Old pasta” and “Jell-O” to promote nitrogen or “Shredded paper” and “Dryer lint” to help with carbon infusion of the compost. It's important to remember this, well, it's more important to try and give your compost a more general sprinkling of all the different kinds of things that we eat or end up pruning from our gardens, to promote a more well-rounded type of compost.

Sun-Mar's Unique Bio-Drum”

Some of the listed benefits of the patented “Bio-Drum” by Sun-Mar include, and I quote, “Continuous composting, No waiting for batches to finish, Loads and turns easily, Compost exits automatically,” and, “Pest resistant.” For me, it's the fact that after I decide to throw something away, say a few potato peels, after peeling the potato and actually generating the peels, I don't need to come into contact with it, even after it has become compost. All I have to do is slide open the “Food Port” on the Bio-Drum, tip my biodegradable waste in, rotate it a couple of times to get the old and new bits of waste to mix. Once there's a significant amount of completely composted matter inside the Bio-drum, let's say if it's about half full, then I give it a few more rotations allowing the inner drum to collect any finished compost and siphon it back out the “Output Port” and into a waiting receptacle to collect it. I'm almost tempted to type out that sentence again, just so you and I can read it again and bask in the sheer simplicity of what is involved to make a difference, and “give back” to the World, in a manner of speaking. I'm not going to of course, but the point is that this Bio-Drum makes turning waste into something useful again as easy as possible. It's a clear example of the perfect blend of simple mechanics, common sense, and the will to live consciously. For those of you wondering what the numbers on the image are all about, here are the various parts labeled: 1. Waste Inlet Port, 2. Waste Inlet Door, 3. Screen, 4. Front Support Bearing, 5. Drum Lock Catch, 6. Direct Drive Gear, 7. Top Air Vent.

Surprising Lack of Global Presence

Now, before you start thinking that I'm out here to bad-mouth Sun-Mar in any way, please hold those thoughts and comments. I refer to my earlier show of surprise, or at least my mention of such surprise regarding how I hadn't heard about something as magnificent as Sun-Mar's Composting Toilets and Garden Composters until sometime last month, when for the last 30 years, I'm pretty sure I must have come across at least a bajillion, gazillion, any other number I can't make up at the moment, and more calls to save the environment, at the school, local community, city, state, national and international levels from a growing number of budding young NGOs, and a few well-established state agencies. It seems ridiculous to consider that with a little more effort than I put in, a couple of them would not have spread the word enough about technologies such as Sun-Mar's to put them, at the very least, on a national platform, showcasing the tip-of-the-iceberg possibility of living a “sustainable life” that we all talk about so fervently. To make matters worse, the countries where Sun-Mar has retailers currently stocking goods (the list of countries includes Argentina, Australia, Chile, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Panama, Puerto Rico, Russia, Taiwan and the United Kingdom) doesn't reflect any of the “poorer”, developing nations such as those of Africa, not to mention the world's two largest contributors to the “rat race” - China and India. On the one hand, price may be an area of concern, I understand that completely. I mean, from my brief stint abroad, I realized that there was a reason why, in spite of my ongoing college education and therefore supposed knowledge, I was turning to pizzas and burgers, instead of tofu salads and hearty avocado subs. Budget. It makes perfect sense. However, what doesn't make sense, again “for me,” particularly with regard to the logic that appears to be missing in all of this, is that if the slow and painful attack on the environment has been a major problem for so long, is it not possible for governments to use economic mechanisms like “subsidies” to assist people in making eco-friendly choices? In fact, wouldn't it be prudent for governments, like India's for example, to invest in technologies like the Composting Toilets from Sun-Mar to assist with the dual problems of a lack of hygiene in large urban population centers and the inability to deal effectively with the mountains of biodegradable waste generated? Think of the benefits. I'm still a little shocked by all this, and I really do hope that I hear about things like the Sun-Mar Composting Toilet and the Sun-Mar Garden Composter in my neighborhood soon.

For More Information...

If this post has piqued your interest any, and you've managed to resist the urge to click any of the links until this point, then why don't you check out Sun-Mar's website. The website is a good starting point because it provides you general information like the company's history, or something more specific, like how the Bio-Drum is only part of their revolutionary “three chamber system” of composting. Maybe you would like to intersperse your Internet reading with a video overview of Sun-Mar's products. Or perhaps, and this is extremely wishful thinking on my part, I know, this post has convinced you so thoroughly that you don't want to waste another minute listening to me, and you want to get your hands on a Sun-Mar catalog, also available in French. In fact, you may even be looking to skip the casual glance at the FAQ page, and go directly to picking out the Composting Toilet / Garden Composter of your dreams by either “question process” or by “model selector”. Ready to order? Then go right to Sun-Mar's Dealer Network page if you are not in the US, or their Dealer Locator for international orders. Last on this long list of what you could possibly do after reading this post, is actually to email the fabulous people at Sun-Mar, or you could just call the toll-free number in the US (1-888-341-0782 ) to connect with someone and get started on doing your bit for the Environment. Happy “composting”! 

Note: Pictures used with permission from Sun-Mar.
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