A question from Walt:
Great Website. Great Information. Thank you.
I am working on plans to build a C&D (construction and demolition)
recycling facility in the Phoenix Arizona area. Included in this waste
will be a lot of wood, (scrap 2×4 & 2×6 etc.) and the local market is
for already saturated with woodchip bedding, sawdust, mulch etc. I
need to find a new use.
Can I chip the wood, and mix it with waste paper from construction
sites, some food waste, and dirty horse bedding (more woodchips, with
manure) to make food for the worms?
I know that my next biggest challenge will be temperature, but this
can be kept under control with shade and an automatic watering system.
This will be on a large commercial scale, and I plan to sell the worm
castings, and tea locally.
That sounds like an interesting project. While I’m not 100% sure that you will have the sort of success you are hoping for with that particular approach, I do still think there may be some potential there.
Wood wastes generally aren’t the best composting materials due to the fact that they have a very high C/N ratio, and have a structure that’s very resistant to microbial degradation. They also tend not to hold moisture all that well. Some of the other materials mentioned – namely the food waste and bedded horse manure – are great for vermicomposting, but all in all it seems as though you are going to have a mix with a pretty high C/N ratio.
As a “worm food” wood chips – even rotten wood chips – are pretty poor unfortunately, but they could still serve as a valuable bulking agent to help keep your beds oxygenated. Assuming you’ll have access to enough food waste and manure to get your C/N to a good composting range (25:1 to 30:1 or so) I’d actually recommend hot composting your mix for a while before adding it to vermicomposting beds – this should help to reduce the heating potential and just generally make it a bit more “worm friendly”. The chips themselves, along with some other resistant materials will need to be screened out at some point, but perhaps you can market this stuff as a microbially-enhanced mulch or material people can add to their own backyard composters as a bulking agent and microbial inoculant. You might also consider mixing it with more manure etc and composting/vermicomposting it a second time so as to enhance it even more.
Apart from microbial heat (generated when attempting to compost large quantities of material), you will of course also have your local climate to contend with. I would imagine that it might be quite challenging to operate a large-scale outdoor vermicomposting facility in Phoenix Arizona – but perhaps with your shade and watering systems you’ll be able to keep conditions in the beds favorable for the worms.
Hope this helps. Good luck with your project!