What is composting?
- Composting is a natural biological process where decomposers break down organic materials such as leaves, grass clippings, and food wastes.
- The end product is a dark rich substance called humus or compost.
- While composting occurs naturally, the process can be accelerated with human involvement.
- Eliminate waste from entering a landfill. According to the EPA, "Municipal Solid Waste Discarded in 2010," yard trimmings and food residuals make up 27 percent of the US municipal solid waste stream. Most, if not all of that 27% could be composted, thus creating more space in a landfill.
- Create nutrient rich compost to be used in yards and garden a Natural Fertilizer
- Compost contains nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous as well as secondary nutrients such as calcium, that are necessary for plant growth, photosynthesis, seed development, and disease prevention.
- Plants can absorb the nutrients from compost easier than those from chemical fertilizers.
Why compost with worms?
- Worms are busy recyclers. They break down organic matter -- stuff like dead plants
- Create valuable nutrients necessary for rich and fertile soil... CASTINGS or worm poop
- Good for composting on a small scale
- No yard required. The worm bin can be placed indoors and so is a great idea for an apartment, condo, or classroom (The bin cannot be in a location that will freeze or overheat)
- Not dependent on the weather. In the winter it is not necessary to tromp through the snow to carry food scraps to a compost bin in the middle of the yard
What kind of worms?
- All worms eat dead things, but some are better composters than others.
- Redworms, or Eisenia fetida (I SEE nee a FET id a) are excellent composters:
- o Processes material fast
- o Are fast reproducers
- o Tolerate a wide range of temperatures, acidity, and moisture conditions
- o Withstand handling; can be shipped by mail or delivery service
What to feed the worms?
- All vegetative matter, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds, bread, corn flakes, and crushed egg shells.
- No meat, dairy or oily/greasy food.
- Worms eat easier if food is cut into small pieces.
What type of worm bin should I use?
This depends on how much money you want to spend, or how much work you are willing to invest in the project.
- Store bought worm bins will cost more upfront, but in most cases should be easier to harvest the compost.
- Homemade bins are much cheaper, but will involve more work when harvesting the compost. Although more work is involved, building the bin gives kids a sense of ownership.
- Click here for Westmoreland Cleanways' directions to build your own bin
- Click here for Westmoreland Cleanways' "Worm Bin Factsheet"
For questions about vermicomposting, contact Natalie by email or call 724-879-4020.
Interesting worm facts:
- Redworms produce eggs in cocoons that hatch in about three weeks
- Redworms have five hearts
- Redworms can live four to five years
- Redworms do not have eyes, but are very sensitive to light
The Worm Bin is a popular tool for getting students interested in the environment. Young learners have the opportunity to make observations and gain respect for living organisms. Older students can focus on the biology involved in decomposition and plant nutrient levels.
Westmoreland Cleanways maintains two worm bins for use in schools. This can consist solely of a presentation or can include care of the bin for up to a month. Students feed the redworms vegetable scraps, fruit peeling and bread from their lunches and watch the worms digest these materials and produce worm castings (compost). Contact Natalie by email or call 724-879-4020 for more information or to schedule a presentation.
For other educational programs, make sure to look at our Speakers Bureau page.