Mayglothling Waste Ltd | Research
Mike Attwood explains the role of some unsung members of the Mayglothling team?
At the tender age of 45 I still haven’t quite grown up and there remain many things in everyday life that bring back happy memories of childhood. Whether it is the snow on the hilltops and the thought of sledging or the wriggle of earthworms in my hand and their reminder of Sunday mornings spent fishing on my local river, I appreciate it all. But fishing bait isn’t the only useful purpose that earthworms serve and my daily contact with them isn’t for fun it’s for work.
You see, behind the scenes at Mayglothling Waste there’s an army of wrigglers; millions of them. Looking up from Kington bypass you may just be able to see some raised beds of earth stretching for hundreds of metres across the open fields; this is where our Vermiculture beds flourish.
These hard working (but little appreciated) creatures are a vital part of our waste treatment process, because what they can do with muck and dirt is just astonishing. When we empty your septic tank there s a whole load of smelly unpleasant solid matter and the first thing we do to treat that solid waste is to feed the worms.
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Worms are small segmented animals without bones. They typically live for 3 years and can survive in habitats with temperatures ranging from 5-29C with 20-25C being optimum. Worms multiply rapidly doubling in number every 2 months and producing 256 worms from each individual every 6 months. Total life cycle is about 220 days and they produce 300-400 young in this period. Worms will tolerate a toxic environment.
They carry out 2 basic functions which change solid wastes into rich organic fertilisers:
- Mechanical – worms take in bulk solids and grind them into vary fine particles. This turns bulky lumps of non wetable, un-aerated material into fine light friable free flowing soil.
- Chemical – Worms produce digestive enzymes that break down cellulose and protein based materials in the waste. This means they ingest the food materials and the harmful microorganisms and then re-deposit them as ‘clean’ worm cast containing beneficial microbes
By carrying out the above process worms don’t just change waste to soil but they facilitate the action of beneficial decomposer microbes which go on to provide further treatment stages. Because worms can flourish in toxic environments and can digest organic materials they can be used to remediate land which has suffered certain kinds of pollution. The consequence of this for dealing with sewage cakes is that, given optimum conditions worms will:
- Thrive on the freshly supplied food.
- Multiply quickly from a relatively small feedstock.
- Remove pathogens.
- Break down residual food content.
- Leave a Nitrogen and Phosphorous rich organic material.
- Leave fine friable material that encourages oxygenation of the soil.
- Leave beneficial microbes in the soil.
In the British climate it takes about 12 months for Dendrobaena Europeans to turn a 2 ft thick layer of sewage cake into a 1 ft thick layer of rich healthy fertiliser. Human waste contains significant amounts of potentially toxic metals and there is legislation to limit the rate of application of this fertiliser onto farm land, but applied at the appropriate rate this fertiliser confers great benefit to the land and replaces N and P fertilisers.