Vermicomposting program continues and expands
Middletown, CT— The City
of Middletown, in its efforts to increase recycling rates and
encourage composting beyond homeowners, initiated a small-scale
institutional food waste vermicomposting project in 2002. The
City partnered with the Middlesex Alternative Incarceration Center
(AIC) in other projects and will continue with this one.
The City provided assistance
with site preparation, administration of the grant and publicity
for the program; AIC provides oversight of the daily operations,
serves as liaison with Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH) and educates
workers on site. Both parties pursued this project for different
reasons. The City wanted to increase its recycling and composting
rate and implement a successful institutional composting program
while Middlesex AIC wanted to provide an interesting and viable
program for its workers while saving money on waste disposal.
This project was designed to take source-separated
food scraps from the Eddy Center kitchen and cafeteria. Food scraps
are deposited into five-gallon step-on lidded containers, and
transported by AIC clients to the vermicomposting area located
inside a ventilated and heated greenhouse. Once there, the scraps
are processed through a small grinder and placed on top of the
beds containing the worms. Each bed consists of four 4’
x 8’ frames that nest on top of each other. Hardware cloth
lines the bottom of the frames and each bed has a lid. The beds
were stocked with a supply of 70 pounds of red wiggler worms.
Because worms are surface feeders, they migrate up to the newest
food source placed on the beds. As they ingest and excrete material,
the castings accumulate in the bottom of the beds. Once the frames
are full, the worms are removed from the top of the highest frame
and placed into a new bed about to be started. The frames are
then lifted off and the castings are harvested for use as a soil
Based on initial waste audits,
it was estimated that 10,950 pounds per year would be diverted
from the waste stream. This does not include any spoiled or outdated
The AIC is planning to sell castings
and excess worms (they keep breeding in captivity) to the wholesale
and retail market in order to cover continuing operating costs
of the program.
The benefits of this pilot include:
•Participation and education
of AIC clients in an environmental project that provides service
to the community.
•Reduction of wet, high-nitrogen waste being sent for
disposal and therefore reduction of air emissions and ash disposal
from resource recovery plants.
•Reduction of solid waste disposal costs for participating
•Increase in local and state recycling rates.
•Promotion of positive relations with a public/private
•Potential expansion of vermin-composting services to
•Establishment of a model organics recycling system for
other commercial and institutional establishments to explore
and possibly implement.
•Supports the goals of the proposed statewide Solid Waste
Coordinating city, utility and
state resources has proven to be the biggest challenge in getting
this project up and running.
However, with the persistence
of Kim O’Rourke, the Middletown Recycling Coordinator who
is shepherding this project, vermicomposting is finally underway!
The first batch of food scraps
from the Eddy Center was delivered and fed to the worms. Since
then, 1,940 pounds of kitchen scraps have been recycled for an
average of 39 pounds per week! Although this is less than expected
due to the irregular participation of the Eddy Center kitchen
staff, it is a good start, and quantities will increase as more
sources are identified and the learning curve levels-out.
In search of a more consistent
supply of worm food, contacts have been made at the Connecticut
Juvenile Training Center (CJTC) whose kitchen director, John Holland,
is enthusiastic about participation in the project. Delivery of
food scraps from this facility is expected to contribute at least
35 pounds per week.
Volunteers from the city’s
Recycling Advisory Council and Wesleyan University’s Environmental
Club have been solicited to help feed the worms.
For details about the program, visit
for this article courtesy of Connecticut’s Department of