Estimates indicate that roughly 30% of the waste found in landfills is organic (food and plant material). With this in mind, composting offers a viable solution to reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills. On its own, this would not necessarily be enough to make composting worthwhile. However, the compost that’s produced at the end of the process helps replace fertilizer in the garden. With an initial investment of $35, vermicomposting (composting with worms) is a low cost option that yields both compost and more worms over its lifetime.
About six months ago I spent $10 (US) on a Rubbermaid container and $25 on a pound of red wiggler worms. I had been collecting food waste for a few months and storing it in my freezer. After having completed the Master Composter program (PDF) through Denver Urban Gardens, I was ready to take on composting at home. Incidentally, there are two main types of composting: vermicomposting and compost piles or bins located outside.
After six months of housing the worm bin in the storage unit in the underground garage of my building, I started to realize the difficulty in maintaining a working compost bin. The worms do their job without fail. In fact, they reproduce and consume even greater amounts of food waste as time progresses. However, harvesting the mature compost (i. e. worm poop or worm castings) in a confined space by separating out the castings from the worms and partially undigested material proved exceedingly tricky. In addition, the underground space, while relatively moderate in temperature, still reached temperatures that bordered on too cold for the survival and production of the worms.
The six month experiment may come to an end shortly. Working at a school allows me the opportunity to bring the bin into a classroom as an educational tool. By utilizing the school setting, the worms can stay inside where the temperature remains more moderate (20 degrees Celsius, 68 degrees Fahrenheit). In addition, they will serve as a curricular component and school wide model of how to better deal with our organic waste.
Check back in a few days for a look at outdoor composting.