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December 28th, 2007

You are currently browsing the articles from Compost Guy | Turning Wastes Into Resources written on December 28th, 2007.

Composting Toilets Don’t Traumatize Worms!

The verdict is in!! :-)

I came across a funny article (relating to composting) last night and of course couldn’t resist writing about it here on the blog. The article appeared in the Sunday Star Times (link to follow) back on December 16 and discusses a bizarre ruling made by the Aukland (New Zealand) Regional Council, relating to the health and well-being of composting worms.

Here is a blurb from the article (Toilet worms can’t be browned off):

Coll Bell, who invented the “wormorator” as an alternative to septic tanks, was told by an Auckland Regional Council staff member to get an expert’s report on the psychological impact on the worms after she became concerned during a site visit.

“She felt that the worms were being unfairly treated, being expected to deal with human faeces, and that it could affect them in a psychological way,” says Bell. “I said, `Well, what do I do about that?’ and she said `you have to have someone with the necessary qualifications to say the worms are happy’.”

In the wormorator, a colony of tiger worms, in a chamber, filters solids from the toilet waste. The leftover water is filtered and disposed of in underground trenches.

The ARC was satisfied after vermiculture consultant Patricia Naidu reported the worms were in excellent health and breeding happily.

Believe me, as a worm composting fanatic myself I certainly have a soft spot for the little wiggly guys, but C’MON – ‘psychological’ trauma??! That seems like a bit of a stretch to me. There are undoubtedly countless (newbie) home vermicomposters who have caused a lot more worms a lot more harm than this composting toilet system would. The fact is, if the system didn’t work, the worms would simply die.

As humorous as this article was, it also struck a chord with me – reminding me of this negative association people have with ‘waste’ materials – especially, it seems, when they come from our own body. People forget that all organic wastes can become a valuable resource for some other living organism, even if they seem ‘stinky and gross’ to us. Of course, that’s not to say that a composting toilet will always provide the ideal environment for vermicomposting, but chat more about the requirements shortly.

Using composting worms in compost toilet systems is certainly not a new invention (but regardless, I’m still very happy to see someone running with the idea). There are two full editions of the old Worm Digest (#8 & #9) dedicated to the topic. I was able to find an online article on the new site as well: The Worm Composting Toilet (scroll down to find it).

As with any worm composting system, if you provide with worms with enough high quality habitat before starting to add large amounts N-rich wastes (such as pee pee & doo doo) you should be ok. I’d recommend starting by setting up the composting toilet like a giant worm bin. Add lots of absorbent, carbon-rich bedding (such as shredded cardboard, peat or coir) mixed with some very well aged manure or food waste. Make sure the mix is well moistened and then let the system age for a little longer before adding the worms.
After the worms are added and the system is left alone for a little bit longer (to allow the worms time to get settled in) you can start using it as a composting toilet.

Aside from providing the worms with a safe zone to retreat into, it also would be very important to add ample amounts of carbon-rich bedding with each ‘deposit’ made into the toilet to kelp keep the system balanced.

[tags]composting toilets, compost toilets, composting, compost, worm composting, vermicomposting, red wigglers, red worms, wormorator, septic tanks, sewage, feces, organic waste, vermiculture, worm bin, worm bed[/tags]

Written by Compost Guy on December 28th, 2007 with 2 comments.
Read more articles on Composting Toilets and Worm Composting.