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Worms are Killing the Planet

ure that we are not jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

"We need to investigate all alternative systems for greenhouse potential.

"The emissions that come from these worms can actually be 290 times more potent than carbon dioxide and 20 times more potent than methane. In all environmental systems you get good points and bad points."

This is because worms used in composting emit nitrous oxide - a greenhouse gas 296 times more powerful, molecule for molecule, than carbon dioxide.

Landfill sites produce methane, which is 23 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Red worms appear naturally in country compost heaps but over the past decade or so a thriving trade has grown up in domestic wormeries which enable people with space as limited as a balcony to compost their kitchen waste.

Domestic wormeries are dustbin-sized boxes formed from several trays, with names such as Can-O-Worms; into which reared worms are introduced. Some are even made to look like beehives, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph of London, which also cited the German research.

The worms are laid out on lime and vegetable peelings. When they have digested this material they move to another level in search of more food. The lower trays of compost can be used and a tap allows the liquid collected to be drained off as fertiliser.

The red worms used in composting are extremely efficient at breaking down decomposing material such as kitchen scraps and other organic material but they emit nitrous oxide in the process of digestion in the gut.

Frederickson told Materials Recycling Week: "The amount of worm composting is very, very small and the amount of landfill is huge. But landfill sites are quite well run these days and it is possible to extract about half the gas they generate and use it for electricity generation.

"So the amount of
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