Tag Archives: compost

Rod Muir Presentation on Ottawa’s Green Bin Program

Rod Muir Presentation on Ottawa's Green Bin Program

One of my favorite trash talkers named Ed Barr recommended to me recently to check out this guy Rod Muir in Canada, saying I’d like his composting videos… not surprisingly, he was right!

He makes some really simple points that I’ve always neglected to bring forth in my mind- when you bought stuff, you bought it individually.  When it’s longer usable, separate it again!

He also nails all the benefits perfectly:

-less going to the landfill
-less odor (food causes most of the landfill smell!)
-carbon dioxide instead of methane (yes, methane is a lot worse than CO2)
-you’re producing your own soil
-use less pesticides and fertilizer

I also like that he mentions using a paper bag to line your bin instead of a biodegradable plastic bag… no need to think about ASTM D6400 standards being satisfied, just do it right and use a paper liner.

I’m really glad that another place is taking on curbside composting… Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter continues to object to curbside compost pickup, but somehow he still got on the cover of Grid Magazine. Sure, composting is one (big) piece of the puzzle, but his statements on that are a serious disappointment.

Anyway, kudos to Rod Muir for an excellent tutorial and to you for checking out this video.


EZ How to Make a FREE Worm Factory (video)

EZ How To Make a FREE Worm Factory

This dude has the right idea!  While I doubt this works as well as an actual Worm Factory (short, stacking trays), it’s still a great start to see what you think of vermicomposting.

This is more or less the same process as building your own worm bin from a Rubbermaid tub.  If you use 2 tubs (the bottom tub is for collecting leachate), it will basically function in the same manner as this.

In my experience, worms do better in a shallow environment, so a short Rubbermaid tub would most likely outperform a bucket… however, whichever you can get your hands on is the best for you.  Go to any grocery store and ask for some food grade plastic buckets (food grade means the plastic doesn’t leach into the contents…or so they say)…they toss these out all the time so you’ll be doing them a favor.  Further, get some extra ones just because!  Buckets are awesome.  And so is DIY vermicomposting!

Composting for Growth at Wilmington Hospital

It’s nice to see when other hospitals in your area begin composting…I think it’s finally becoming a trend and nearly every healthcare institution is aware of it. From my personal experience, implementing a compost program can be done within any hospital, and with marketing and education can become a real centerpiece example reflecting a hospital’s core values.

Wilmington Hospital serves more than 600 meals each day, according to Mike Wariwanchik, the hospital’s Food & Nutrition supervisor. In the process, twice weekly, Food and Nutrition staff fill eight special receptacles, each holding 96 pounds of leftover food and food byproducts: peels, rinds, coffee grounds, egg shells and table scraps,” Wariwanchik says.

What makes the receptacles special is that the contents are composted (naturally recycled) to transform them into natural fertilizers for local gardens — including several gardens at Christiana Hospital.

A vendor picks up the food scraps, mixes it with matter from other sites, and adds worms and pests to catalyze decomposition. In just a few weeks it becomes natural fertilizer for farms and gardens.

That amounts to:

1,536 pounds of food scraps weekly.
A year’s worth works out to about 40 tons.
That much food scraps will produce more than 16 tons of excellent compost.

Thanks to committed Environmental Services plus Food and Nutrition staff and environmental stewardship at Christiana Care, much less waste is going to landfills and more gardens are nourished with natural fertilizers.

Worm Factory 360 review (video)

Worm Factory Review – Is it worth it?

When my friend told me he had a Worm Factory in his basement, I had to check it out.  Although I use a Worm Inn system, I definitely like how this system works, too.  Check the video for my on-the-spot observations!

When it comes to vermicomposting, I’m a big fan although it requires some attention to ensure the worms are happy.  I’ve made my own worm bins in the past, and then decided to focus my attention on the Worm Inn system: better airflow, easier harvesting of castings.

I kinda forgot about the Worm Factory 360.  It’s been on the market for a while now, but I never paid attention to it since I started with making my own bin anyway.

I was hanging out at my friend Brian’s house, and he wanted me to take a look at his worm system in the basement.  I had noticed a few flies in his house before he led me downstairs, and I figured they were from his Worm Factory…I was right.

I took a look around on some forums, and that seems to be a common issue with this thing- and now I see why.  Here’s a picture of his system:

Upon opening it up, right away I noticed that all the trays were not only full of castings, but they were full of friggin awesome castings.

I was impressed.  The castings were really moist, and that’s the thing with plastic…it doesn’t breathe well, if at all.  There are little gaps around the edges of the trays, maybe this is intentional to get some necessary airflow in there.

There were a lot of critters inside, indicating the system was alive and… well?  Maybe slightly out of balance- it was lacking cardboard.  Worms love cardboard, and I’m not sure if that’s scientifically been proven yet, but they like crawling in the corrugated tubes and I’ve read that the glue is tasty to them (can anyone confirm this?).

Besides taming the flies, the spigot seems to be the other design challenge.  Looking at the bottom tray, it was holding a significant amount of leachate because the castings were clogging up the spigot.  Makes sense.

What I didn’t expect was that although the bottom trays were all processed into castings, they still contained plenty of worms.  The worms seemed to go where they pleased (which is great and I’m happy for them), but I figured they’d all be in the top tray focused on eating the food.

How would I rate this thing?  Well, I only hung out with it (them) for about 10 minutes…but based on that, it exceeded my expectations.  I think they have the potential to be a really solid system with next to no issues, but you have to work a little bit for it.  Keep the dry materials coming into this thing and I think the castings/spigot/flies issues should become minimized.

If you’d like to learn more about one of these, I suggest clicking here to go to the company page on Amazon.  Plus, it’s always fun to read Amazon reviews, isn’t it?

Compost Window at Tyler School of Art

I was sifting through a few months’ worth of pictures on the camera, and I found this gem:

Can you tell what it is? It’s a sideview of an indoor compost pile in action. Pretty cool!

I spent some time at Tyler School of Art’s “Coffree Mondays” hosted by Robert Blackson a few months ago, and it was a great vibe. I was asked to hang out and talk about waste and environmental issues. I thought there would be people to speak to, but the majority just wanted to get their free coffee and get the heck out of there. I couldn’t blame them, I’m not an early riser and I definitely wasn’t during my hellish time in school.

The coolest thing they had besides encouraging the reusable lifestyle with coffee mugs and having a really cool sound installation, was the huge compost window. Can you recognize what each of the layers are? The main question I had about it was why it was so air tight. Impedance of airflow is one of the reasons composting processes don’t get off the ground…it’s an aerobic process that needs air to get busy.

Meat, on the other hand, degrades via anaerobic processes (hence why it smells and needs to be kept separate from your normal composting efforts), but that wasn’t the scope of this as far as I could tell.

I wonder how many people that looked at this knew it was a composting project. This thing rules. It might do better if the contents were all mixed up too, but then that would take away from the cool factor of having the layers visible.

Robert was also nice enough to let me check out the building’s loading dock to take a look at their waste operations…always a treat. What do you think of these cans? Nice, colorful and very clear:

Good stuff, Tyler School of Art!

Begich Middle School Composting (video)

Begich Middle School composting

I love seeing the kid in this video explaining the process, and he definitely gets it. We need more of this!

Know of any schools that are composting near you? This is one of those things that I foresee really taking off in the coming years.

Why? It’s simple ownership of the students’ (and staff’s) waste that can merge nicely with an Environmental Science or Home Economics class that most if not all kids have to take at some point. Plus, these behaviors can make their way home and just like that our landfill impact drops.

While Newt Gingrich made those extra-strength ignorant comments about replacing a custodian’s job with students as young as 9 years old, maybe this is a little more realistic. Kids can take turns collecting and carting out the daily scraps to a compost pile/bin and learn why they need to mix their browns with their greens. Simple and awesome, don’t you agree?

Fight Waged With Forks Is Rejoined In Congress (article)

WASHINGTON — Within the war between Republicans and Democrats over the federal spending rages an affray over disposable forks.

Under the tutelage of Representative Nancy Pelosi during the years when Democrats ran the House, her party moved to “green” the Capitol with several initiatives, including obligating the food vendor for the three main House cafeterias to provide compostable cups and utensils. But the newly empowered House Republicans have ended the program, and plastic forks and foam cups have returned.

The move enraged many Democrats, who argue that the House is now doing something bad for the environment and retrograde.

“If you look at the best companies to work for, nobody is questioning things like composting and recycling,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon, who wrote a letter this week to Speaker John A. Boehner to complain about the cut. Mr. Blumenauer’s letter — signed by some Democratic colleagues as well — also cited health concerns associated with plastic foam.

Republicans counter that the composting program cost too much and had limited environmental benefits, and that the compostable utensils were a bad deal for diners anyway because they could not stand up to hot soup and the heartier salad fixings.

“Contrary to the objective of the program,” said Salley Wood, the spokeswoman for Representative Dan Lungren of California, chairman of the House Administration Committee, who moved to end the program, composting “failed to produce significant savings in carbon emissions.” On that score, she said, the total savings were equal to taking one car off the road per year.

The program took $475,000 each year from the fees that the House collected from the food vendor, Restaurant Associates, between the materials, labor and costs of hauling refuse out. (Restaurant Associates would not comment for this article.)

Further, Ms. Wood added, the spoons would often dissolve in hot liquids, and forks and knives bent and snapped. “They could not penetrate lettuce,” she said, adding, “There were a substantial number of complaints.”

While the most visible spending fights center on money for Planned Parenthood, public broadcasting, Medicare and other concerns that touch the lives of people who do not spend their days on Capitol Hill, the fork fracas brings the current ideological warfare into relief, perhaps because it is playing out daily on the cafeteria trays of those who work here.

As the Environmental Protection Agency officials face off against skeptical Republicans in round after round of hearings concerning regulations, and as Democrats fight to save their pet programs in the face of Republican-led budget slashing, the battle over the best way to serve the House special (often a burrito, with too many green peppers, and a 16-ounce soda) is over money and beliefs.

“This decision really embodies the new G.O.P. majority,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Ms. Pelosi of California, the former speaker. “More trash talk and policies that take us backwards.”

Ms. Wood countered: “He’s trash-talking our trash talk?  We suspended the costly program based on the undisputable fact that it wasn’t working.” She added, “Is it environmental mediocrity at any price?” In fact, in December in a letter to the head of the Republican transition team, the departing chairman of the Administration Committee, Representative Robert A. Brady, Democrat of Pennsylvania, suggested ending the composting program because it was not cost-efficient.

Ms. Wood said that while the committee had found the composting program wasteful, it had come up with its own initiatives to “green” the cafeterias. At the Rayburn House Office Building, the cafeterias will soon begin to use reusable dinnerware, and the House will seek to have all of its solid waste sent to incinerator plants that create energy, rather than to landfills.         -Jennifer Steinhauer


It really saddens me when stuff like this happens… no alternatives here?  I will even give them the benefit of the doubt regarding bioplastics: they’re expensive and many compost facilities don’t even want that stuff either.

Here’s a simple idea: Try paper plates and cups.  Now you don’t have to ditch the compost service and you drastically dropped your costs.  Ideally, they wouldn’t have disposable anything though.

This is a blaring example of our government’s inability to think critically…and it makes a grand statement about the education that needs to occur to have a future at all.

Worse is how the article wraps up with something they think is positive: “waste to energy”.  Do not be fooled.  At least she uses the big “I” word, calling it what it is.  No matter how you burn something, you’re creating toxins that cause cancer and respiratory problems for all of us.

Greening the Mini Golf Course

While I was looking around to see if anyone had ever written about waste at a mini golf course, I found an article that I was really hoping existed: Greening the Golf Course Greens .  Such a no-brainer:  You’re cutting tons of grass and shrubs all the time, you want some pretty flowers here and there, and do you really need fluorescent green grass?

I haven’t played golf in years.  I used to play occasionally but I preferred the Par 3’s or even better, mini golf.  I always found putting to be the most fun part, and when I went to Myrtle Beach recently, little did I know it was the mini golf capital of…the U.S.?  The world?  Either way, I was psyched.


Right away, I noticed there were trash cans every so often on the mini golf course…why?  What do I need to throw away?  I don’t.  At the end, all I have is a paper score card and possibly a plastic soda bottle.  Return the pencil back to the front desk, don’t throw it away, slacker.

paper towels and scorecards...both compostable.
Paper towels and scorecards...both compostable.

Sadly, I have the lamest photo of this occurrence…it was dark out and the staff was eying me rather strangely as I kept casually trying to take photos of the can’s contents.  All it consisted of was soda bottles, scorecards and an occasional paper towel or tissue…both compostable.  Mini golf courses are a screaming example of zero waste…does anyone know of a place doing this?

Use the compost on your course grounds, or send it out to a commercial composting facility.  Recycle your plastics/glass/aluminum: your patrons want to see that, even if they act like they don’t care.  And that’s it.

OK, one “extreme” thought to minimize stuff even more: Sell drinks at the front in reusable/returnable cups and have your only waste segregation point at the front desk.  Finally, have mini marker boards made with pens attached to them so that you don’t need the score cards.  Those things always blow all over the place anyway.  Any takers?