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I'm going to be composting a lot of wood chips this winter, and only have one large PVC pipe. How can I remove the PVC pipe from the wood chips while leaving the air shaft in place?

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If I understand the setup, the goal of the PVC is to keep the pile aerated so it will be aerobic composting.

Some alternative solutions:

  • Figure out a way to periodically turn the pile and keep it fluffed-up. Turning the pile has multiple benefits beyond just aerating the pile. It also helps spread the beneficial bacteria. It also moves material from the dryer and colder edges/tops into the damper and hotter middle of the pile where it will be composted.
  • Get some more pipe. If cost or environmental impact are issues you could try to get some used or discarded pipes. One good trick is to set up an email alert from craigslist. You can also often find good materials at a used building goods store (in some cities these are run by Habitat for Humanity or similar organizations).
  • Use other materials in the pile to create a structure that has air pockets, like longer branches or stalks from plants like sunflower stems or corn stalks. These materials might not all compost as quickly as the wood chips and would need therefore need to be filtered out at the end to be composted twice. However, they should hopefully help the wood chips to compost.
  • I'm not going to turn 200 yards by hand, when I have 6 months to compost as well as I can. – a coder Sep 5 '18 at 0:28
  • Sure, turning 200 yards by hand would be a lot of work. If you did it in chunks it could be more manageable (it's 1 cubic yard per day, for example). Or, you could try to get a skid-steer or similar machine to turn the whole pile one time. – greggles Sep 5 '18 at 14:32
  • Shopping around may help; polyethylene drainage pipe is cheaper than PVC. If you buy it perforated you can just bury it in the pile. – Matthew Gauthier Sep 6 '18 at 1:05
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I believe if you remove the PVC that is creating the air shaft, you are removing the support from the chips that permit that shape to be maintained.

Consider to construct a wire mesh or steel rod assembly to fit inside the PVC pipe prior to removing the pipe. As you lift the pipe, force the mesh/rod assembly to remain. If the shape of the mesh is appropriate, you would have a chamber to allow the air to flow/escape.

If having something in the place of the PVC is unacceptable, over time, I'd expect that the chips would settle into the void.

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    I compost sawdust and horse poop year round. We have 2 main air pumps that we have to pull when turning the pile or they get crushed by the tractor, even with this mixture having settled for 3 to 6 months the lines were the pipes were usually collapse but the mix is loose. We have tried different methods to ariate the mix to increase the compost rate and pulling the pipes turning or mixing the pile then rebuilding over the pipes has been our best method to breakdown the sawdust in less than 2-1/2 to 3 years to be able to sell it as organic. – Ed Beal Sep 4 '18 at 1:13
  • maybe i should try some sticks down the shaft to keep it open some – a coder Sep 4 '18 at 1:21

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