New York City residents produce 12,000 tons of trash every day. Not only does this waste need to be trucked to distant landfills, but unmanaged decay or organic waste produces the greenhouse gas methane. Composting is a sustainable way to use natural biological processes to reduce your impact on the environment by decreasing the volume of waste your household contributes to landfills and returning important nutrients to the soil. There are many places where NYC residents can drop off their household waste for composting but composting can also be done at home, even in a small apartment.
For those interested in home composting, worm composting is an easy and efficient method that requires little space and few materials. The redworm (sometimes called a red wiggler) feeds on food scraps and organic waste and converts it into an efficient and environmentally friendly soil amendment called ‘vermicompost’.
A vermicompost station can be set up in any plastic, wood or glass container. A good starter size would be around 18” x 12” x 8,” though shallow containers are preferable as the worms tend to live only in the top six inches. Bedding, made of moist newspaper strips or leaves, will hold moisture and contain air spaces essential to worms. Worms are available for sale many places on line and live in the compost box feeding on organic garbage such as vegetables, grains and even eggshells. Within a matter of weeks you will notice your old garbage disappearing and useful vermicompost taking its place.
Contrary to what some may think, it is easy to keep a vermicompost station clean and odorless. Using the proper organic waste and burying it well in the bedding prevents any foul odors. Lining the inside of your box with plastic is a good way to keep your home clean. You should avoid meats and cooked food in order to avoid odors or any other unwelcome pests. Your container’s lid should be kept loose and plastic containers should have several small holes cut into the sides in order to allow in fresh air to enter the system.
The worms reproduce and die frequently, keeping your supply of worms at a relatively constant, self-sustained level. They have a short lifespan, but decompose rapidly along with the rest of the food scraps and, as such, it is not necessary to remove dead worms. Simple maintenance will help keep the system healthy; spray water mist to maintain moisture, fluffing to ensure proper aeration, and adding new bedding and food as needed. Within a few months, the compost can be carefully harvested and used as a soil amendment for your plants or garden.
For more information on how to set up your own vermicompost station and where to buy the necessary components, feel free to check out the resources below: