Vermicomposting is the process of using “red wiggler” worms (a special type of earthworm) and microorganisms (like bacteria, protozoa, molds and fungi) to convert organic waste into black, nutrient-rich humus, excellent for new plant growth. Whether you set up a small bin or invest in a large-scale vermi-digester system, food and paper waste can become fertilizer while reducing the amount of waste landfilled.

Worms feed on both the organic wastes and the bedding, converting all the organic materials into worm castings. How much you can feed the worms depends on the size of the bin. There are approximately 1,000 worms in a pound, and the worms can eat approximately half their weight in food scrap per day (e.g., 10 pounds of worms, or 10,000 worms, can eat approximately 5 pounds of organic waste per day). Worms also may double their population every few months.

Commercial worm bins can be purchased, or you can make your own worm bin from an 18-gallon storage box with holes, a lid and a drainage tray. Figure 4 shows two options for indoor vermi-composting bins: an 18-gallon storage-tub-style bin and the commercially-available Can-O-Worms Bin. Starter worms can be purchased for your bin; refer to the list of resources at the end of this section.

Worm bins will remain odorless, if you maintain the bin properly. The resources at the end of this section provide several tips and guidance documents to assist you to set up and maintain your worm bin.

Some helpful hints for small worm bin set up:


Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity

The Adventures of Vermi the Worm

Abundant Earth

Flowerfield Enterprises

Two-Way Microscopes
Item #5788900

Coconut Fiber
Item #36-080 – Gardener’s Supply

Worms by the Pound
Dean Allen
(815) 483-6046
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Large-Scale Projects

Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center
Jeff Nichols, project lead 
(217) 258-2525

Southern Illinois University
Andilee Warner, project lead
(618) 453-8131