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Worm Bin Subscription Service  RSS feed

 
Travis Malloy
Posts: 5
Location: Temple Terrace, FL
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Hi all,

I've been reading this site for way too long not to start posting. I guess I've been saving up for a good one. Please shoot holes in this, and tell me if anyone has talked about it before. Here goes:

Composting subscriptions have been around for a while. People pay to have their kitchen scraps picked up curbside. There's nothing like that down here in Tampa, but I've heard plenty about it. The problem I see with this is that it puts a lot of work on the collector/composter. Picking up all the time, turning the piles, etc.

I had the hair-brained scheme today of starting a service to manage worm bins. We could drop off a ready-to-go worm bin (rubbermaid-style loaded with worms and bedding), and pick up a "finished" bin. Take the finished bin back to the big worm farm and sort the worms and castings. Re-bed it and add worms back in. Send it to the next person in need of a fresh bin.

I imagine I'd charge on a "per service" basis. Pay only on pickup. Maybe include an initial deposit. That way, if you want to service your own bin, no problem.

Pros: This would move most of the composting to the customer's home. The bin would be picked up every couple of months, so there wouldn't be a ton of labor. Bins are cheap.

Cons: Lots can go wrong. It would take a good amount of up-front education to get newbies comfortable with worms. The seepage water would have to be contained, and somehow kept track of before overflow/worm drown (moisture sensor attached to a light in a second catch bin?)

Unless you all really tear this apart, I think I may try it with a handful of neighbors. It should be very easily scalable. Plus, if anyone wants to steal this idea, I'll take it as the highest form of compliment.
 
Bill McGee
Posts: 185
Location: Southeastern Connecticut, USA
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Thanks, I hadn't heard of composting subscriptions. I'd try this if the price/ penalty for killing the worms wasn't to high.
 
Craig Dobbson
master steward
Posts: 1948
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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chicken dog food preservation forest garden goat hugelkultur rabbit trees
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I think the issue would be to keep people from neglecting the worms. It seems to me that people might be willing to leave compostable material at the curb because it makes them feel good and gets rid of waste. It's as easy as taking out the trash. With a worm bin, it's like having a pet only... not so cute. You're right, there is a lot that can go wrong. I imagine you'd be getting a lot of calls from people with sick worm bins and that would take up more time than it would be worth if you just left the worms with the customer. Replacing worms could get pricey if you don't have a huge supply.

You may find it more profitable to set up a worm farm yourself and let people pay you to pick up their food waste. Then you have more control over the worms and what they eat and don't eat and how much. By doing on a large enough scale you could sell castings, worms, compost disposal service and even worm bins "kits" to people interested in doing it themselves. I suppose a part of the business could be what you are talking about, but you might be better off having more control over things.
If I was going to go through the trouble of maintaining a worm bin, I don't think I'd pay somebody to dump it out and bring me a new one.
I'd also make sure that the deposit you charge covers the cost of materials, as many people may be embarrassed to tell you they failed and you'll likely never see that bin back again.

Just my two cents
Hope I wasn't too harsh.

 
Travis Malloy
Posts: 5
Location: Temple Terrace, FL
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Thanks for the feedback! Definitely not too harsh. This plan has a lot of bugs to work out, for sure.

You're right, non-experienced customers would eat up a lot of my time. But I think people would catch on quick. And if not, I can pick up the bin early, and start them with a fresh one, for the service charge. There would definitely be a worm charge if everything is DOA.

My plan is to have a big worm farm back at the ranch. I've got a good covered area that should work great. My business plan is to cut out the continuous picking up of kitchen scraps. And I see the harvesting of castings and worms to be the most time-intensive and potentially gross part of the process. So I think some people would pay for that service. Plus, there's no competition for composting at all in town.

And if they just buy the bin and learn to service it themselves, happy days! A new worm-head.

I want to start off small, and have this as just one small source of income/compost/chicken food. I think I could educate the first customers really well, by having them out to the big farm and showing them the proper methods. Word of mouth might get it going from there. Or shut it down!

 
John Polk
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Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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You might want to contact your local elementary school about an educational experience opportunity.
The school cafeteria produces a lot of waste, and the kids would learn about nature. Win/Win.

(You would need to have special arrangements for summer/Christmas holidays.)

 
Travis Malloy
Posts: 5
Location: Temple Terrace, FL
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John Polk wrote:You might want to contact your local elementary school about an educational experience opportunity.
The school cafeteria produces a lot of waste, and the kids would learn about nature. Win/Win.

(You would need to have special arrangements for summer/Christmas holidays.)



Great idea. I've been working with a school garden for a couple years, and it's been a big hassle trying to get them to compost. I'm getting a students' garden club started this month, and I'm hoping that the kids will pick up on the cafeteria compost idea, and lead it up themselves.

And that brings up another aspect: special pickups for holidays/special occasions that have high amounts of kitchen scraps. And for super-special customers, black soldier fly bins for meat!
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Yeah. If a school cafeteria can support 100# of worms, that beats the hell out of making 100 stops at homes that only have 1# each.

 
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