Vermicomposting at UW-La Crosse
The UW-L vermicomposting program began in spring semester 2011 in collaboration with Hillview Urban Agriculture Center (HUAC) as an innovative means of reducing the amount of food waste produced on-campus. Pre- and post-consumer food scraps are collected daily and transported to an off-campus facility where they are converted into valuable agricultural amendments (worm castings) via vermicomposting. Initial program costs, including purchase of the 8’ x 32’ industrial-scale continuous flow reactor vermicomposting unit and an initial 100 lbs of Eisenia foetida (red wiggler) worms, were funded through the UW-L Green Fund, which is supported by students through segregated fees paid each semester. HUAC, a local non-profit organization focused on sustainability, maintains the vermicomposting system and provides logistical support. As of December 2011, the program has diverted greater than 10,000 pounds of food material from the UW-L solid waste stream and produced more than 2,000 pounds of finished worm castings. This finished material is a nutrient-rich natural fertilizer and soil conditioner.
Currently, 300-400 lbs. of food waste per week are collected from the Whitney Center kitchen and dining hall. Post-consumer waste collection began November 2011. Composted food material includes vegetables, fruits (except citrus), and coffee grounds. As the program’s worm population increases, the project will expand to include food scraps from Cartwright Center (the other campus dining hall) and possibly residence halls.
For more information, please contact:
Joan Bunbury, Ph.D.
Students visiting the vermicomposting machine.
(Left) Pre-consumer waste from the Whitney Center kitchens. (Right) The food pulper is used to shred food scraps into smaller pieces to make digestion more managable for the worms.
Photos copyright Dr. Ryan Perroy