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Worms can recycle garbage
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In 2006, the U.S. EPA estimated that 55-65 percent of the waste generated in the United States is residential. Most of what we throw away is organic materials that could be vermicomposted, composted, or recycled. Paper and paperboard products account for 34 percent, and food scraps and yard trimmings make up 25 percent (by weight). Worms can turn food scraps into a soil amendment called vermicompost – worm castings – which increases plant growth and reduces attacks by plant diseases and pests. Vermicomposting is easy, involves little work and can be done indoors or outdoors. All you need is a container, bedding, worms and worm food.
Using worms to decompose food waste offers several advantages:
• It reduces household garbage disposal costs
• It produces less odor and attracts fewer pests than putting food wastes into a garbage container
• It saves the water and electricity that kitchen sink garbage disposal units consume
• It produces a free, high-quality soil amendment (compost)
• It requires little space, labor, or maintenance
Worm Bin – Buy a manufactured worm bin or make your own from wood or a plastic storage container. The bin should be a dark color to keep out light, have a tight fitting lid, and be 8-14 inches deep. Drill air holes around the upper sides of the bin: either one 3-inch hole on each end (using a hole-saw) plugged with soffit vents or three ½-inch holes on each wide side spaced 5 inches apart (leave open or glue hardware cloth over holes). Drill six ¼-inch holes in the bottom of the bin for drainage.
Placing the Bin – The ideal temperature for composting worms is between 59 and 77 degrees F. Keep your worm bin indoors or outdoors in the shade. During colder months, the worm bin can be insulated with blankets, straw, blue board or other material to keep it warm. Your worms will survive at temperatures between 32 and 95 degrees if they have at least 4 inches of bedding.
Bedding – This can be a mixture of shredded non-glossy newspaper, office paper or cardboard, brown leaves, finished compost, sawdust, straw, coconut pith fiber or rotted and rinsed horse manure. Put bedding materials in a bucket of water and let it soak for 10 minutes. Wring it out so it is a little wetter than a moist sponge. Fluff it up as you place it into the bin. Fill bin about half full of moist bedding and mix in a handful of soil.
Worms – Not just any type of worm will work for vermicomposting, so do not put worms you find outdoors into your worm bin. Worms most suitable for vermicomposting are called “red wigglers”. Start with one pound (about 1,000) of red wigglers. Worms can be obtained from bait shops, nurseries, or by mail from commercial worm growers; the commercial growers are the most reliable source.
Worm food – Feed the worms vegetables scraps, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, non-citrus fruit scraps and peels, moistened bread and shredded napkins. Do not feed the worms meat, fish, dairy products, citrus fruits, greasy foods, bones, twigs and branches or pet feces. Odorous food like onions should be avoided because it can make the worm bin smell bad. Always cover food with 2 inches of bedding! Wait until food scraps are eaten before adding more.
To learn how to harvest and use vermicompost, please visit
Article provided by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.