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Worm Composting Pilot Program Coming To City Offices

Laura Codori
Worm Return founder and CEO Laura Codori holds some of her worms.

As part of Pittsburgh's Climate Action Plan, the city wants to eliminate organic materials, including food waste, from landfills by 2030. To help reach this goal, the city is partnering with a company called Worm Return that uses worms to compost.

The company is one of eight startups chosen to participate in the fourth cohort of the PGH Lab program, which lets companies test their services in collaboration with the city for three to four months. 

Founder and CEO Laura Codori said anyone can do vermicomposting, as it's called, because the worms don't need much room. They eat kitchen scraps and turn them into fertilizer for plants.

"One place that we think we can start is with a worm bin and showing people how easy it is in an office environment," Codori said. "You can make an impact by just diverting your lunch scraps every day to a worm bin instead of a garbage can."

Employees in the Department of City Planning will have an opportunity to do just that starting in January. 

"How cool would it be if Pittsburgh was the city that made it mainstream to worm compost in the office?" she asked. Codori said she hopes the city will extend the partnership beyond the pilot period, as she sees an opportunity for the city to become a vermicomposting hub.

While worms can digest fruit and vegetable scraps and egg shells, they shouldn't eat meat, dairy or other foods high in fat or oil. 

According to the Climate Action Plan, the city wants to work with the state of Pennsylvania and Allegheny County to encourage the development of facilities to handle large amounts of food waste.