1,000 Ways to Eat Garbage

If you were to look around our kitchen, your eyes might eventually rest on a rectangular plastic container on the counter near the sink. You might then struggle to classify that container as empty, full of something edible, or full of something that might have been edible in 1983. Depending on how comfortable you are pointing out something potentially disgusting in your friends’ kitchen, and therefore implicitly criticizing our housekeeping, you might ask. You might let it go.

But the bottom line is that eventually you’re going to ask to help get dinner ready, and I’m going to ask you to chop vegetables, and my husband is going to ask you to put the odds and ends into that mystery container. For the worms. Which are not in the container. They are in the garage. Yes, we are putting garbage into a plastic container on our counter and saving it to feed to worms. I can’t quite wrap my own head around it, but it’s true. We’re worm composting.

The compost bin takes up the floor area of a kitchen garbage can, but our bin is only about half as tall. Right now the bin contains 1,000 red wigglers, a species that reportedly composts faster than other species of worms, but is not the same kind of worms we already have outside here. (Meaning if you liberate them, they will die.) Those 1,000 worms can go through something like 3 lb. of garbage per week. Every 3 months they double in population, so eventually the plastic container won’t gross me out as much because they’ll be composting faster than we produce stuff for them to break down, and we’ll be able to supply interested takers with their own starting population of worms. The worms take all the same stuff you can put into a compost heap: coffee grounds, fruits and vegetables, junk mail, newspaper, dryer lint, rinsed eggshells, yard refuse, anything except meat and dairy.

Our friends have concluded that the bin qualifies as a pet for my husband. This is because he microwaves the contents of the plastic container before adding it to the current tray. (Oddly, since the garbage is not that old and isn’t meat/dairy, it really just smells like you’re heating up your lunch…heh heh, gross enough??) I have convinced him that his pets need their own microwave in the garage for this purpose. He maintains that the refuse in the plastic container would be consumed faster if it were ground up. We aren’t even looking at my blender.

But my husband is a responsible pet owner. He feeds them and turns their food/bedding to ensure enough oxygen is present for the composting process to occur. In return, they take up little space, make no noise, and reduce our contribution to landfills. Plus, it’s not every pet whose movements can be controlled simply by illuminating the areas you do not want them to enter. Or in one father’s tender, patient words to his pets: “…Because I’m holding the flashlight, and I said ‘MOVE IT!’”

 

Patricia A. Powell

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