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30,000 residents fighting waste

Chewton students and worm farm

Thursday 23 November 2017

Mount Alexander Shire has gained 30,000 new residents this year who are working day in, day out to help the community reduce waste and greenhouse emissions.

Fortunately for locals, the population boom will not mean busier lines at the supermarket or fewer carparks available. This is because the new residents are compost worms.

The 30,000 worms live across 14 new commercial worm farms located in schools throughout the shire.

“Council wanted to reduce the amount of organic waste going to landfill and getting schools on board has been a terrific success,” said Ben Bowman, Manager Healthy Environments, Mount Alexander Shire Council.

Students feed food scraps and garden clippings to worms and then use the worm castings and juice as a fantastic fertiliser on school vegetable gardens.

“Waste to landfill is our shire’s biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. By reducing food waste and recycling scraps at school the students also learn how they can adopt these habits at home,” said Mr Bowman.

Student Environmental Leaders at Winters Flat Primary School are taking the lead on their school’s worm farms. The school’s Garden Specialist Terry Willis says the worm juice has become a real asset for the school.

“It’s gold for the garden. You’re not going to get much better,” said Mr Willis.

“The worms thrive on the waste we create at the school. In term three we recycled nine cubic metres of garden prunings, paper towels, pencil shavings, tissues and paper through the worm farms, compost bays and mulch for pathways,” he said.

“Keeping this stuff on site and reusing it is good for the environment and great for the garden.

Over at Chewton Primary School senior students in the leadership biodiversity team have responsibility for their school’s worm farm.

“The worms were all sizes when we got them and we put straw and newspaper into the worm farm so they couldn’t escape,” said Angus.

“We used buckets to move the worms and soaked big blocks of coconut fibre in water. Then we added the compost,” said Connor.

Principal Julie Holden said the school has a long history of composting so the worm farm was a natural extension.

“The great thing is that the students just think this is normal, it’s what they do every day,” said Ms Holden.

Council has gifted 20 commercial sized worm farms to all primary and secondary schools in the shire and the Castlemaine Community Garden since 2014. The project forms part of Council’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.

If you would like to help to divert food scraps and garden waste away from landfill don’t forget that low cost compost bins are still available from the Castlemaine Waste Facility. The $20 compost bins come with a free aerator. Council has sold around 400 compost bins this year.

Image: Council's Climate Change Coordinator Jay Smith meets with Isaiah, Connor, Lee and Angus at Chewton Primary School.

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