Worm farm failings

Photo by sippakorn yamkasikorn on Unsplash

Last year we introduced a worm farm to our office and after a month it was removed. The goal was to recycle our organic waste, but the result was an office space with flies, stained concrete, and bottles of unused worm tea. Nevertheless, failing has provided us with an opportunity to share our experience in the hope that others may succeed.

The worm farm in question was an affordable purchase from Bunnings, advertised as suitable for indoor use. However, I wonder how many consumers would find this viable? In our case, the major issue was too many flies and possibly a hornet (which is surprising, given we are in an office above ground level with no open windows). What contributed to this issue was three obvious failings:

Firstly, (as often the case) laziness and a lack of attention to instructions. Food scraps needed to be chopped into smaller pieces so that worms could break down the food easily and quickly, reducing the amount of food left to decay and attract other organisms. Instead, whole bananas sat in the tray uneaten.

Secondly, even if we had diligently cut our food into smaller sizes our worm farm was just too small for an office of around 40 people. Upon further research (tumbleweed.com.au), our farm recycled about 5-6kg of organic waste each week. That meant each person in our office would have had to have recycled only 150g of organic waste each week (utterly impossible when you consider our coffee consumption).

Thirdly, we introduced the worm farm just before the Christmas and New Year period. Safe to say there were at least two weeks of neglect where entire foods were rotting beyond capacity of this small farm. I’d say the worms outsourced to the flies.

Aside from the unwelcome presence of flies, the worm farm had also developed a leak. Again, this product was advertised as suitable for indoor use, highlighting its “no mess” features. Unfortunately for us, the seal around the tap was not watertight and a slow drip occurred when the farm was routinely flushed with water. This drip may have been more inconspicuous if the farm had been positioned outside, but inside on polished concrete, the developing stain was impacting the aesthetics of our office, which were already suffering from a fly issue.

Whilst efforts were made to contain this drip to a bucket and have the resulting worm tea recycled as fertiliser, this too failed. The benefits of worm tea were highlighted in an email to the team and posted on the farm. Many colleagues helped to collect milk bottles for tea storage, but I’m not convinced anyone filled a bottle for home use. In fairness, many of us cycled or caught public transport to work, so lugging home a bottle of worm tea probably wasn’t ideal.

So, to succeed, the obvious answer is to know maths. Work out how much organic waste is being produced and select a worm farm that can recycle this quantity. Our household worm farm was never going to be suitable for an office but there are certainly more robust (though more expensive) models available.  

That said, many of us are now working from home so a household worm farm is a great idea. Place it outside, chop up your food and make use of worm tea!  

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