Monday, February 26, 2024

UC worms turning waste into gold

Food scraps at the University of Canterbury (UC) are being converted into nutrient-rich compost thanks to a new project by enthusiastic staff and students.

The team of dedicated composters, from Te Ngaki o Waiutuutu | UC Community Gardens, UC Sustainability Office and UC Compost Club, established a worm farm in May as part of Compost Awareness Week.  

The new worm farm helps to educate people about using food scraps wisely, with the wooden box farm located in a high foot-traffic area outside the Undercroft foodcourt.  

Globally, food waste contributes to methane-gas emissions, and in Aotearoa New Zealand over 100,000 tonnes of food is wasted each year.  

“We have a very enthusiastic team of sustainability stars who focus on high-impact projects that contribute to a more sustainable campus, in this case turning food waste into compost to grow more vegetables in our community garden,” says Sustainability Office coordinator, Chloe Sutton.  

Built by Dougal McEachen from Earthly Delights, the worm farm now houses around 1,000 worms, whose numbers are expected to increase with the warmer weather. The worm farm provides another way to create compost, alongside the campus community gardens, which produce many kilos of compost a year.  

“We collect a bucket of food scraps from the Undercroft kitchen weekly and give it to the worms. Along with the bacteria and micro-organisms, the worms break down the food into worm castings, which is a nutrient-rich compost that can be used on your garden,” says UC Community Gardens coordinator, Jam Kelly.  

The project serves as a model for home farms, Kelly says.

“We wanted to promote composting on campus and inspire people to set up their own worm farms. The advantage of worm composting is turning waste into a useful, nutrient-rich product for your garden. It is a quick process and can be contained and small, so it’s good for people living in small spaces. The castings retain water well and can be used to make a seed-raising mix.”

At UC’s worm farm, the worms have already munched through some 15kg of food scraps. Hold the onions when feeding worms though, as well as citrus, meat and avocado. These foods don’t suit worms, but they will happily chew through anything else.

  

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