Globally we throw away 1.3 billion tonnes of food a year. And it’s not just the food going to waste. It takes an area three times the size of Thailand to grow that food destined for the bin. What can we as parents do to help change this?
One answer lies in a wriggling tub full of soil: get worms. They’re weird enough to have the kids intrigued – they have five hearts, they might not look it but they’re hairy, and they breathe through their skin. Alongside this, they’re a recycling miracle, chomping through your food scraps and getting the kids engaged with issues like food waste and keeping soil healthy.
Thai Harvest SOS is a charity working to reduce food waste in Bangkok. We spoke to their Community Engagement coordinator, Bruce, about why it’s such a great idea to engage the next generation with worm composting (vermiculture):
“Vermiculture may seem small in light of vast food chains but ultimately it is a step toward making a difference for a better future. When excess food is mixed with other types of trash (plastics, Styrofoam, rubber, etc.), separation is difficult and what was once safe to eat becomes inedible. Sending this food waste to landfill adds to the release of greenhouse gases due to decomposition.
“Fertilizer, the product of composting, can provide nourishment to vegetation. Nutrients are once again brought back into the food chain. In a world where the general population is increasingly becoming disconnected from their food sources, people don’t recognize the resources necessary for foods to reach our plates. We do not want future generations to take food for granted, because people who aren’t aware of the value of their food are less likely to protect the sources.”
Here’s how you can get your own worm empire going in Bangkok, even if you only have a balcony to play with.
Get a kitchen bin for collecting scraps. You could order one on Lazada or simply use any plastic tub with a lid. When you have food scraps chop them up small and pop them in. If you put large chunks of food waste into your compost bin it might take the worms a couple of weeks to chew through them. This handy list has details on what you can and can’t put in there.
Make your composting bin. A simple plastic storage box with a lid will do it. The size depends on how much space you have but you might like to start with a 40 litre one. Make sure it’s not transparent as the worms need a dark environment. Drill some air holes into the lid and around the side just beneath the rim. You don’t need holes at the bottom.
Order your worms. Uncleree (contact details at the foot of this post) is a reliable provider based in Bangkok. Tiger worms are good for food scraps and cost 3,000 baht a kilo. You need about a quarter of a kilo for a 40 litre compost bin.
Get the kids to line the box with bedding material for the worms. Coconut coir three inches deep is ideal. You’ll want to pour on some water to moisten it, then wait 24 hours for the water to be absorbed. Alternatively you can use peat mixed with eggshells on the bottom of the bin. Whatever you use the most important thing is that it’s PH neutral.
Wait 24 hours and then it’s time to let those worms loose! The kids should enjoy putting the worms carefully on top of the bedding. Give them a day to settle.
By now you should have some food scraps building up. For a quarter kilo of worms feed them about 100g or so of scraps at a time. If you want to deter fruit flies put a nest of shredded paper down, put the food scraps on top, and then another layer of shredded paper above them. Your worms should be feasting in no time. Wait until they’ve finished all the scraps before feeding again.
Soon you should have some nice fertile compost to spread over your plants and a worm empire the kids will be proud of.
What else can I do?
For opportunities to volunteer with, or donate to, Thai Harvest SOS visit their website. They also hold composting classes for kids and adults alike at various events around Bangkok. Check their Facebook page for the latest news.
Find Uncleree on Facebook, via Line (@unclereefarm) or call 061-414-5242.