I’ve Got Worms!

When video producer Amanda Harper moved to Brooklyn from California, she was distraught over the city’s lack of recycling. “It’s so depressing,” she moans. “The garbage is so full every day!”

Plastics have now returned to their rightful place in the blue cans, but Harper has converted a Rubbermaid wet-suit container (Californians surf) into a worm bin for organic composting.

Worms? In one-bedroom apartments? That’s right. More and more New Yorkers (even native-born ones) are indoor-composting. The Sanitation Department even held composting seminars until its budget got slashed.

Home composting means keeping worms in a sweater-box-size container, where they will convert three pounds of leftover arugula stems and eggshells per week into “black gold” (a.k.a. vermicompost, the Rolex of dirt), which can be used for anything from plant food to potting soil. A starter kit (worms and bin) costs $45 at the Lower East Side Ecology Center. “They have worm eggs, little baby worms—so cute!” gushes Naima Freitas, whose bin resides in her Nolita bathroom.

What takes years in a landfill takes mere weeks in a worm bin, a key selling point for the ecologically minded. “I hated to throw things out,” says civil engineer Matthew Barboni. Now he and his colleague Sandra Wielinski carry home their coffee grounds from the office. Wielinski has two worm bins and keeps one under her bed (!) in Murray Hill.

Worms, it turns out, are the ultimate urban pet. “They eat their own waste,” Freitas cheerfully explains. “ And if they die, they eat each other.”

I’ve Got Worms!