The University Record, September 3, 1996

Program recycles lunch waste for Grounds and Waste Management

Bill Kronberg (left) and Roderick Green place food waste into the composting bin.

Photo by Erica Spiegel



From Grounds and Waste Management

Staff in the Grounds and Waste Management lunchroom no longer throw their garbage into the trash can. Instead, they compost their food wastes in a bin with the help of a pound and a half of worms. Using worms for composting---or vermicomposting---is an environmentally sound method of disposal of vegetative food wastes. An estimated three to five pounds of garbage are diverted from the landfill each week by the system.

The worm bin, a covered plastic box, holds a pound and a half of red worms, or Eisenia foetida, a smaller variety of the typical nightcrawlers found outside. Red worms are preferred for vermicomposting because they process large amounts of organic material and reproduce quickly in a confined environment.

The worms live on a steady diet of banana peels, apple cores, coffee grounds and other vegetative leftovers from employee lunches and snacks. Shredded newspapers serve as bedding material for the worms and help promote air flow through the bin. Each day, food wastes are buried under the paper. Periodically, water is sprayed in the bin to keep the paper and worms moist. The worms eat the food waste, and their castings produce a rich soil-like compost material that can be used on plants or gardens.

Recycling Coordinator Erica Spiegel hopes that other departments will try out worm bins in their areas. "Although the system requires very little maintenance," she says, "it's critical that one or two people take responsibility for its contents to prevent any potential problems."

Waste Management Services will supply the kit with all of the necessary items. The ideal location is a lunchroom or kitchenette that serves 10-15 people. If your department is interested in participating, contact Spiegel at 763-5539 or ericas@umich.edu.