Filed under: Food + Health, Waste + Recycling | Tags: chemical-free, compost, fertilizer, food waste, landfill, life-cycle, natural fertilizer, organic waste, trash, vermicompost, waste, worm, worms
My kitchen trashcan stinks. Fruit and vegetable cores, the food that collects on my floor during haphazard meal prep, dinner leftovers too meager to warrant space in the fridge—they mix and mingle with their discarded packaging, together again. What stinks the most is that it all has energy and nutrients it’s ready to share. Instead of fulfilling any real purpose, however, it ends up in my little white wastebasket.
There is an alternative and it comes in the form of our wiggly, slimy worm friends. Vermicomposting, or worm composting, is a way to compost kitchen scraps quickly and effectively, and can be done inside of your home.
When worms get a hold of kitchen scraps, a highly complex chain of chemical, biochemical and biological interactions and reactions occur. The result is nutrient-rich excrement that is a valuable fertilizer. The worms provide an element that ordinary composting cannot. Worm mucous slows the release of nutrients so they won’t wash away when watering. Your Tylenol comes in time-release capsules, and your fertilizer can, too. The worms are also good little trash compactors, reducing waste volume as much as 60 percent.
While recycling nutrients may be as nature intended, I won’t tell you that inviting a pound of worms into your humble home will feel entirely natural. The set-up includes a worm composting bin of some kind. You can order one online or build your own.
I’m not one to trade one stinky problem for another, so the good news is that the worm bin is practically odor-free. The worms actually eat the odor-causing bacteria (not the food). After digesting the material, the worms produce the nutrient-packed end product, or castings. Although it is just a fancy word for poop, castings smell very much like soil or store-bought fertilizer. Little is known about just what makes worm digestion so fortifying.
Because the worms feast on the bacteria, fungi and protozoans that naturally decompose waste, the process is quicker than ordinary composting and the end product is more sterile. However, vermicomposting can be used in addition to, not as a replacement for backyard composting.
It’s kind of a heart-warming (-worming? Too much?) fairy tale: Rumplestilskin spins straw into gold, worms make trash into useful fertilizer. Even if your garden consists of a single houseplant, it beats sending the food scraps to a landfill, where they can’t breakdown and will live inorganically ever after. For more information on vermicomposting, including how-to’s and troubleshooting, visit BeSmart.org.
Check out my Podcast featuring an interview with Recycling Specialist Cassandra Ford about her Can O Worms vermicomposter.
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