Vermicomposting to Reduce Holiday Food Waste


Organic Waste Solutions for Apartments and Condos

With the holiday season here, there is more food and organic waste produced in each household. Since composting in the winter is either limited or non-existent in many apartments and condominiums, what to do with the discarded vegetable matter?

If your city does not provide a green bin that collects food scraps like bones and vegetable food waste, one option would be to visit your city councilor and start an organic waste collection program.

Until it’s that green bin program is in full force, another option would be to try vermicomposting. It’s a way of getting rid of fruit and vegetable waste, bread and grain and some food leftovers (if it doesn’t include citrus or spices.) Sometimes called worm-composting, it is ideal for dwellings that don’t have year-round access to composting.

What is Vermicomposting?

A vermicomposter is a box filled with shredded moist newspaper and red wiggler worms, which use the newspaper as bedding. They live off the food scraps, which when cast from the worms becomes nutrient rich earth. Contrary to many fears, it does not promote vermin infestation nor does it smell if it is maintained properly.

The box is usually kept under a sink, or in a cupboard away from direct heat sources, and does not require exhaustive maintenance. The bedding should be sprayed for moisture and the food scraps provide nutrients. Every now and then, the worm castings – or earth, if you prefer – is separated from the organic material. Worms prefer the dark, and will hide in the bottom of the bin when it’s opened, so there is no fear of the worms escaping and going “free range”.

What Can Go Into a Vermicomposter?

Foods like vegetable peel and fruit rinds (except citrus fruit) can go in. Crushed eggshells, coffee grounds and paper filters can be digested by the worms, and can easily go in to the vermicomposter. Tea bags, melon rinds and plant trimmings can also be added to your vermicomposter.

What Can’t Go Into a Vermicomposter?

Foods that would take longer for the worms to digest, and take much longer to be broken down would result in a rotting smell coming from your worm bin is to be avoided. To make sure the bin is breaking down vegetable matter properly; don’t put the following foods stuff into it:

Meat Products:

  • Beef
  • Chicken and poultry
  • Fish
  • Luncheon meats (cold cuts)
  • Pork

Grease, Fat and Oil:

  • Butter, margarine
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salad dressing
  • Vegetable oils

Dairy Products:

  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Table cream
  • Whipping cream, oil-based whipped topping (Cool Whip)
  • Yogurt
  • Kafir
  • Sour cream

Citrus Fruit:

  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Pineapple
  • Grapefruit
  • Pomelo

Worms’ sensitive bodies are burned by citric acid, often found in citrus rind and pineapple. The same principle applies to spicy food, like chilli peppers, jalapenos, or other hot peppers and spices. Adding lemon and chilli-flavoured pasta leftovers to your worm bin may just kill off all the worms.

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