Twenty families in Chunshu Community in Beijing have volunteered to feed earthworms with organic kitchen garbage and trade earthworms waste for organic vegetables.
"Under ideal conditions, one kilogram of earthworms can eat up to an equal weight of kitchen garbage per day and produce about half a kilogram of earthworm waste," said Han Baixing at the training class for the participating households.
The campaign to promote the biological method of decomposing garbage was introduced by Japanese teachers, who came to visit a neighborhood committee in Xicheng District of Beijing last April.
They made a "biological garbage box" for the local residents.
Filled with black earth, the garbage box is the dwelling place for hundreds of earthworms, which can digest and clean up cabbage stalks and apple nuts thrown into the box within five days.
Unlike ordinary earthworms, the earthworms here are bright red, with a length less than two or three centimeters, according to Cui Xiangwen, director of the neighborhood committee.
To encourage the community to participate, the organizer of the campaign, the Environmental Education Center under the Global Village of Beijing, reached an agreement with a planting base for organic foods at Mentougou so that participants can trade earthworm waste for organic vegetables.
If the pilot campaign proves to be successful, the organizer will cooperate with more communities to further promote biological decomposition of kitchen garbage, said Li Junling, the community project coordinator of the organizer.
"But the biggest obstacle is that the residents may not feel comfortable raising so many worms in the room," said Cui.
The residents also have concerns such as whether the earthworms will get out of the box and whether the box will produce peculiar smell.
"The fermenting process does produce a sour smell," explained Cui. The residents need to feed the earthworms regularly and take good care of the boxes, she added.
Using earthworms to decompose kitchen garbage has been very popular in Japan and America, and almost every Japanese household has a mall earthworm breeding box, said Feng Jianguo, a research fellow at the Beijing Research Center for Rural Economy.
But he warned that garbage sources should be strictly classified to prevent harmful substances from entering into "kitchen garbage" and resulting in contamination of feeds and fertilizers produced by the waste.
Some garbage disposal factories in Beijing have already introduced micro-biological technology to decompose kitchen garbage.
In Shangdi Street of Haidian District, a kitchen garbage disposal station employs natural compound microbiological bacteria to ferment the collected kitchen garbage and produce biological feeds and fertilizers.
This station, after operating for three years, has treated more than ten thousand tons of kitchen garbage and produced biological feeds and fertilizers for more than 60 fruit and 30 vegetable gardens across the city.
(Xinhua News Agency March 5, 2009)