Do Earthworms eat Compostable Packaging?

At GREEN HOME, we love hearing composting stories from our clients. So, when news reached us that LexisNexis were composting our packaging in worm farms (how cool?!), we were keen to learn more.

We were put in touch with Luke Beart, the man making it all happen. Luke has been composting up a storm – with the help of a whole lot of earthworms (specifically, Eisenia fetida composting earthworms – commonly known as Red Wigglers). He invited us round to check out the process.

His worm farms currently fill up piles of crates, but he started out on a much smaller scale. These days the worms are growing so fast, he’s supplying them to other people.

Luke Beart in front of his worm farms

Do Earthworms eat our Cups and Bowls?

We were curious to see how the worms liked our products. So far, Luke has fed them our Hot Cups, PLA Cold Cups and Sugarcane Bowls – in addition to their diet of food waste (which includes coffee grounds from time to time).

The Hot Cups were breaking down well. Luke said soaking the cups in grey water, and / or cutting them sped up the process. But cups put in as is broke down too.

Our Hot Cups are lined with a thin layer of PLA bioplastic, made from corn starch. The cups themselves are paper. Earthworms love paper and cardboard – it contains lots of carbon which is healthy for them, balancing out all the nitrogen they get from food waste. The thin layer of PLA also broke down in the worm farms.

The PLA Cold Cups, however, weren’t breaking down. They are made from thicker PLA, which proved too thick for the worms. This wasn’t a total surprise. We know from our own composting trials, that PLA breaks down quickest when exposed to lots of heat generating microbes (bacteria and fungi). In other words, PLA likes warm composting conditions – and worm farms tend to be on the cool side.

Luke said the Sugarcane Bowls broke down well – like the Hot Cups. They’re another good carbon source, making them a great compliment to food waste for worms.

What About our Other Products?

Seeing our products in Luke’s worm farms got us thinking: how would some of our other products break down?

Happily, Luke has agreed to test some for us, so stayed tuned for Part 2, coming soon!

 

If you’re wanting to do some worm farming of your own, you can contact Luke on lukebeart@gmail.com or 078 502 9450 to buy worm farms. Available in both Cape Town and Johannesburg.

About Cassandra Gamble

Cass is GREEN HOME's Environmental Research & Communications Ambassador.
Her BSc (Hons) degree from the Open University (UK) focused on Environmental Science, plastic pollution and sustainable innovation.
She is dedicated to building waste-free and regenerative systems.