North Carolina Airport to Start Vermicomposting – in a BIG Way!

Thanks very much to RWC reader, Auriel, and Treehugger, for pointing me in the direction of an article in the Charlotte Observer (online)!

I am a sucker for cool examples of vermicomposting being embraced on a large-scale out there in the “real world” – so this one certainly caught my attention! It seems the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport will be launching a massive vermicomposting project (as part of a very large waste recycling program) early in 2012!

Here is a blurb:

The airport’s initial plan is to order 300 pounds of worms for $6,000. The worms’ home is expected to take up some 8,000 square feet, or around the size of an average Family Dollar store.

In the giant worm bin – the technical term for it is “continuous flow vermicomposting system” – the worms will eat their fill, leaving behind worm “castings,” as the crawlers’ excretions are politely known.

The castings will be harvested from the bottom of the worm composter. The worms will then crawl upward toward the fresh (to them) food.

Over the next five years, the recycling center as a whole is expected to save the airport about $1 million in waste disposal costs, paying for itself, officials said.

Be sure to check out the full article here: Worms to turn out compost at airport’s $1.1M recycling center

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    • James Marconnet
    • November 19, 2011

    I wonder how well that will work out with “forbidden” meats, etc. in the waste stream.

    • Bentley
    • November 19, 2011

    While meats ARE typically listed as a “no no” material for vermicomposting, that’s really only a major concern with smaller, home systems – since you can end up with putrification, pests etc etc.
    When you are hot composting everything first (hopefully grinding it up as well) it should make a big difference!
    I think my biggest concern would be the lack of experience that the staff have – hopefully they’ll be making a serious effort to learn the ins and outs of properly maintaining a vermicomposting system!
    Should be interesting!


    • John Duffy
    • November 19, 2011

    I applaud their forward-thinking in trying to reduce waste going to landfills. I wonder if BSFL could be used to pre-compost all that waste.
    I would think that 8000 sq.ft. of space would lend itself to plenty of room for multiple composting systems…I agree with your concerns about the lack of experienced staff.
    Maybe they can get some input from Wright Patterson AFB as to how to properly manage an operation of this size.
    At any rate, I wish them the best of luck.
    Thanks for sharing this story.
    p.s. Mrs. Swininger’s worms are doing quite well. Her class loves to feed them every week.

    • Rich Yarger
    • November 19, 2011

    I hope this turns out to be a success! Imagine what would happen around the rest of the US and Canada if this model ends up being the cost saver they project it to be (not too mention all the good it will do for the Earth).

  1. That’s gotta be a pretty big system to handle 2 tons of waste per day. Wonder what it will look like?

    • Ted
    • November 20, 2011

    Wondering if this system will be protected from outside elements. Not so much sun and rain, but the kind with four legs. The last thing an airport needs, is critters with 4 legs hanging around a terminal and on the runway. LOL

    Here’s a business question to anyone that would like to sound off. Looks like the airport bought those worms for $20.00 a pound.Was this (A) A good deal, (B) could of been 1.1 MILLION times better for the farmer, or(C) the airport made out like bandits.

    I choose C

    • Rich Yarger
    • November 20, 2011

    I bet they received a massive quantity discount, and probably some kind of consideration from whomever it was that they received the worms from. They should have ordered them from Bentley!

    • Ted
    • November 20, 2011

    I just hope at least the worms came from NC and not some kind of bid war went on.

    I see I was not to clear on what I was saying. I meant the storage of all the waist. If it’s coming from the airport, then most likly all that trash will have to stored on the property. Good luck to them

  2. TED – I am actually really surprised they had to pay that much! That is a SERIOUS bulk order. I’d expect the price to be more like $15/lb. Whatever business wins that contract will certainly be happy!

    As for storage – while they may have to store it temporarily, it sounds as though it would be quickly going into some sort of large-scale hot composting system so that would certainly help.

    Would be nice to get more details on all of this though!


    RICH – that sort of order is definitely out of my league! But they are welcome to hire me a fly me in as a consultant if they want!

    • Daniel Herrington
    • November 21, 2011

    This is the scale and sort of thing I like to see as well Bentley. Thanks for sharing it.

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