When it comes to waste reduction, it’s fair to say that most Canadians have adopted recycling as part of their everyday waste disposal routine. Blue bin programs are commonplace around towns and cities, bottles are easy enough to recycle or donate, and there are convenient places to drop off your batteries. It’s also fair to say that most Canadians overlook a big part of our waste composition, food, and the fact that we can actually recycle it.
Many people believe that you need to be an extreme gardener, have a reasonable amount of space, and a lot of time to compost at home. While this certainly can be the case, there are other options. It’s time to break down, or dare I say decompose, our misguided beliefs and get into the nitty gritty of composting; more specifically, vermicomposting.
What is Vermicomposting?
Vermicomposting uses red wiggler worms to decompose organic household wastes into a useful soil conditioner. So, instead of throwing the majority of your food waste into the garbage (and off to the landfill), you feed it to the worms.
You need to set up a place to house the worms and the resulting compost. Pick a location that works for you — kitchen, storage room, garage, basement … the only requirement is the temperature needs to stay between 10 and 25°C. Once you decide on where, you can decide on how big. Worm composts can be built to fit almost any space. Because they can be made relatively small, they are a great option for beginners or small spaces.
Essentially, all that is required is a container (50L Tupperware containers work great!) with air holes in the lid, red wiggler worms (ordered online or at a gardening store), and bedding for the worms (a mix of shredded newspaper and/or unfertilized potting soil).
After you get your worms settled in their new home, it’s time to start feeding them. Kitchen scraps such as fruit peels and cores, vegetable trimmings, tea bags, and coffee grounds and filters can all be broken down by the worms. You can expect to feed the worms about once per week (this may change as time goes on). A great way to save your scraps and reduce the risk of smell is to freeze scraps in between feedings.
Why is vermicomposting a great option?
Vermicomposts are, overall, less labour intensive than other composting methods. You won’t be turning piles every other day to aerate and regulate temperature since the worms do this for you. There’s no requirement to stockpile materials for layering; materials can pretty much be added continually. Ideal conditions can process waste very quickly, as opposed to cold composting, which can take up to one year to yield results. As mentioned above, size is probably one of the biggest advantages to vermicomposting; it really can be done anywhere: apartments/condos, schools, offices, decks/balconies, yards.
A few tips for you to digest:
- Vermicomposting does require less work than other methods, but the worms do require a minimal amount of care and attention to keep things running smoothly, and they will need to be separated from the compost in order to remove and use it.
- Seeds will not be broken down completely, so composting weeds may result in them popping up where you spread your compost.
- Pineapple will kill your worms, and citrus fruit peelings and coffee grounds should only make up 1/5 of your worm food.
- Avoid putting dairy, oils and meat in your compost since they can create very strong odours.
What to do with that “black gold” at the bottom of your bin.
Compost isn’t just for those with carefully curated vegetable gardens, although many gardeners will happily take your compost off your hands.
Your potted indoor and outdoor plants will benefit from a nice layer of compost, as will your lawn. Compost makes a great base layer of mulch for shrubs and trees.
If you really get into the swing of things, and have enough leftover, you could consider offering it to local schools and businesses that maintain their own flowerbeds.
There are many different ways to compost food waste, so make sure you aren’t too quick to throw in the towel if the first one you try isn’t for you.
A little investigating and experimentation can be fun, and the benefits of a successful composting bin are plentiful—not only do you help the environment by reducing landfill waste, you get to see the (decomposed) fruits of your labour and get in touch with nature, something us urbanites can sometimes lose sight of.
You can find many detailed instructions on how to set-up and maintain a vermicomposting bin that meets your needs. A great resource for getting started can be found here.
About The Author
Serial Entrepreneur, Technologist and Inventor my objective is to develop useful products that have a net positive effect in the lives of those that use them and the environment that we live in. CEO of Mission LED Lighting Company Ltd.
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