Composting With Worms (Vermicomposting)
Vermicomposting both diverts waste from the landfill and creates nutrient rich compost for your plants. And it's easy to get started!
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In order to combat food waste, people are putting nature to work. More specifically, they are putting some red wiggly creatures to work: worms.
Vermicomposting uses earthworms to break down organic waste. It is a low-maintenance way to make a positive impact by reducing the amount of food waste sent to landfills. Vermicomposting is also faster than traditional composting methods, requires less space, and produces little odor. The result? Rich nutrient-packed fertilizer perfect for your plants.
Vermicomposting both diverts waste from the landfill and creates nutrient rich compost for your plants.
Image by Scott Sporleder
The worms used in vermicomposting are earthworms (typically Eisenia foetida or Lumbriscus rubellus), also known as redworms, red wigglers, or manure worms.
Earthworms are enthusiastic eaters; a pound of worms can eat about ½ a pound of food scraps each day. Luckily redworms are self regulating; they know when their population has reached maximum capacity and will stop producing offspring.
Furthermore, the transition from traditional composting to vermicomposting is simple. Worms will eat any organic waste used in traditional composting, such as vegetables, fruits, eggshells, and shredded garden waste.
Don’t Toss Me Out!
Coffee grounds can also be used in vermicomposting and actually help enhance the quality of vermicompost as opposed to only using kitchen scraps. Worms especially like melons and pumpkin. Just be sure to keep an eye on the quality of your soil and adjust accordingly.
If you need a little convincing before allowing red wrigglers into your home, consider this information.
• The average American generates 4.3 pounds of waste every day, an increase of 1.6 pounds from 1960.
• Much of this waste is food waste, scraps leftover from dinner or a head of lettuce forgotten in the back of the fridge.
• Food waste makes its way to landfills, taking up valuable space and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the decomposition of uneaten food accounts for 23% of all methane emissions in the United States, 90% of which are from food scraps.
• Methane, a greenhouse gas produced by improper decomposition, has a 25 times higher impact on climate change than carbon dioxide.
To put this into perspective, a report from the UK estimates that “if food scraps were removed from landfills...the level of greenhouse gas abatement would be equivalent to removing one-fifth of all the cars in the country from the road.” Cue vermicomposting, a simple low maintenance solution to a big problem.
While vermicomposting is a viable way to reduce food waste at a household level, the best solution is even more simple: reduce consumption. Minimizing or eliminating unnecessary purchasing at the source ensures that waste will never be created. We encourage you to both practice meal planning when going grocery shopping and also practice vermicomposting with unavoidable kitchen scraps.
Whether you are enthusiastic or hesitant to start vermicomposting, you may have some questions about this practice.
The Ecology Center has the answers and the right tools for you!