UF/IFAS Extension agents in Sarasota and Leon counties have teamed up on a unique approach to help meet a state mandate to ramp up recycling and cut waste heading to the landfill: home vermicomposting.

Molly Jameson, of Leon County, and Randall Penn, of Sarasota County, collaborated in 2022 and 2023 to develop and deliver “Vermicomposting 101” workshops—seven online and two in-person—to teach residents the basics, benefits, and importance of using worms to break down food waste.

The importance includes moving each county closer to a target of 75 percent waste-stream recycling, as set by Florida officials for all state counties. Sarasota and Leon counties fell short of the mark in 2022, with the former at 49 percent and the latter at 55 percent.

a hand holds dark, rich compost with worms. [credit: uf/ifas, camila guillen]Jameson and Penn eyed vermicomposting to make inroads, armed with data that show food waste accounts for 13.8 percent of the material winding up in landfills. More composting means less food waste diverted to landfills (and, among other benefits, it cuts landfill methane emissions that contribute to climate change).

In the vermicomposting workshops, participants learned about the benefits of composting and how to quickly get started. At in-person, “build-a-bin” events, participants received training and supplies (including pre-drilled bins) to make systems they could take home. They also received an agent-crafted factsheet to help them maintain their vermicomposting bins.

Finally, Jameson and Penn also created in the UF/IFAS system an online certificate course, with modules on the issue of food waste, vermicomposting basics, and step-by-step videos.

In 2022, a total of 275 participants attended the workshops. Of 59 participants surveyed after attending a workshop, 87 percent indicated increased knowledge of vermicomposting benefits, materials to make a system, and steps to maintain a system.  Notably, 95 percent of respondents stated they would vermicompost food waste, use generated castings in their landscape or garden, and share with others information they learned.

Residents of Leon and Sarasota counties have demonstrated that there is both a need and demand for vermicomposting education. The “Vermicomposting 101” workshops have effectively decreased food waste and positively impacted the community by teaching participants how to be successful at recycling food waste by vermicomposting.

by Randy Penn

Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert

Note: All images and contents are the property of UF/IFAS.

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