Reduce food waste with a wormery

Filed in Blog by on March 21, 2011 18 Comments
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Stacking wormery - ideal for small amounts of food waste

Stacking wormery - ideal for small amounts of food waste

We get lots of questions about food waste here at zero waste towers. Many people can avoid cooked food waste altogether and have adopted my mantra of ‘it’s not leftovers, it’s ingredients!’ but for families with young children, cooked food waste can be a daily problem.

If you do not have kerbside food waste collections, there are three systems you can use at home to help you get rid of food waste – a wormery, Green Cone or bokashi bin.

Here are some of the most common questions we’ve been asked about wormeries. On Wednesday we’ll cover bokashi bins.

What is a wormery?

A wormery consists of stacking trays with special worms inside. You add food scraps and other organic household items such as shredded paper and cardboard and the worms turn it into vermicompost and ‘liquid gold’; both of which can be used on the garden or house plants.

Can you put cooked food into a wormery?

You can add small amounts of cooked food including meat, fish and dairy.

How long does a wormery take to break things down?

In my experience, wormeries are quite slow except in the height of summer and for our family of three there is no way they can eat the amount of fresh fruit and veg peelings we get through in a day. However, for getting rid of the odd bit of cooked food they are effective and lots of fun for children to take care of!

Is there anything you shouldn’t put in a wormery?

Worms don’t tend to like citrus fruits or anything from the onion family. If you put potato peelings in these can sprout – this isn’t harmful but not exactly what you want!. Obviously you cannot put non organic materials such as plastic in there…

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About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth’s fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (18)

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  1. LJayne says:

    I have a wormery and I love it :). Over the winter it has been in a corner of my kitchen and I’ve found by doing that it has kept up a better rate of dealing with the waste. If we do get a bit behind then I separate off all the fruit & veg peelings for the compost bin and we soon get back on track.

    I know from harvesting my first compost that the worms are breeding well so we must have the balance right. It is good to add brown matter – just like it is to compost – so I collect all my financially sensitive information, shred it, soak it in water and add that to them as well!

    I also have a green cone but I’m rather disappointed with that. It doesn’t work anywhere near as efficiently as I was led to believe it would, even though we installed it very carefully as per the instructions.

  2. CarSue says:

    At the recycling center where I work, we have a small worm bin to deal with scraps from our kitchenette. The worms are busy little things, and can happily keep up with a few banana peels, apple cores, and tomato ends each week. I have found that it helps to let the peelings sit and soften up for a few days, so I collect scraps in an empty coffee tin, and then put them after they’ve started to soften. It definitely helps to have plenty of worms, and I think between 2 and 3 thousand is bare minimum in a standard commercially available bin like the one you have pictured.

    Helpful information, Mrs. G.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I love my work farm ( as they are called here in Australia) I love seeing how busy they are and I get a real sense of satisfaction as put my scraps in for them to much on. I have even been know to blend the scraps at times so they get a good ‘soft” mix. I realised I dont actually know how they eat the food. They don’t have teeth do they. so how do they do it ?

  4. Stephanie says:

    I meant ” worm farm” though it must be like a work farm for them. Don’t write comments without your reading lasses.

  5. Mrs Green says:

    @LJayne: What is the soil like where the green cone is situation? From my research they are pretty fussy about having well draining soil. Sounds like your worms are very happy though!

    @CarSue: Great advice on the quantity of worms and about letting things semi rot before adding them – I’ve certainly found the latter to be true.

    @Stephanie: 😀 Blended food for your worms to suck; how cute is that! Your worms sound very pampered. Here’s a great kiddies page on how worm chew! http://urbanext.illinois.edu/worms/anatomy/anatomy9.html

  6. LJayne says:

    It’s not brilliant Mrs G but there are very detailed instructions about digging your hole and pouring in water and timing to see how long it takes to drain away etc., and then possibly doing various other things based on that…. which we followed…..

    My hubby is recommending we dig it out and move it although that’s not an attractive option really since it isn’t working properly!

  7. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for the info on how worms “eat” Fascinating

  8. Beth says:

    I have a worm farm. If you see a large drop off in productivity during the winter, make sure the box is in a warm location and is moist enough inside – that can make all the difference. A large colony can consume a ton, but they need pretty consistent conditions to get there. An added plus, my plants love the castings from it!

  9. Jannet says:

    I have a worm bin(in a sheltered part of the garden) and this winter I wrapped it in bubble wrap.It seems to have worked quite well-the worms have been more active than in previous winters. I have a wooden compost bin in the garden but as it’s open rodents can be a problem and foxes tend to get any egg shells out and strew them across the lawn. I therefore put any cooked food waste + tasty veg peelings (eg potato) in the worm bin. Like others I also give them shredded paper so it doesn’t get too soggy.

  10. Jane says:

    I have two wormeries. The first one is a large wheelie bin type and the second bought more than five years later is a round layered one. The layered ones are much much easier to deal with in my opinion. However I am about to donate them both to a local school as I hardly use them now because for the last five years we have had a food waste collection and we make so little waste nowadays. I would now like to move on to a worm cafe which is rectangular and will fit more neatly into my very small garden. My first wormery was the best ever Christmas present from my Dad who listened to me. My husband ignored my request for one!

  11. Stephanie says:

    We wil be moving from Australia to France in the near future and I want a worm farm there. I have a round one at the moment, like Jane. I love it. But a rectangular one would be good.Where do you buy them in the UK and how much are they approx?
    We buy our worms in boxes at the hardware chain here. its called Bunnings. Does anyone have any experience of wormeries in France and where they get their worms from . Where do the UK people buy their worms? And can they be sent to France? I like the idea of the bubble wrap idea too. I was wondering how to keep the little suckers cosy warm in a French winter. Not a problem here. why back to Europe? Because I am step mother to two great step kids who live in the UK ( we are from there originally) and now we are having lovely grandchildren too. So my husband wants to be nearer the kids and grand kids. I am trying to see it as a grand adventure. I am just about succeeding!!

  12. Mrs Green says:

    @LJayne: Seems you did everything right then – have you contacted the manufacturer?

    @Beth: thanks for the tips Beth; A ton is amazing!!

    @Jannet: I think using both a traditional compost bin and a wormery is the answer to dealing with all sorts of waste. As you point out, there are some things which are more likely to attract vermin to the compost heap…

    @Jane: We have a rectangular one and it fits to well into corners. But yes, if you have food collections, there is no need for a wormery really.

    @Stephanie: Ours is from Wiggly Wigglers and is this one: http://www.wigglywigglers.co.uk/shop/product.html?product_id=1316&s=worm-cafe-with-value-pack&-session=shopper:5105817207e9b12828NKFFA9E0F9 It’s over £100, but once you have it the costs are minimal. Again we buy the worms from Wiggly Wigglers too – not sure if they ship to France. Good luck with the move and I hope you and your family will be happily reunited 🙂

  13. Jane says:

    Many UK Councils subsidise composters and wormeries. Check out yours to find out as it may be just the incentive you need for yourself or someone else! Not all Councils do though and mine does composters and not wormeries when I’ve been a huge fan of wormeries for a long while. A lot of thanks here go to Wiggly Wigglers and the help they gave me initially with the more complicated one which doesn’t have layers. It is great to be able to ask questions and get answers when you are worrying that something isn’t right with what you are doing to make sure that all goes well and is successful with your wormery.

    I’ve seen composters reduced to as little as £5 on a Council website. So do question your Local Authority. Some Local Authorities also give out free or subsidised compost. Ours did before a change in contracts. Water butts are sometimes subsidised by the Water Companies. Check yours out and shop around! Now is the time to be getting out into the garden and growing things.

  14. Stephanie says:

    Is a composter the same as a compost bin ?What sort are we talking about? The square black ones?

  15. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Good reminder Jane; I often forget that some councils offer generous subsidies.

    @Stephanie: Not sure I understand your question, Stephanie; sorry! ON this page we’re talking about wormeries which is a specific type of composting called vermicomposting. A composter is the same as a compost bin to me, but it could be a matter of perception….

  16. Stephanie says:

    @Mrs Green: Hi Jane says on March 24th “’Ive seen composters reduced to as little as £5 on a Council website.” I know this site is about wormeries but that sentence made me wonder hat the difference is between a composter and a compost bin as we dont use the terminilogy “composter”. Its a question of language I think. Some common words in UK english mean different things in australian english for example a bank card means 2 different things ( And now I can never remember which means what as I get them mixed up) But I digress. a composter is one of those black or green bins you put compost in is it?

  17. Mrs Green says:

    @Stephanie: Ah, I see. Yes a composter is one of the black or green bins for your compost 🙂

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