“Whitworms” help Whitworth University cut back on waste by 70 percent

“Whitworms” help Whitworth University cut back on waste by 70 percent

Tucked back away from the heart of Whitworth University’s campus, there now sits a roughly 4-foot by 8-foot bin filled with thousands and thousands of red wigglers, dubbed “Whitworms”.

The worms are part of a big recycling effort by the school to cut back its nearly 1000 pounds of daily food and paper waste.

So far, the school has managed to reduce that number by 70 percent by diverting waste to the worms, the shredders for worm bedding, or giant compost piles.

The effort has earned the school the Washington State Recycling Association’s Recycler of the Year award for higher education.

“I’ve seen the transition from students, from dumping all of their food in the trash,” said student Lana Bronn. “To dumping all of it into the compost. It is cool to watch.”

The worms are also being used in a bigger research project, to find out if their castings, plus compost tea can be used to reduce the amount of chemicals and fertilizer the school uses on its athletic fields.

“We are all about bringing that nutrients back into the soil,” said Turf and Landscape Specialist and former student, Candace Ireland. “We use the most herbicide and fertilizer producer on the athletic fields, so we want to see if we can get back to a more organic way.”

When school gets back in session, they expect their worm to be churning out more than 200 pounds of worm castings every few days, as the worms can eat their weight in compost.

The school has also installed “worm tubes” around campus for the worms in the gardens. The theory behind this? Students can drop their food waste into them as they walk campus, and worms and other decomposers will be attracted to the tubes and eat what is inside.

“They will be dispersing that organic material,” Ireland said. “It is really beneficial to the gardens.”