Fruit, vegetable waste, eggshells and coffee grounds from food preparation at BCIT Burnaby campus cafeterias has been composted on campus since 1998, when 170,000 red wriggler worms were bought by BCIT and the Student Association (that’s over 170 lbs of worms!). Over 2,180 litres (six 96-gallon containers) of compost were harvested in 2008, and similar amounts are harvested every April and mixed with topsoil to fertilize campus flowerbeds. Seedlings with BCIT “black gold” dirt have also been given away at Earth Day and Open House celebrations on campus.
Inside the compost bins, red wriggler worms digest the composting materials, and produce castings, which are the richest natural fertilizers. These are then used on campus grounds to reduce the amount of fertilizers that need to be purchased.
When asked how much worm fertilizer the campus produced this year, Cindy MacIntosh, Supervisor of Custodial Services at BCIT informs me they have managed to harvest 10 of the 96 gallon bins so far, an increase from last year. Worm, or vermi-composting is preferable over standard composting as:
- Decomposition is faster, so vermi-compost works in apartments and small composts.
- Worm compost has greater nutrient levels and greater microbial populations: a tablespoon provides organic plant nutrients to feed an 8-inch potted plant for over two months.
- Earthworms can destroy pathogens including salmonella, E-coli, and parasitic worm eggs; they can mine heavy metals from the soil, and are the most effective natural cleaning agent known.
- The production of methane, a greenhouse gas, is reduced; methane might otherwise be released by the decomposing organic matter.
As well as recycling much of their food waste, BCIT also diverts 1280 tonnes of waste from landfills every year through their recycling and composting efforts. These items include used household and computer batteries, toner and printer cartridges, computers, glass, cans, and paper, plastics, wood waste and gyproc, concrete, paint and scrap metal.