Tomme is in the process of building a (fairly) large-scale vermicomposting system. Our goal is to create a pilot for partnering with local restaurants to handling their pre-consumer, plant-based kitchen waste in a year-round vermicomposting system. This model significantly reduces the amount of waste the kitchens pay to have hauled off to a landfill; it provides the garden with a steady supply of rich organic material; and it is a far more environmentally responsible and sustainable method of dealing with commercial kitchen waste.
Collecting restaurant kitchen waste for composting is not a new concept; other gardens have formed arrangements with restaurants to collect a portion of their food waste during several months of the year to produce compost. The unique and important aspect of the model we are proposing is that it is aimed at providing an on-going dependable alternative means of dealing with commercial kitchen waste that is local and environmentally responsible.
We are constructing three large worm bins formed with stack-able cement blocks on a cement slab. The slab underneath makes it easy to shovel out the compost and prevents moles from tunneling under (moles feast on worms) and the stack-able blocks give us the flexibility to reconfigure the size/shape of the bin as needed. The entire operation will also have a pavilion-style roof structure built over it to shield it form the sun in the summer and keep the snow off in the winter.The challenge of course is to build a system that can sustain the red wriggler worms (which are not native to this climate) throughout the winter. One of the three bins will insulated on all sides and have an in-floor radiant heating system. The test will be to determine if it’s economically reasonable to provide adequate heat to keep the worms alive, and preferably active throughout the winter.
We have started taking pre-consumer plant-based waste from Bell’s Eccentric Cafe and and are investigating additional sources. At this point we are working to get the system dialed in and determine the appropriate volume of input. So far, so good!
Funding for this pilot project was provided in part by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation through the Spirit of Community: Environment Fund. Special thanks to the IDEA Association for agreeing to work as our fiduciary for this grant.