Storing Food Waste Before Feeding Worms

Here is a question from Melanie

You mentioned this on your site :

“I like to keep food waste in an old milk carton that sits under my
sink. Aside from the convenience of not needing to take it down to the
basement (where my indoor bins are located) or outside (to my outdoor
bin) multiple times per day, this also allows time for microbial
colonization of the materials – and don’t worry, you won’t have a
stinky mess in your container if you do it properly (I’ll definitely
write more about that in another article).”

Did you ever discuss this further on your blog?  I’ve looked and looked and
can’t find it.

Good question Melanie!
I never DID end up writing more about that (that happens quite a bit – haha), but it’s certainly a good topic to talk about.

While the “old milk carton[s]” have long since been retired, I do still keep a container under my sink (photo below). It is a unit specially designed for the task – essentially a compost crock with biodegradable bag insert.

I have to laugh a little when I see these scrap holder containers with tightly fitting lids and carbon filters. I’m sure they work perfectly fine – but WHY create conditions that lead to bad smells in the first place?!

If you use a fairly well-ventilated system, and add some bulky, absorbent ‘bedding’ types of materials at the bottom, and interspersed throughout, you shouldn’t end up with odor issues. My favorite bedding material is shredded egg carton cardboard – it is VERY absorbent and easier to work with (shred etc) than corrugated cardboard (another worm favorite). I try to remember to add a handful of it each time I start up a new scrap bag.

So that is pretty much it, Melanie – the real secret is providing ventilation, and including absorbent, carbon-rich bedding materials along with the food waste!

Hope this helps.

Food Waste Holder

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  1. I keep a small plastic container – like one of those cereal container boxes, for people who don’t snarf through their cereal fast enough to keep it from going stale – beside my sink. The box has a lid, and I can leave one portion of the lid open, but lately, I’ve taken to just leaving the lid off entirely. Occasionally I throw the box into the freezer to freeze the materials, and take it out the next day to let the water melt and let some microbial action happen. Then, when the box is full, I take it downstairs and distribute the food to the worms. My food box isn’t ventilated on the sides, only has the open top. Occasionally it’s a little funky at the bottom, if it’s been a slow food waste week and I haven’t emptied it recently, but really, it’s minimal and only smells when I dump it (if it’s stinky at all – usually it isn’t). It NEVER stinks up my kitchen, though. A bonus – it’s translucent plastic, so I can see the food breaking down through the sides. I kind of, um, LIKE watching the decomp process. I guess that’s why I’m attracted to composting and worms. 🙂

  2. Melanie,
    If I have to store anything, I use one of those plastic coffee containers.
    Then it goes into my composter the next day mixed with some aged manure. When I feed my worms, I choose to use feedstock that has been predecomposed, by that I mean all the heat energy from the decomposition process has expired. My current project is a large bin in my garage. My goal for this project is to maintain a temperature of 80F.
    year round. I can keep it warm but, keeping the outdoor bin cool is another hurdle for me. My large bin, compost tumbler, and my small super secret, in a locked room bin, don’t smell.

    • Kate
    • March 29, 2009

    That’s a really good idea, adding bedding in the bottom. We have a container in the kitchen for our backyard compost and now that winter’s finally coming to an end it might be a struggle to get enough “browns” in there. Putting bedding materials in the container every time we empty it is a great idea.

    • Bentley
    • March 30, 2009

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Pamela and Mark!

    Mark – you’ve got me intrigued with the “small, super secret, in a locked room bin”!
    Is this a top-secret bin because of the design, or so that know one in your household knows about it?

    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • March 30, 2009

    Bentley, I like that bin you have. Is it a laundry bin of some sort? That’s ingenious!!!!

    • Amanda
    • April 8, 2009

    I’m just starting my worm bin. I followed the steps in your youtube video and I ordered worms yesterday. Basically, my question is… How often do you empty your scrap container? I’ve seen people keep their scraps in the fridge all week and feed their worms once a week. But then here you don’t refridgerate at all. How often do you dump it into the bin?

    Thanks so much!

    • Bentley
    • April 28, 2009

    Ok – time to catch up on comments!
    Sorry for the delays everyone.

    KIM – I should have included something for scale – that container is a lot smaller than it looks and is in fact designed to hold food scraps. It is small enough to fit under the sink.

    AMANDA – There is no set rule for how often you empty your scrap container. Mine has (biodegradable) bag inserts and I simply remove them when full – they don`t necessarily go right to the worms though. They typically sit in the bags for some time

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