How to Start a Worm Compost Bin

Composting has become more and more popular in recent years as an effective method for people like you and me to eliminate sending our food scraps and organic waste to landfills and incineration. Not only does it drastically reduce the volume of regular trash during weekly curbside collection, but it’s great for the environment!

Not everyone has access to municipal composting programs (unfortunately the NYC composting programs have been suspended through at least June 30, 2021), but there are other ways we can compost, including using worms! This is a great way to reduce food waste in the home, especially if you don’t have outdoor space and need to compost indoors.

Since NYC suspended its curbside collection program and organizations responsible for food scrap drop-off sites have lost their funding, I desperately wanted some way to reduce some of the food waste I was producing at home and decided to try out vermicomposting. I’ll share with you the steps I took to create my bin!

Note: I learned how to build my bin with the help of the NYC Compost Project, one of the programs affected by the city’s budget cuts.

Supplies:

  • red wriggler worms (if in NYC can order from LES Ecology Center, if outside can order from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm; can also find at local bait shops if you’re lucky)
  • paper (i.e. newspaper, kraft paper, packing paper)
  • coconut coir
  • large, plastic container with lid (ideally opaque, but if you don’t have, you can put stuff in front of the containers’ sides to shade it)
  • power drill
  • (optional but recommended) mesh fabric like organza, tulle, or something that is breathable but has very fine holes to keep out pests
  • (optional but recommended) hot glue gun or heavy duty tape

Steps:

  1. Use a power drill to poke holes at the top corners of each of the plastic container. If you’d like, you can also poke holes into the lid. I poked six holes on each of the four sides, but not the lid. These holes will help oxygenate the container so the worms can breathe!
  2. Add water to your coconut coir so it can expand – a little bit of coconut coir goes a LONG way since they more than double in volume! The way I see it, it serves as “soil” for the worms to live in.
  3. Shred paper for your bin. Paper serves as the “brown” waste for your bin and can reduce any kind of smells from your “green” waste, or the foods that you’ll be adding. Shredded paper also helps improve air flow in the bin.
  4. Assemble your bin! Add the coconut coir to the bottom of the bin, then add your worms and some food. You can place shredded paper on top to mask odor, prevent fruit flies from smelling the food, and to absorb any excess moisture.
  5. (optional step) Since I am very anxious about unwanted pests and flies, I used mesh fabric and covered the aeration holes on all sides of my bin, gluing it with the hot glue gun.
Photo caption: Once I shredded the kraft paper and placed it into the bin with the coconut coir, I liberally sprayed with water until it was sufficiently damp (like a wrung-out sponge), and added some worm food supplied by Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, some rinsed egg shells, and chopped up banana peels.

In a subsequent post, I will share some of my learnings since starting my worm bin, as well as some tips to pass onto you so you don’t encounter the same hiccups that I did. Stay tuned!

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