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Slimy pets help reduce waste

Alex Glancy
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 19/04) - Garbage in Yellowknife is a problem that is commonly seen but rarely discussed.

Where there's a worm, there's a greener way

You see it everywhere - on the streets, in the bush and at the landfill - but do you ever think about your share or your responsibility to help reduce the amount that ends up in our landfill?

Waste is, by definition, that which you can't use, and there is no limit to it. On the other hand, there could always be less of it.

Yellowknife produced 30,000 cubic metres of waste in 2003. At that rate, the landfill will be full in the next two years, according to city officials.

All this factored into Waste Reduction Week in Canada, which ran from Oct. 18-24 and kept Katherine Silcock very busy.

Silcock is the City's environmental co-ordinator. She spent Waste Reduction Week visiting schools, hosting an open house at City Hall and manning an information booth at the mall.

One of the more unique ideas for waste reduction is vermicomposting -- essentially setting up a worm composter in your home. Small and sleek, if not exactly sexy, a composting bin will let you break down food waste and reuse it on your plants and garden.

"It's not difficult at all," said Silcock. "Anyone can do it -- kids, adults, anyone."

"You have your container full of worms, and apart from putting food in, you don't really think about it."

To make your own vermicomposter, you'll need a plastic, Rubbermaid-type container, with a square foot of space for every pound of food produced in a week. Poke holes in the lid. The bedding for the worms can be newspaper shreds, cardboard, leaves, sawdust or potting soil without a lot of chemicals. Silcock recommends using a combination of materials and including some sand to help them digest.

After that, you'll need the worms.

Silcock suggests starting with about 2,000 of the creatures. If that sounds like a lot, you can always start smaller because your worms will reproduce quickly.

Silcock has volunteered to help find worms for anyone who wants them. You'll need red worms, also known as red wigglers.

"The deterrent for most people is the idea that it smells bad but if you vary the food you put in (and don't overload it) you'll be fine," said Silcock.

You'll also have to add water to moisten the bedding. If it's too wet, simply add more bedding or bury a plastic container with holes in the side to collect the excess.

"You definitely want to make sure your worms don't drown," Silcock said, laughing.

Silcock uses the nutrient-rich water on her plants and the compost in her garden.

She cautioned that food scraps should be buried in the bedding so the worms can get to them -- and so they don't rot on the surface, which could result in offensive odours.

"My worms are pretty happy," said Silcock.

You can be happy, too, and create a lot less waste, with just a little effort.

What to compost

Good Foods:

  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Tea bags
  • Egg shells (broken up)
  • Grains
  • Breads

    Bad foods:

  • Meats
  • Dairy products
  • Root vegetables
  • Fish
  • Oily or acidic foods

    source: City of Yellowknife City Commitment newsletter