Since I keep worm bins I’m always on the lookout for worm food. This means I anticipate junk mail. Those envelopes and circulars I used to dread are fodder for the shredder and then, nirvana for the worms.
Working in the kitchen I protectively guard the food scraps, no matter how tiny. Mixed together with the paper scraps and moistened, they make the perfect worm meal. Peelings, egg shells, coffee grinds, tea bags, anything left in the refrigerator produce drawer too long. Oh, the worms especially love those tea bags.
This material I collect is taken to the greenhouse and divied up between the three bins. The worms are like little machines, eating every day and always needing more fuel. Walking across the school campus I scuff up fallen leaves, carry armloads back to the greenhouse. Opening a package that arrives in the mail, I anticipate how the worms will enjoy that cardboard.
Red wriggler worms kept in a bin are an intimate form of recycling. The super rich castings they produce make natural fertilizer for gardens and potted plants. The verdant green growth of the happy plants makes the process obviously worthwhile.
What about the recyclables we put out at the curb for city pick up? A recent report titled New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics indicates most recycling programs are not so successful, particularly in the case of plastics. While 58% of paper gets a new use, only 5% of plastics are recycled. Worse, 32% of plastic escapes the waste collection system entirely, and much of it ends up in oceans.
The use of plastic has exploded in modern times. Plastic production worldwide was 15 million metric tons* in 1964, and 311 million metric tons in 2014. If this trend continues the weight of plastic in our oceans will exceed all fish by 2050.
Just for fun, let’s review the time it takes for various items we buy, use and discard daily to decompose in a landfill. Plastic bag: 10-20 years, aluminum can: 80-200 years, plastic container (think yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese): 400-500 years, disposable diaper: 550 years, monofilament fishing line: 600 years. Styrofoam does not ever go away.
On the other hand, a biodegradable food container decomposes in 2-12 weeks. That’s something a bin full of worms could also take care of for you.
*A metric ton = 2,204.6 lbs