An Economic Analysis of the Development and Management of a University Vermicomposting System: A Self-Sustaining Environmental and Waste Management Educational Tool
Keywords:worms, service-learning, sustainability, horticulture, organic, vermicastings
Vermicomposting is a process in which worms break down organic material and transform it into vermicompost, a valuable horticultural product, while diverting a significant amount of organic waste from the waste stream. The purpose of this study was to implement a pilot educational and service learning project vermicomposting system at Texas State University using red wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida) and cafeteria food waste as a primary feedstock to determine the potential economic value of the system. Twenty-five pounds of food waste was collected weekly from one cafeteria on campus and combined with shredded university paper waste. Vermicomposting bins and systems were initially reviewed and a layered bin system was constructed in a small shed using recycled 5-gallon food service buckets from university cafeterias . Worms were checked 2-3 times weekly and rotated through the system in approximately 3–4 months. Vermicompost was harvested, weighed and packaged in 5-gallon ziploc bags. Worm castings were also integrated into the university gardens and greenhouse. Economic analysis results demonstrated the value of the operation to the university in terms of the product generated for use for sale as a fertilizer and the diverted cost of waste disposal versus the costs of operation.
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