The End of My Composting Experiment

Last Wednesday, 9/26/07, I dumped my entire collection (2) of my compost bins into the garbage bin, ending my three-month experiment with composting. I bid farewell and bon voyage to my red worm friends. They’ll probably have a better time with other people’s garbage in the garbage dump. This was done after much urge and complaint from my wife about the stenches from the bins. She’s more concerned with the Qi around the house than being eco-responsible.

Motivated by the good feeling of eco-responsibility and after seeing lots of grass and green stuff being dumped into the yard disposal bins by my gardener, I thought I might do the earth some good by composting and reducing the waste going into the dump. The constant bombardment from the Sunnyvale city’s flier on free composting class also helps to start the cause. I didn’t have the time to attend the composting class, so I borrowed a few books from the library on composting and started reading about it.

It seemed easy enough: mixing brown (dry stuff like shredded newspaper, or dry leaves) with green (wet stuff like grass, vegetable trimming, left over vegi food, and etc.) and just let them sit for a couple of months while keeping the chemical reaction going by adding water to the pile (like a sponge with the water half squeezed out). But it was too easy besides I wanted to speed up the process, so I added some red worms to the pile. This automatically qualified me as the “vermicomposter,” which is the next level up in the composting hierarchy. And it’s probably more fun because there were something live feeding on the garbage, not just bacteria that you couldn’t see. The worms were quite expensive: $20 for 500 worms, and I needed 2x that for a bin. I immediately figured the money for the composting business is inn the “worms.” Now if I could grow/farm the worms …. 🙂

So I checked the worms from time to time. Some of them tried to escape from the holes and died on the concrete floor, dried up like a bacon. The remaining ones continued to grow substantially. They were supposed to propagate exponentially within weeks but I didn’t see that probably because my compost bins were “fertile” enough.

In the end, I came way with the following conclusions:
1. Composting is not for the faint of heart, it takes dedication to monitor the moisture level and keep the compost aerated – not a simple task for just a hobbyist.
2. We produce garbage much faster than the worms and the nature can absorb and breakdown normally due to the long breakdown time. Unless I have a composting factory in the backyard, which is probably doable in a suburban area but not in a city, I would never be able to make a dent on reducing the waste.
3. Red worms are a fascinating species. They play their designated role well but they can do better or work faster. Bioengineering of red worms might do some good in reducing/consuming the world’s ever increasing garbage contents.
4. Adding blending to the organic/vegetable trimming waste, as suggested by the experts on the net, might help to increase the breakdown time by the worms and bacteria, thus less stench. This was a variable I haven’t tried yet.

This was a fun experiment and experience. If I have a bigger house with a bigger backyard, I might try again sometime later. Or, how about making a “worm farm” on a glass container? They might make a good toy for a kid …