British Columbia·Footprint

Fort Nelson Subway owner's worm composting experiment expands at local landfill

An experiment that started with a bucket of worms and a pile of garbage has expanded into a major regional project at the Northern Rockies Landfill near Fort Nelson. Red wiggler worms eat organic materials and break it down into nutrient-rich castings that can be used for soil. 

The worms can chew through paper, cups and even cardboard

Wilf Hoath stands at the landfill near Fort Nelson where his worms are busy chewing through waste. (Carolina de Ryk/CBC)

An experiment that started with a bucket of worms and a pile of garbage has grown into a major initiative at the Northern Rockies Landfill near Fort Nelson.

Two years ago, Wilf Hoath, owner of Fort Nelson's only Subway restaurant, noticed a problem with wax cups, paper wraps and chunks of sandwiches piling up at the dump, so he hopped in his blue truck and drove to Alberta to buy a bucket of red wiggler worms.

"Some people are going to play hockey or whatever, and I just took a kick out of getting a pile of these worms. I wanted to see if they'd eat all the garbage in our Subway," said Hoath.

Red wiggler worms are used for a process called vermicomposting, which is when the worms eat organic materials and break it down into nutrient-rich castings that can be used for soil. 

The test results for the excrement Hoath's red wiggler worms produce has been so positive, it has been approved for agricultural and landscape use. (Carolina de Ryk)

Hoath quickly discovered that the worms ate everything, including the paper and food scraps he gave them as an experiment, and turned it into castings.

"Any paper, white cups and all that going to the worms, [they're] just like giving me green," he said.

Since then, the restaurant owner has partnered with the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality on two successful vermicomposting trials at the local landfill, and in February, the regional council decided to make vermicomposting a permanent part of the landfill's operations.

Hoath started vermicomposting by testing out the worms on the garbage produced at his own Subway restaraunt. (Carolina de Ryk/CBC)

The regional municipality is now waiting to hear if it will get a $445,000 grant from the provincial Organics Infrastructure Program.

If it comes through, the municipality will use the funds to help develop a permanent site for vermicomposting at the landfill and transition it to a larger area, said Krista Vandersteen, sustainable community development coordinator for the municipality, in an email to CBC.

Exceeding expectations

Throughout the trials, the worms have exceeded expectations.

During the first round, Hoath was given 70,000 kilograms of waste at the landfill for the worms to process.

"It was about a year trial and it all turned into dirt. You could plant a garden in it before that year was up," Hoath told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk. 

To date, the municipality has accepted approximately 130,000 kilograms of waste including paper, cardboard, food, yard waste, and raw wood to vermicompost, said Vandersteen. 

The castings have now been tested and the results have been so positive, they were approved for agricultural and landscape use.

Patented method

Hoath has developed a method using recyclable cardboard and paper to insulate the worms so they can continue eating waste in the winter. 

He now has a U.S. patent for his method of vermicomposting and Subway Canada has been encouraging his work. 

Hoath proudly holds up the U.S. patent he received for his vermicomposting method. (Carolina de Ryk/CBC)

"We commend Wilfred's ingenuity and creativity in tackling waste management with vermicomposting in his community. His results have been extremely promising so far and we look forward to further discussions as the program grows," Subway Canada said in an email statement to CBC.

Hoath hopes to expand his worm composting to other cities and restaurants, but for now he is continuing his partnership with the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality.

"I told the town it's going to get exciting around here. You've got people like tree huggers and different people like that here that want to save the earth," said Hoath.

"It's really, really cool."

 

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story included an incorrect figure for the amount of waste Wilf Hoath was given during the first worm composting trial. The correct amount is 70,000 kilograms.
    Jul 07, 2019 2:14 PM PT

With files from Carolina de Ryk and Daybreak North

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