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NC State Extension

Vermicomposting for Business, Farms, Institutions & Municipalities

bussiness size recycle binsVermicomposting is increasingly being adopted by businesses, institutions, farms, and municipalities for managing organic waste. Organic materials can be vermicomposted on-site or transported to a centralized facility.

Businesses that generate food waste include restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, food processors, nursing homes, wholesale food outlets and farmers markets, shopping malls, resorts, and offices with dining facilities. U.S. businesses generate 25 million tons food scraps, unrecyclable paper, and cardboard annually (EPA 1999). At least 74% of restaurant waste is food and paper (EPA 1999).

Institutions generating food waste include hospitals, schools, universities, prisons, military bases, long-term care facilities, and government centers. The U.S. EPA estimated in 2006 that 35-45% of the waste generated in the United States was by schools, businesses and institutions.

Farms are vermicomposting manure and crop residuals. Farmers are choosing to vermicompost for several reasons. Some need an environmentally-beneficial alternative for manure management. Others want to produce vermicompost to increase their crop yields and reduce their use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. And some farmers choose vermicomposting to increase their income from sales of earthworms or vermicompost.

Municipalities can vermicompost food residuals, yard debris, or sewage sludge. They can operate vermicompost facilities on their own or contract with a private entity. For example, a private business used to contract with two municipalities in Pennsylvania to vermicompost their sewage sludge.

One factor of feedstock throughput in vermiculture is based upon the number of earthworms you have. Eisenia fetida consume about 25 – 35% of their body weight per day, depending on several factors including temperature, moisture, humidity, and the pH, salinity and ammonia levels in the feedstock. The quantity of earthworms is measured in pounds; there are approximately 1,000 Eisenia fetida per pound (~500 if they are all adults; ~2,000 if they are all juveniles).

Feed the earthworms a thin layer of feedstock that is no deeper than one inch. After they have consumed all of the food, then apply another one-inch layer. Consumption rates will vary, as sometimes the earthworms may consume all of their food in one day and at other times it will take two or more days to eat the food.

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