, Salem, MA


October 18, 2013

Vet Connection: 5,000 ‘pet’ worms get to work making compost

Our adventure starts with a conversation about food waste during a staff meeting at the practice. Why are the trash bags leaking from the kitchen trash? Why are people throwing so much food away in the trash barrel? We do have more esoteric conversations at staff meetings, but sometimes housekeeping has to be addressed. It was mentioned that perhaps the food we are throwing away could be composted. Good idea!

We are already a Dumpster-free practice. We have a picnic table instead. All 10 members of our team, about 150 clients and their pets generate only two barrels of trash and five to seven recycling bins of cardboard, plastic, glass and paper weekly. We have paperless patient records, which reduces paper waste and helps us keep more accurate patient records. Reducing the stream of every type of waste we generate is always a goal.

We discuss where to put the food waste. At home our family has a small, covered bin by the sink into which we throw coffee grounds, tea bags (without the string and staple), veggie and fruit cuttings. Maybe we could have a bin at All Creatures for our food waste? What would we do with it? We have a compost pile outdoors at the practice, but it is not “cooking” really well at this point. It’s really just a pile, not a nicely aerated compost pile in a chicken-wire cage.

Jokingly I mention hearing about a worm composting system that could generate compost indoors all winter, with worms doing all the work. The team dares me to try it out. First I look at various composting systems on the Internet. Previously I had bad luck with plastic outdoor composting systems, which warped in the sun and froze in the winter, so I order a wooden, layered set of four trays, each with a screen in the bottom, from Williams Sonoma. Each level layers onto the next, and below them all is a cookie pan to catch any moisture. I read the directions. Apparently the composter is not complete until I locate red wiggler worms to house in the composter.

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