The humble worm, often overlooked in nature yet could it hold the key to reducing landfill and sustainable waste management?
One-third of food produced globally is wasted every year, in a starving planet this is simply not right. Not only is it bad for the environment and draining resources, food waste is affecting the economy as Americans alone spend $165 billion dollars a year managing waste. In a sustainable society reuse and recycling is key and therein lies the key to our waste issue; vermicomposting. Michelle McCarthy owner of Wonder Wormin’ Vermicomposting Systems claims this simple but effective method can transform half of an average household waste and keep it from landfill.
Vermicomposting was first introduced in 1941 by George Oliver Sheffield, it is an efficient method of turning kitchen waste and small amounts of garden waste into nutrient-rich compost and concentrated liquid fertilizer. The process can also be applied to the treatment of sewage sludge. The process does not involve the ordinary earthworm, but instead tiger worms (Eisenia foetida) are preferred due to their surface dwelling nature and ability to double in population size every month or so. Tiger worms are known under other various common names such as redworm, brandling worm, panfish worm, trout worm, and red wiggler worm . The worm castings (poop) produced are like gold for the soil, containing five times as much nitrogen and eleven times as much potassium than ordinary soil thus fuelling plant growth and fertility
How can you do it yourself?
There are many conditions required to optimise worm activity and reproduction. If there is no food or bedding present and populations are too high in the bin, they will not be able to breed. In the correct damp, warm, aerated environment 1000 worms can produce 32,000 worms in just six months. It is also important to drain excess liquid produced, this is also known as ‘worm tea’ and is a useful garden fertiliser. If the liquid is left in the bin it will create unfavourable conditions as well as odour reducing productivity of the worms.
There are many different types of bin available depending on the size of the vermicompost you want to produce. The simplest is a plastic storage tub with drainage holes and this is most suitable to indoor conditions due to the difficulty in regulating temperature and drainage. A more advanced method is a stacking tray system operating on the theory that worms follow food. Bedding and worms are added to a bottom tray with food scraps and once this is converted to compost worms will search for a new food source in the top tray. This tray contains fresh bedding and worms wriggle through holes in the bottom to reach it.
Key Features of a Worm Bin
Warmth – worm activity is greatest between 18-25°C and declines about 30°C or below 8°C.
Shelter – an area where it does not get too cold in winter or hot in summer, such as under a tarp or in a shed.
Neutral pH – alkaline conditions with good aeration are necessary as acidity or water-logging restricts worm air supply.
Moist Bedding layer – created from old compost and forms a humid layer for burrowing and digesting food.
Food supply – this can be raw or cooked vegetables (except garlic, citrus peel, oil and meat), tea bags, eggshells, bread and small amounts of newspaper and garden waste.
At Green-Books.org it is our mission to educate Indonesian children on the natural systems that make life on earth possible and inspire them to live sustainably. We are embracing vermicomposting and coming up with ingenious ways to produce composting systems using rup-cycled materials such as plastic bottles and paint tubs. We will then introduce these to local communities via fun Eco-activities so they can sustainably manage their waste. Help us achieve our goal by sharing online and making a donation here .
Author: Holly McElroy