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One of the most efficient ways of recycling kitchen waste is to use a worm bin. These purpose-built containers house a colony of brandling worms, which consume fruit and vegetable waste, producing a nutritious worm compost.
As well as producing a rich compost, worm bins also generate a nutritious liquid fertiliser. Vegetable waste is largely made up of water, and this will drain down through the bin to collect in the bottom. The resulting liquid can be retrieved through a tap in the base of the bin. It's a good idea to keep the tap permanently open and collect drips in a bottle or bucket below.
A wide variety of worm bin kits is available to buy. Most of them consist of three or four modular trays placed on top of each other. As the worms consume the waste in the bottom tray, they move up to the next one. Simply remove the bottom tray to access the worm compost, rinse it and place it on the top, and continue to add fresh veg peelings.
Worm bins are easy to set up, but if yours is delivered by post, make sure you set up the bin within two days, as the worms may not survive if they are not quickly transferred into their bedding.
Attach the legs and tap, add a single tray to the base unit, then lay a sheet of paper in the tray.
Soak the worm bedding block (made of coir compost) in warm water, before breaking it up into a friable mass.
Cover the paper with the compost bedding mixture, spreading it out in an even layer.
Spread the worms out over the bedding and they'll quickly start burrowing down into the material.
Cover the worms and bedding material with a thin layer of well-chopped vegetable peelings. As these begin to rot, the worms will be able to start feeding on them. Most kits also come with a mat that should be used to cover the material to maintain moisture in the bin.
Finish by putting the lid on the bin, then move it to a warm and sheltered spot, out of direct sunshine. Regularly drain liquid from the bin, and dilute it with 10 parts water, to use as a fertiliser.
Add fruit and vegetable peelings, cooked veg (except potatoes), shredded paper, cardboard and newspaper, crushed egg shells, tea leaves and coffee, but avoid meat and dairy products, lawn clippings, citrus peel and glossy paper or card.
Only add small quantities of waste at a time. Worms dislike acidic conditions, so avoid adding citrus peel and add plenty of cardboard pieces and crushed egg shells to the mix. Water sparingly if the worm bin looks dry.
Move the worm bin to a frost-free place during winter, as worms may die if left outside.