Let These Worms Have Your Leftovers

After months of eating every meal at home, I started to notice just how much food I waste. A London apartment isn’t the most obvious place to start composting, but my neighbor has kept a wormery on his balcony for years. I decided to try it out, with the idea of using the soil for my lockdown garden.

Urbalive Worm Farm

£140 ($187) for a vermicomposting starter pack, which includes the composter and the worms

Who Makes It

Designed by Jiri Pelcl for Czech company Plastia. It’s sold in 48 countries, including the U.S. and China.

Let These Worms Have Your Leftovers

How It Works

The vermicomposter consists of a few trays with holes, stacked on top of each other. The worms go on the bottom; scraps of food waste—vegetable peelings, egg shells, tea bags—go on top. The critters work their way up, eating everything they can and leaving behind small heaps of the muddy soil gardeners call “black gold” because it’s so rich in nutrients. They also produce a rich liquid fertilizer known as “worm tea.” Once the wormery is in full swing it can handle all the food scraps produced by a household of four.

Who Might Want One

“The typical customer isn’t a hipster, as everybody expects,” says David Nevriva, sales director at Plastia. “We name them Henrys—high earning, but not rich yet.” They’re generally 25 to 35 years old, live in big cities, and rent rather than own.

Let These Worms Have Your Leftovers

The Caveat

The worms do have to be tended to, as they risk freezing in the winter chill or drying up in the summer heat. (My delivery came while I was on vacation in July, so my neighbor had to rescue them from my baking apartment.) That said, worms can go for up to four weeks without food. The composter doesn’t smell, but I personally wouldn’t like to keep it inside my small apartment in the event of an escape, which is possible if the worms aren’t receiving proper care. Four months after I started my farm, I’d already collected the first batch of worm tea for my lockdown garden.

Where This Is Going

Vermicomposting has grown rapidly in the last decade, but it’s still relatively rare in the U.K. compared to the U.S., where it’s particularly popular in community settings such as schools and prisons. Nevriva says sales were already growing on average by 25% a year before the virus hit. As people went into lockdown that’s spurred sales even further, with sales growing 35% compared to last year.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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