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I [heart] Davids · Worm Bin

Worm Bin

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Growing up, my dad would always drain the hamburger meat over the sink, running hot water to help keep the grease flowing down the pipes. This should have been the evidence we needed to realize that grease does not belong in the drain pipes. When the grease gets further down the pipes and the hot water stops flowing, the grease solidifies, narrowing the pipes and creating a surface on which other solids can get caught.

According to the 2008-2009 Wastewater Collection and Treatment System Report (WCTSR), the City of Raleigh experienced 56 sanitary sewer overflows. Twenty-one percent of these overflows were a result of grease. Sewer overflows occur when problems in the system cause sewage to come out of manhole covers, service cleanouts or plumbing fixtures. Gross!

So, when tempted to pour grease down the sink, choose another option such as pouring it into an empty can or jar and then dispose of it in the garbage. Alternatively, Raleigh has just announced a new Curbside Grease Collection Pilot Program that will start on November 1st. Learn more about it!

While we’re on the subject of sewer overflows, it’s worth mentioning that 30% of the sewer overflows experienced last year were a result of debris. The WCTSR describes debris as “such items as rags, flushable wipes, sticks, rocks, feminine hygiene products, etc., all of which are illegal to discharge into the sanitary sewer system.”

According to this 2005 N&O article, “it is illegal to introduce (that’s polite sanitary sewer system lingo for flush, drop or pour) anything besides human waste, toilet tissue and used water into the sewer system. That means nothing, not even food scraps or this morning’s bacon grease, is supposed to go down any household drain, toilet or garbage disposal.”

Do you use the toilet as a trashcan, tossing toilet tissue and Kleenex indiscriminately in there? Or do you use those so-called “flushable” wipes or, heaven forbid, flush sanitary napkins or tampons down the toilet? Bad idea. The wastewater treatment system is not designed to handle debris like this. Learn more about Raleigh’s recent ban on flushing “flushable wipes” in this May 2009 N&O article.

This EPA sponsored video helps you understand how non-flushable items behave and the effects they can have on our environment.

With that in mind, here are some general guidelines for your household:

  • Collect grease in a container and dispose of it in the garbage.
  • Never flush food scraps down the toilet or kitchen sink garbage disposal. Place food scraps in waste containers or garbage bags for disposal with solid waste, or start a compost pile or vermicompost bin.
  • Place a wastebasket in the bathroom to dispose of solid waste, including facial tissue, cotton balls, flushable wipes, disposable diapers, condoms and personal hygiene products.


Well, the last of them is out the door and gone.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve given away the contents of my worm bins to several people. One fella was retired, quite nice, and made off with a bin full of worms and compost. He seemed pretty excited. Another woman harvested the compost for herself, kept a handful of worms for a mini-bin, and brought me back most of the worms. Then I set up a friend with a bin and worms so she can get her own bin started.

I decided after about 4 or 5 years that it was time for a break. It’s been so hectic around here, I barely have time to look after myself, much less the worms. They did not get a lot of love over the previous 12 months. Also, I felt like our crawlspace needed a break, too. The moth problem was annoying and I never could seem to break the cycle. Perhaps having no food source for a year will rid us of the little buggers.

So, that’s it for a little while for me and vermicomposting. I am happy to have made this decision, and to have come to it on my own. I fully intend to go back to it, maybe when Henry is a little older and can help us feed the worms!

I was given the opportunity to tour the Sonoco Recycling Facility in east Raleigh this past week. It was great, a good learning experience and really neat to boot.

Raleigh has switched to a “single stream” recycling program. That means that instead of sorting all your materials at the curb and putting those materials into different bins within the truck, you can mix all your items together and they get transported to the recycling facility mixed together. This is a cost-savings measure for the city of Raleigh as it means they can use less sophisticated waste pickup trucks, and the pickup crews can move faster and more efficiently. I also think that more people will be likely to recycle because now it should take less work to recycle.

The impact of comingling recycling materials is that once it arrives at the MRF (materials recovery facility), it then all must be separated. That’s what we learned about in our tour of the facility. I tried to document in pictures and videos. It is really an amazing process and watching these people in action makes me want to work harder to keep contaminants out of my recycling bin.

A few tips I learned while I was there.

  • Trash doesn’t belong in the recycling bin. There are people who have to pull it out by hand if you put trash with the recycleables in your bin.
  • Follow Raleigh’s easy-to-use list of acceptable materials when selecting items for recycling.
  • The biggest contaminate to the recycling stream are plastic clamshell packages and plastic bags, neither of which is recycleable.

Ready for our tour!

To see the pictures and video of my tour, read the rest of the article.
Read the rest of this entry »

This week I got to do something really fun. I found out that the City of Raleigh’s Recycling folks were sponsoring a vermicomposting workshop so I asked if I could help out. They accepted my offer so I showed up with worm bins in tow Tuesday evening. Bianca, who works in Education for the City, was running the workshop. She’s a really neat person who introduced me to worms several years ago at a composting workshop. (Thanks Bianca!)

Here she is teaching the class.
Getting the poop on worms

She asked me to talk to the class for a bit and we ended up teaching the rest of the class together. It’s so much fun to teach people about worms and answer their questions. A dozen or more people left that night with worm bins prepared to get started vermicomposting. Woot!!

Worm Bin Fun

I’ve just created my fourth worm-obsessed friend! My boss and his wife came over today. She and I harvested my worm bins while he assisted. She took all the castings for her gardens and over half the worms so she can start her own worm bin. She’s so excited and just adorable when she talks about her worms. I am delighted because I have “like new” worm bins in half the time. Everybody wins. 🙂

Look what Sean got me for my birthday:
New Lid for Worm Bin

It is a super cool new style lid to go on my existing worm bin. I really wanted this new lid for my worm bin, and he got it for me. Hooray!!

Thanks, Sean!!

Yay!! Wormy Shirt

Look what Sean gave me:
Wormy Tshirt

And he was nice enough to deliver it to me. How cool is that? I’m am SO wearing this on Fun T-Shirt Friday!

I finally snapped some pictures of the mystery larvae that’s in my worm bin. Can you identify it? It’s not listed in any “common worm bin critters” references. Wicked looking, aren’t they? They are less than a centimeter long.

Here is a video of the little critters movin’. They did not like sitting in the hot sun. I never have felt them (intentionally) so I don’t know if they’re as pokey as they look.

And here’s another mystery creature. Any idea what these are? Perhaps this is the fruit fly that’s been driving me mad. Don’t let the close-up fool you. This guy is less than one centimeter long.

Saturday I spent about 7 hours harvesting my worm bins. I tried out the new harvester-screener that Sean and I had built. Here are my thoughts about the screener:

  • Castings need to be fairly dry for this to work well. I found I could achieve a good level of dryness by leaving the bins out in the sun for a little while before screening them.
  • The outside dimension of the screener was good because it fit nicely over the Rubbermaid collection tub.
  • I would like a smaller screening area. The wide screening area provided just too much room and seemed to make a larger mess.
  • I would like higher sides – again, I found myself making a mess because worm dirt kept bouncing over the sides when I shook the screener.

Sean found that the screener worked pretty well, but I think part of the reason is that he doesn’t give the worms as much “challenging” food as I do. I had plenty of undigested paperboard, squash seeds, and the woody parts of vegetables.

The other part of this story is that I decided, once I got started, that the best way to tackle my fruit fly infestation would be to start my bins over. So, I needed to separate my worms from everything, not just the castings.

I wound up with about two pounds of recovered worms from all my bins plus one pound of worms for Jenny. That doesn’t count all the worms that didn’t get separated. I have an 18 gallon Rubbermaid that is about 1/3 full of beautiful, rich castings, and another 18 gallon Rubbermaid that is about half full of partially composted food and who knows how many worms. Lastly, I have a small kitchen garbage bag about half full of partially composted food, lots of shredded paper, and more unharvested worms. I am hoping that Jenny can take this bag because I think she has a compost pile. Otherwise, it goes in the trash.

Once I harvested everything, I used the hose to pressure wash all of the parts of the bins very well. I started two new bins with lots of newly shredded, fluffy paper and half of the worms in each bin. I started both my Worm Factory bin and the OSCR Jr style bin.

My clever buddy Sean and I were interested in buying or building a harverster for our worm bins. We debated buying this expensive tumbler harvester and splitting the cost, but we were reluctant.

Then I got feedback from Travis on the Worm Bin Board. Here are his comments:
I have one of the first “mini harvesters”, I don’t like it very much. Think about what you want it to do for you. The reason I don’t like it, is it can kinda beats up the worms. Just letting you know. I don’t sell my worms, so I really wouldn’t need to worry, but I really like my worms and don’t like to beat them up, they have been too, too good to me, know what I mean? I just use a sifter, with a 1/4 screen.

Sean decide that cheaper was definitely better, so he scrounged up some supplies at home (deck rails, L-brackets, and 1/4″ hardware cloth) and built a nifty little platform screener that fits neatly on top of a rubbermaid bin. You can read his post on his MySpace blog here.

I caught up with him this morning so he could donate his leftover deck rails and hardware cloth to me. I picked up some L-brackets at Lowes, and I assembled my harvester/screener tonight. Easy! I’ve got me a handy harvester! Sean tried his out tonight and he was satisfied with it. I’m going to give mine a try this weekend, when I harvest my bins and set aside starter stock for my new worm buddy, Jenny.

(By the time I got back with the camera, the cat had taken up residence on the screener.)

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