You've got a recycling bin for paper and another few for plastic, aluminum, and glass. By now, thankfully, many people do. But there's one more way to recycle — one which I hope will catch on as well as the reduce-reuse-recycle concept has. If it does, nearly all of us will have another "recycling" bin to add near the rest. Only this one goes best in the kitchen, and, full of able-bodied, composting redworms, it's alive with activity.


Since they're compact, unobtrusive and highly productive, vermicomposting bins are particularly practical for people living in apartment complexes, big cities, or rental properties with landlords dead set against outdoor compost piles. That means never having to toss out banana peels, eggshells, coffee grounds — all kinds of valuable organic matter which, once broken down, can go back into our garden beds or can be mixed in with the soil in potted plants. Most fruit and vegetable scraps, cardboard, and even newspaper can go in worm bins, and, provided you've done it right, you'll hardly notice the bin is there.


Of course, vermicomosting certainly can have its pitfalls. Worm piles which are too moist or those which lack enough bedding may become breeding grounds for gnats. You can give your worms too much food or too little, and some bins can become much too dry. Whatever the mistake, if redworms don't get what they need, they'll simply leave -- en masse. (A popular organic gardening supply shop in my area once had a demonstration vermicomposting bin up and running, but they neglected to check on it before they closed the store for part of the weekend. Come Monday morning, they were horrified to discover a sea of redworms miserably crawling the sales floor in all directions!) But it is easy to dabble in vermiculture unscathed. Commercial worm bins like the Can-O-Worms are good for beginners, and there are some new vermicompost systems which are downright decorative. Still, it's much cheaper to make your own vermicomposting bin and stash it in the laundry room or under the kitchen sink. Go ahead and give it a try. It'll be our little secret.


Story by Susan Brackney. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008.