Each year, the United States generates 34 million tons of food waste. This enormous number is only third to paper and yard waste generated in the municipal solid waste system. The average American wastes more than half a pound of food per day, which is over 180 pounds of food every year per each person living in the United States!Not only is this a waste of money, but it also contributes to the excess of product in landfills. Although there are many people who would like to compost, this becomes difficult when living in the city and apartment buildings especially in times of inclement weather.
Vermicomposting, or composting using earthworms, solves many of these issues involved with city living. One of the main fallacies I hear with worm compost bins are that they smell and are difficult to care for, both of which are false statements. The bin in my kitchen is small, fits on a bookshelf, and takes care of all of the vegetable scraps for one person. A larger one may be used for more people and can easily fit under a table, the sink, or in any of multiple places, as long as they are in a reasonable indoor temperature (60-75 degrees) and are in a generally dark area.
Starting your own bin is easy too. Bins can be made of wood or plastic, or from old recycled containers that have tops on them. You will also need to create bedding that will serve as a place for the worms to live in and also as food. The bedding will contain a mixture of peat moss, coir (shredded coconut husk), coffee grounds, shredded newspaper, and crushed eggshells. This bedding will only be a starting point though and you will need to add more food waste in order to give the worms the nutrients they need. After you retain a healthy environment, you may only need to feed your worms once a week or less. Keep the bedding moist but not wet and turn the pile every once in a while if it becomes too packed. Be sure not to feed your worms any meat, salt, oil, or anything made from dairy products.
For more information on vermicomposting, check out this handy .pdf from the University of New Mexico’s Extension service.
OR check out Neil Cunningham’s blog. Neil offers classes on vermicomposting and even will start you off with a basic bin, like the one shown below.